Dec 042019

As leader of the PASS High Availability and Disaster Recovery virtual chapter, I invite you to bring your questions for a mega open Q&A session on Tuesday, December 10th, at 1pm Eastern time. We have assembled one of the largest lineups of SQL Server HA/DR experts in our history, and any question goes! Not in any order, the speakers are:

Bob Pusateri, Database Engineering Lead – Salesforce

Brandon Leach, Vice President Database Operations – Financial Company

David Klee, Founder – Heraflux Technologies

Ed Leighton-Dick, Founder – Kingfisher Technologies

Edwin Sarmiento, Managing Director – 15C

Elizabeth Noble, Database Engineer – Pull-A-Part

Matt Gordon, Architect – Insight

Peter Shore, Database Administrator – Thirty-One Gifts

Rick Lowe, Founder – Data FLowe

Rob Volk, Senior Infrastructure Engineer – RMS Automotive

Taiob Ali, Database Administrator – GMO

Tom Norman, Data Architect – KPA

This open-ended Q&A session will help you answer any questions that you have wondered about or currently fight with on SQL Server and Microsoft data platform high availability and/or disaster recovery. Bring your questions and we have the answers! RSVP today for this free webinar!

Dec 032019

GigaOm, an independent research firm that I highly respect, released a study today comparing performance and price between a SQL Server VM on Microsoft’s Azure platform and a SQL Server VM on Amazon’s AWS EC2 platform. Azure is the clear winner. But, I’m pretty tough on vendors, as you might know from some of my blog posts. Let’s review their findings.

Before we get started, SQL Server database-as-a-service (Azure SQL Database) and/or Managed Instances are great to use, when it’s the right use case. All the rage is XaaS nowadays. But, you know as well as I do that a high number of variables exist on if you can even use one of these platforms instead of installing SQL Server in a VM somewhere. The third-party software vendor might not support a DBaaS platform (ISVs – get with the times!). The software might have some ‘legacy’ (a nice name for it) practices of leveraging software installed in the OS via xp_cmdshell, or using DB Mail to send automated emails for your business. I’m sure you have a running list of things in your environment like this that make you blush when someone mentions bad practices. Installing SQL Server in a VM, either on-prem or in the cloud, gives you full control and allows these practices to continue – because sometimes you can’t fix vendor code.

Back to the study and off of my soapbox…

First, they used an updated benchmarking suite, the TPC-E benchmark. I’m actually thrilled that they used both Windows and Linux (Red Hat Enterprise Linux specifically) as the OS platform, as it shows the validity of using Linux for SQL Server workloads, something that I’ve been a huge fan of for years. The TPC-E benchmark is more real-world than some of the older TPC benchmarks such as TPC-C, and is meant to represent an OLTP workload.

The workload on either cloud provider was not designed to be the ‘biggest’ or ‘best’, meaning massive, cost-prohibitive to most, or just unreasonable. It was meant to represent a ‘large’ deployment on either platform. I appreciate that. If you want to look at the largest platforms out there, which are admittedly quite fun to work on, they are not really representative of the vast majority of the workloads that you’ll find being placed in the public cloud. Instead, they chose to deploy a fairly big SQL Server VM on both platforms – 64 vCPUs and between 432 and 488GB of RAM. These are larger than most SQL Servers that I find in the cloud, but are representative of many of the larger SQL Servers that I manage in on-prem datacenters with businesses debating about the viability of the cloud for these workloads.

VM configurations (from GigaOm report)

The storage configuration was quite impressive too on both servers.

VM Storage Configuration (from GigaOm report)

The RHEL configuration was quite similar to the Windows Server configuration.

RHEL Configuration (from GigaOm report)

The first round of results shows that the SQL Server performance on Azure with a very similar VM configuration was over three times faster, measured in database transaction per second.

SQL Server on Windows TPS (from GigaOm report)

They also make some significant claims on the price improvements of SQL Server IaaS on Azure over AWS, claiming an 86.8% better price-performance ratio when comparing Azure Hybrid Benefit to AWS License Mobility. They chose to do the price comparison by looking at the overall dollar versus transactions per second metrics, which I feel is a fair comparison that factors performance into the price.

One item they note is one of our favorite performance-tuning tricks, which is to use the Azure BlobCache feature. It leverages the VM RAM and a local SSD on the virtualized host in Azure to provide free read caching to boost performance of any I/O-dependent workload, which definitely includes SQL Server workloads.

Everyone’s licensing scenario is different, and vary wildly. I urge you to do your own research into your licensing scenario, use cases, and judge equivalent scaled VMs on both platforms based on your needs. The results of the report are quite compelling, though, and it’s similar to many of the results that we develop when comparing the various cloud providers for our customers.

I never want to come off as a marketing pitch for any vendor. I intentionally do not resell software or hardware in my consulting business, as I always want the right tool for the specific situation and client at hand. Read the report, weigh the stats and compare it to your environment, and judge for yourself. Everyone’s needs, experiences, expectations, and budgets are different. Test and validate anything you’re considering moving to for yourself. As for me, I chose Azure for my production environment for my business.

Nov 092019

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be presenting an in-person session for Omaha’s Azure Users Group on Monday, November 18 at 3:00pm, entitled “SQL Server in the Microsoft Cloud“.

Session Details: Microsoft’s SQL Server database platform has been the foundation of enterprise applications for decades. The adoption of cloud has started to change the data landscape, and you should be prepared. Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform brings many compelling reasons to move your databases to the cloud, but what do you need to know to have a successful migration? Should you pick Azure SQL Database, Managed SQL Instances, or a SQL Server running in a VM in the cloud? How do I size the new service to maximize performance while minimizing cost? What should I expect in the cloud? What about a hybrid architecture? This interactive session will discuss the similarities and differences of operating a SQL Server in the cloud and will demonstrate many tips and tricks for properly selecting and managing the databases in the cloud.

RSVP for this free in-person session at the group’s Meetup site. We’ll start promptly at 3:00pm Central! I look forward to seeing you all there!

Update: I got a cold and had to reschedule! Stay tuned!

Jul 092019

I are thrilled to announce that I has been renewed for the sixth time as a Microsoft Data Platform MVP for 2019 to 2020. The MVP award remains incredibly special to me, and I feel very lucky to be part of this program. It’s truly an honor to be included in this group of world-class data professionals.

At the time of this writing, the group of people who are lucky enough to receive this award is just 332 people and less than 75 in the USA. I could never take this for granted, and will never expect to be renewed as an MVP. It’s an elite group to be a part of!

I often get asked by people what it takes to be an MVP. Some think it’s a certification track or other items you can test into, but it’s nothing that straightforward. The reality is that it is centered around knowledge sharing and giving back to your community in your area of skill. I was lucky enough to find out early that I learn the best through teaching others, and am humbled that Microsoft feels that I am worthy of this award.

To everyone that has helped me along this amazing journey, thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I’m thrilled to be able to share what I know what this amazing technical community, and make new friends along the way.

I want to especially thank Microsoft for continuing to support this incredible program. We are are eager to continue to share with you our thoughts and experiences so that we can continue to make your products stronger. Not all technologies and product vendors support their community evangelists like you do, and we welcome the opportunities to help you because you continue to make our lives better through your products and features.

Jun 252019

I am proud to announce that I am presenting at this year’s PASS Summit conference, to be held in Seattle WA from November 5th to 8th at the Washington State Convention Center.

The biggest session of this conference for me is presenting a full-day preconference training session called “Advanced Virtual SQL Server Performance as part of the Architecture stream.

Session Abstract: Virtualization is the new norm in datacenters. Even the ubiquitous “cloud” is nothing more than virtualized servers in someone else’s datacenter with advanced automation on top of it. However, just because it’s everywhere doesn’t mean it is implemented and managed correctly. Done incorrectly, your SQL Server performance can take a massive dive. Are your SQL Servers running at their best possible performance?

This full-day boot camp covers all aspects of performance engineering for virtualized SQL Servers. We will review critical topics such as virtualization layers, VM construction, NUMA, resource scheduling, query parallelization and physical server alignment, “right-sizing,” and storage performance-oriented presentation. Availability and disaster recovery guidelines will also be reviewed. Most importantly, this seminar informs you on methods and terminology to help you work better with your infrastructure team to streamline your critical SQL Server performance. You will understand how to review your critical SQL Servers for both their performance and availability as they relate to the virtualization and physical compute layers underneath, and work with your infrastructure team to implement and streamline any of your findings.

In addition to the preconference training day, I am presenting an abridged technical fire hose session on key topics in a session called “Virtual SQL Server Performance Deep Dive“.  This session is designed to ramp up attendees on critical (and silent) performance killers in both cloud and on-premises virtual SQL Servers.

Session Abstract: Your business-critical SQL Servers should not suffer from virtualization-related bottlenecks. When properly architected and managed, the principal bottleneck of performance of these SQL Servers should be only limited by code. However, if not properly constructed, silent and seemingly random performance killers can strike and significantly hurt your database performance. Items such as CPU scheduling, storage queueing, and memory overcommitment can all penalize database performance, and are tough to identify.

This session is packed with many live examples of tips and tricks gained from years of experience in getting the most performance from your virtual SQL Servers. The major roadblocks to performance will be discussed, and tools, techniques, and processes will be demonstrated to help you measure and validate the system performance of the key components underneath your data.

If you’ve never attended the PASS Summit before, I urge you to go. This conference is the best Microsoft data-platform-centric conference there is, and the information you will gain is second to none. Just look at this list of sessions! The friends you make last a lifetime. The sessions are certain to improve your career and your job. I know won’t miss it, and I hope to see you there! If you want to meet up and talk shop for a bit, or just hang out, let me know!

Meet me for breakfast each day!

Apr 302019

We have a discount code for last-minute attendees looking to go to our exciting preconference training session at this year’s SQL Saturday Atlanta on May 17th, 2019, called “Level Up Your Data Platform Cloud Infrastructure“! The discount code is PAPERJAM, and enter it on the EventBrite signup page. If you’re even remotely thinking of the cloud for any of your servers, this precon is for you!

Abstract: While your on-premises infrastructure is likely maintained by another team, in the cloud this responsibility falls on you. Whether your organization is just planning for the cloud, all-in, or leveraging a hybrid architecture, this course is designed to ramp you up on maximizing your investment in the cloud components that you utilize.

Infrastructure skills are essential when managing your environment in the cloud. Knowledge is power; key items such as firewalls and connectivity, storage presentation and performance, baselining, and even platform selection are all necessary areas of concern. Capacity management is also crucial, as the old ways of “throwing hardware” at a performance problem will translate into a larger bill each month.

Attend this session to learn how to efficiently manage cloud resources, set yourself apart from your peers, improve the performance of your mission-critical workloads, and potentially save your employer money!

Register for this exciting preconference training session today! If you’re even remotely interested in the cloud, this session is for you!

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