Articles by Kevin Kline
Microsoft SQL Server 2014 finally went RTM (Released to Manufacturing) at the beginning of this month. Here's a look at the key new features within three major areas of enhancement: Mission-Critical Performance, Business Intelligence, and Hybrid Cloud.
Posted April 14, 2014
HDInsight is a 100% Apache Hadoop service, currently at v2.2, available through Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud offerings. HDInsight makes all of the standard features you'd expect from a Hadoop implementation available in a simple, scalable, and fairly cheap cloud environment.
Posted April 04, 2014
When it comes to implementing a big data strategy in a Microsoft SQL Server shop, you're generally going to consider three approaches, one of which is a cloud implementation. SQL Server 2012, and even more so in the upcoming SQL Server 2014 release, has built out a very strong Apache Hadoop infrastructure on Windows Azure called HDInsight. Despite all its goodness, it is in the cloud—and a lot of people aren't ready to go there yet.
Posted February 10, 2014
You'd have to be living under a rock not to have heard about the growth and uptake of cloud computing. Most enterprises are still exploring cloud computing for their relational databases, but there is no doubt that cloud computing is growing due its many benefits. Here's a look at what SQL Server 2014 will do for you with regard to business cloud computing.
Posted January 07, 2014
Microsoft has been pouring resources into building out its business intelligence (BI) feature set since at least the SQL Server 2000 release. The upcoming SQL Server 2014 (SQL2014) release will continue that trend. Here's what SQL2014 will do for you with regard to business intelligence.
Posted December 04, 2013
There was an interesting new vibe at Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Summit 2013. There was a very strong positive energy permeating the place and a noticeable uptick in positive interactions among attendees. In broader technical news, Microsoft unveiled a couple of powerful new features that had been hidden even in the closed previews and also announced the availability of SQL Server 2014 Community Technology Preview (CTP) 2.
Posted November 13, 2013
With the upcoming release of SQL Server 2014 (SQL2014), Microsoft is making advancements in the area of mission-critical performance. Microsoft wants to stake out this ground not only as performance enhancements in the relational engine, but also in terms of features which support better data availability, performance, security, and data integration. Here's what SQL2014 will do for you in those key areas.
Posted October 09, 2013
Many of the new features coming in SQL Server 2014, now available in Community Technology Preview, are encapsulated within broader and rather intuitive categories. The major categories for new features in SQL Server 2014 are Mission-Critical Performance Enhancements, Business Intelligence Insights, and Hybrid Cloud Enhancements. In addition, one of the interesting knock-on effects of retooling SQL Server to run in the cloud is that the code has tightened up a lot.
Posted September 11, 2013
I was recently chatting with a good friend of mine who's very highly placed in the Microsoft SQL Server team. Our conversation was wide ranging and covered a lot of topics, such as internal features and upcoming announcements. (I'm under at least three different NDA's. So don't expect me to give up anything too juicy or gossipy.) For example, we spent quite a while discussing the ton of great new features and improvements just over the horizon with the recent release of SQL Server 2014 CTP1.
Posted August 07, 2013
In the last several articles, I've been describing the benefits of reading and analyzing the benchmarking case studies released by the Transaction Processing Council. I've given you from a broad overview of the TPC benchmarks and shown ways that the vendor-published TPC benchmarks can help you save money and how the vendor-published TPC benchmarks must explain in disclaimers how they tweak their workloads. I have described how to run your own benchmarks and explained how to properly prepare your environment for a benchmark test. Now, it is time to show you where the rubber really hits the road, testing and benchmarking tools that can run highly scalable benchmarking workloads against your database servers.
Posted July 09, 2013
When you decide to undertake your own benchmarking project, it's a strongly recommended best practice to write up a benchmarking plan. A benchmark must produce results that are both reliable and repeatable so that we can foster conclusions that are predictable and actionable. Keeping the "reliable and repeatable" mantra in mind necessitates a few extra steps.
Posted May 09, 2013
The best database benchmarks are those that accurately and reliably reflect the applications and configuration of your own database infrastructure. On the other hand, the amount of work that goes into extracting your own transactional workload can be immense. An easier route is to learn and run your own TPC benchmarks, use one of the free tools to run the benchmark, and then extrapolate the TPC test results for your environments. In light of the past several articles in this column about the TPC benchmarks, you're probably wondering how you can do your own TPC benchmark test. First, is this caveat: A "true" TPC benchmark must go through a rigorous and expensive auditing process. So when I say "run your own TPC benchmark," what I really mean is running a "TPC-like" benchmark which contains all of the activities of a regular TPC benchmark, but without the auditing.
Posted April 10, 2013
Two columns ago, I described how the TPC benchmarks are useful for getting a general idea of the performance characteristics of your preferred database vendor and hardware platform. And in last month's column, I described how the published TPC benchmarks can even help with pricing, especially when you don't have your own quantity discounts in place.
Posted March 14, 2013
Today, I would like to give you a primer on how to read the benchmark reports that are published by the major database and hardware vendors. You never know when a vendor will publish a new benchmark. There's no set schedule for them to publish their test findings. Of course, you can always look for new advertisements from many of the vendors. But that's very imprecise.
Posted February 13, 2013
Let's talk about database application benchmarking. This is a skill set which, in my opinion, is one of the major differentiators between a journeyman-level DBA and a true master of the trade. In this article, I'll be giving you a brief introduction to TPC benchmarks and, in future articles, I'll be telling you how to extract specific tidbits of very valuable information from the published benchmark results. But let's get started with an overview.
Posted January 03, 2013
Not long in the past, SQL Server licensing was an easy and straightforward process. You used to take one of a few paths to get your SQL Server licenses. The first and easiest path was to buy your SQL Server license with your hardware. Want to buy a HP Proliant DL380 for a SQL Server application? Why not get your SQL Server Enterprise Edition license with it at the same time? Just pay the hardware vendor for the whole stack, from the bare metal all the way through to the Microsoft OS and SQL Server.
Posted December 06, 2012
I was privileged to deliver a session entitled Managing SQL Server in a Virtual World at the PASS Summit 2012, the largest annual conference for Microsoft SQL Server. It was a packed house, literally at standing-room-only capacity. I delivered the session with my friend David Klee and we were swarmed by attendees after the session wrapped up. With almost 600 people in the room, we conducted one of those informal polls that speakers like to do along the lines of "Raise your hands if …" and the informal findings were very telling. Probably around 90% of the attendees used VMware and SQL Server in some capacity and at least 60% used it in production environments. Another important fact was that only 10% of the attendees were actually able to get information on the performance of the actual VMs themselves. Most had to get all of their information and support from the VM / System administration staff.
Posted November 13, 2012
Fall is my favorite time of the year for a lot of reasons. I love the cooling temperatures and the falling leaves. I enjoy the fall sports and school activities of my kids. And, perhaps best of all, I get to enjoy the yearly high-point for SQL Server professionals, the annual Community Summit put on by the Professional Association for SQL Server (www.sqlpass.org).For a technologist, the reasons to attend the annual conference of your profession should be self-evident. At the PASS 2012 Summit, there are nearly 200 technical sessions from beginner to advanced level over the duration of the week of November 5.
Posted October 10, 2012
SQL Server 2012 introduces a lot of new features which, like the columnstore indexes I discussed last month, are inspiring a lot of excitement in the user community. However, there's been a bit of confusion around the set of features commonly known as AlwaysOn.
Posted September 11, 2012
SQL Server 2012 includes a lot of new and exciting features. One feature that has caught the imagination of many in the user community is the high-performance feature called Columnstore Indexes. (Incidentally, it was also known as Apollo during its beta cycles). Columnstore indexes, as their name implies, store indexed (and always compressed) data contiguously in columns, rather than in standard format where the data is stored contiguously on 8Kb data pages according to the rows in which the data resides. Because of their structures, columnstore indexes speed up read-heavy operations like data warehouse queries from factors of 10x to 100x.
Posted August 09, 2012
After chatting with my friend and fellow Microsoft MVP Allen White about Windows Server Core on a recent SQLCruise.com excursion, I realized that this is a technology I should be evangelizing more. I hope you've heard about Windows Server Core and are considering using it for your SQL Server, and, indeed, any relational database platform you're currently running on Windows Server. Why?
Posted July 11, 2012
By now, you've heard that Microsoft has publicly released SQL Server 2012. I have to be honest in telling you that it came sooner than I expected, despite my many inside connections at Microsoft. I was fully expecting the RTM to occur a bit before summer, just in time for a spectacular launch at Microsoft TechEd.
Posted June 13, 2012
Last month, I told you about my favorite master-level blogs for the SQL Server professional. This month, I'm reviewing my favorite blogs for working SQL Server professionals who seriously want to grow their skills. What's the difference between a master-level blog and a practitioner-level blog, you ask?
Posted April 11, 2012
Recently, I was speaking at a SQL Saturday event (www.sqlsaturday.com), when I encountered a question that I've been getting more and more often. It went something like this: "I know that I can look up a lot of SQL Server blogs thru the various aggregators, such as SQLBlog.com, SQLServerPedia.com, SQLServerCentral.com, and SQLMag.com, but what are the very best high-end blogs that you read?" Since this is an evergreen question, I figured I'd provide a more permanent answer and anchor it here at DBTA.com and on my own blog.
Posted March 07, 2012
Looking back on 2011, I'm struck by two larger trends in the overall database marketplace. First, most energy and excitement (but not much forward motion) seems to be coming from the NoSQL space. And second, the major relational database platforms are generating what little energy they can outside of their core RDBMS technologies. If you kept up on one or more of the better general IT-industry news sources, you probably saw dozens of stories about various NoSQL vendors, spin-offs, and technologies in a single month, compared with perhaps one or two stories in the same period of time covering a traditional RDBMS platform such as Oracle, Microsoft's SQL Server, or MySQL.
Posted February 09, 2012
Let's tie together the last several columns on "2012 Might Really be The End of the World." In this series, I discussed several megatrends in the general IT industry that will have a tremendous impact on the database administration (DBA) profession. The megatrends include both software-related (virtualization and cheap cloud database services) and hardware-related (SSDs and massively multi-core CPUs). These technologies have the potential to obviate many of the core competencies of the DBA, with the first two eliminating or lessening the need for server and hardware configuration and provisioning, and the last two diminishing the need for IO tuning and query tuning, respectively. But those are trends that will take years to reach fruition. What about the near future?
Posted January 11, 2012
Three columns ago, I started a series of articles pointing out that tough times are a-comin' for the DBA profession due to major disruptive changes in the wider IT world (see "2012 Might Really Be the End of the World as We Know It"). In previous columns, I have told you about how our lives will change due to major technological changes caused by things such as Solid State Disks (SSD) and massively multicore CPUs.
Posted December 01, 2011
I started a column series a couple of months ago about emerging but significantly disruptive technologies, with a post entitled, "2012 Might Really Be the End of the World as We Know It." I called out four disruptive technologies that will significantly change, if not outright overturn, the day-to-day work of database professionals. Those technologies are virtualization, cloud computing, solid state drives (SSD), and advanced multi-core CPUs.
Posted October 15, 2011
Two columns ago, I started a series of articles pointing out that tough times might be in the future for the DBA profession because of major disruptive changes happening in the wider IT world (see "2012 Might Really Be the End of the World as We Know It"). Last issue, I spoke about the Solid State Disk and how it's changing the way we have to deal with and troubleshoot IO performance (see "The Changing State of Hardware" in the August E-Edition of DBTA). This time, I want to talk about computing power and multicore CPUs. Moore's Law famously states that the numbers of transistors in an integrated circuit will double every 18-24 months.
Posted September 14, 2011
In last month's column, "2012 Might Really Be the End of the World as We Know It," I described a number of major developments in the IT industry that are likely to disrupt the life of database professionals everywhere. I categorize those four disrupters - virtualization, cloud computing, solid state drives (SSD), and advanced multi-core CPUs - into two broad groups. I'm going to continue an analysis of these disruptive technologies in inverse order. Today, let's discuss SSDs.
Posted August 11, 2011
Like most people, I chuckled under my breath when doomsayers started publishing books about the apocalypse predicted by their interpretation of the Mayan calendar. In their view, the Mayan calendar ends in 2012 and thus spells doom for us all - despite the fact that the classical Mayan calendar, like ours today, was cyclical. But as I was considering some of the momentous and disruptive changes we're facing lately, it suddenly hit me. The year 2012 might be the year when life as we've known it as IT and data professionals changes, completely and irrevocably
Posted July 07, 2011
One of the things I repeatedly encounter when speaking to database professionals working with Microsoft SQL Server is that many of them simply don't know about some of the most elementary and fundamental means of investigating SQL Server performance. For example, I recently created a popular poster for Quest Software that shows all of the most meaningful and useful Windows Performance Monitor (PerfMon) counters. Now friends, PerfMon has been with us since Windows NT Server, and yet, PerfMon counters are a mystery to at least half of the DBAs I meet. Half!
Posted June 08, 2011
It's almost hard to believe I've been your columnist for Microsoft SQL Server topics for more than 5 years! As an analyst of Microsoft SQL Server, as well as one who's interested in the whole spectrum of database systems, I've tried to provide insight for the questions of "how" and "why" Microsoft has made the choices it has in crafting SQL Server. After all, understanding the context and motivation for a particular set of features-or a particular marketing strategy-can help you fully understand the best choices for your own internal IT strategies and projects.
Posted September 07, 2010
When a new version of one of my favorite products ships, one of the first things I do is open the online help and read "What's New in This Release." I usually look at the new features from two levels. First, I don't install much software that I don't use, so I'm always keen to see what the new features can do to make my life better, my time more productive, my computer faster, my kids behave better, and so forth.
Posted August 10, 2010
Compliance is one of the most interesting elements of any data management plan - it's a microcosm of evolution in action. When many of the laws that impacted data retention were first enacted, business wasn't collecting a lot of information. Now, data collection happens everywhere. And, as citizens have come to realize that more and more of the information about their daily lives is recorded, they demand their governments provide privacy and protection from misuse of that data.
Posted July 12, 2010
If managing your corporate data for the long term isn't currently on your mind, it should be, and in several different ways: cost, performance, business continuity, and compliance. First, let's talk about cost and performance. You want to manage your database infrastructure so it can support your growing data needs within budget, while providing acceptable performance to your users. SANs (storage area networks) have enabled us to meet these contradicting goals over the last decade, and, as I mentioned in a previous column, SAN vendors are offering innovative new technologies to push on-disk storage even further. Some interesting new strategies also are helping organizations achieve a more balanced mix of cost versus performance through the use of "tiered storage."
Posted June 07, 2010
One thing I really enjoy about the SQL Server community is its vibrancy. I'll give you details on the SQL Server community's explosive growth in a moment, but let's start by comparing Microsoft SQL Server's user community with those of other significant database platforms.
Posted May 10, 2010
If you spend any time at all reading IT trade journals and websites, you've no doubt heard about the NoSQL movement. In a nutshell, NoSQL databases (also called post-relational databases) are a variety of loosely grouped means of storing data without requiring the SQL language. Of course, we've had non-relational databases far longer than we've had actual relational databases. Anyone who's used products like IBM's Lotus Notes can point to a popular non-relational database. However, part and parcel of the NoSQL movement is the idea that the data repositories can horizontally scale with ease, since they're used as the underpinnings of a website. For that reason, NoSQL is strongly associated with web applications, since websites have a history of starting small and going "viral," exhibiting explosive growth after word gets out.
Posted April 07, 2010
After the misery that was 2009, most of the SQL Server users I talk to are happy that 2010 started in languid fashion. Not that there isn't a lot of work to do; on the contrary, there's more work than ever. However, the long hours and multiple projects of 2009, compounded by freezes in all levels of spending, raised the general stress level to unhealthy heights. With the new year, stress levels dropped significantly, and many IT leaders see signs of improving prospects. What does that bode for 2010? I have a couple of predictions, though I doubt they'll surprise many people.
Posted March 04, 2010
One fall semester many years ago, I was a university freshman. Actually, I was anything but "fresh." I was dumb enough to think that 8 a.m. was a wonderful time to attend Economics 101. After staying up until the wee hours most every night, the "dismal science" took on more than one meaning as I set my clock just early enough to get to class on time. Along with 30 other very naïve classmates, I staggered into class and did my bleary-eyed best to focus on the lessons at hand. There were lots of Greek compound words and lots of graphs. I learned, for example, that the word economics derives from the Greek "oikonomikos," which means, approximately, "death by slidedecks" and, specifically, "house" (oikos) and "management" (mikos). I barely survived the experience and never took an 8 a.m. class again. Imagine my surprise, then, when a lesson I'd learned (and promptly forgotten) all those years ago jumped back into my consciousness late last year.
Posted February 09, 2010
I was once asked what I thought Microsoft's overall product trajectory for SQL Server was, in light of Oracle's rather obvious trajectory of acquiring multiple application vendors who will, in turn, deploy more and more of their applications to the Oracle database platform. To be honest, I had a little difficulty perceiving a clear and concise strategy statement for the sort of work going on in Redmond. I could see a lot of great features being developed. And I knew the SQL Server development team had developed a lot of new "plumbing" with each new release - features like Service Broker and Extended Events and exponentially more robust capabilities in the Analysis Services product lines. But the strategy itself was veiled and, since Microsoft wasn't explicitly telling us what the grand strategy was, I had difficulty putting my finger on it.
Posted January 11, 2010
Listen to a group of database professionals talk for awhile and someone will eventually bring up the topic of data deduplication. Data deduplication is a means to eliminate redundant data, either through hardware or software technologies. To illustrate, imagine you've drafted a new project plan and sent it to five teammates asking for input. That single file has now been reproduced, in identical bits and bytes, on a total of six computers. If everyone's email inbox is backed up every night, that's another six copies backed up on the email backup server. Through data deduplication technology, only a single instance of your project plan would be backed up, and all other instances of the identical file would simply be tiny on-disk pointers to the original.
Posted December 14, 2009
If you've read the IT press at all these days, you know that SQL Injection (SI) attacks are very common and can be devastatingly effective. In fact, SI attacks-equally easy to execute against Oracle, MySQL, IBM DB2, or Microsoft SQL Server-are among the most common hacks on the Internet today. If a web application runs a relational database on the backend, it can be subject to an SI attack, which ironically, is among the easiest web hacks to prevent.
Posted November 11, 2009
In this season of recession and financial meltdowns, a common question seems to be, "How big is ‘too big to fail'?" Titans of the financial industry made big bets with lots of risk and, when they didn't pan out, American society overall has to pay the price. But, that aside, the very scale of our financial system, by just about every metric, has reached amazing heights, be that number of financial transactions per second, number of traders, number of funds traded, amount of money changing hands—you name it. This might seem like a tangent to the point of databases in general and SQL Server in particular, but there are actually quite a few similarities in my mind.
Posted October 13, 2009
If you haven't paid attention to the new social media, you're doing yourself a disservice. Just as email was a game-changer in the 1980s and the internet revolutionized society in the 1990s, social media is making a huge impact on the way people work and interact today. Personally, I was skeptical about social networking until some good friends persuaded me to give it a trial run. It seemed like a great way to dither away some valuable time, but I didn't see the business value in the whole proposition until I tried it.
Posted September 14, 2009
Microsoft SQL Server's relational engine has offered new instrumentation that improves by light years with each new release. The introduction of Dynamic Management Views (DMVs) in SQL Server 2005 provided a much-needed equivalent to Oracle's long-standing and capable V$ and X$ system views. SQL Server 2008 has provided another dramatic improvement to its instrumentation with Extended Events (also known as XEvents) that promises to offer even greater opportunities to tune, trace and troubleshoot the inner workings of a SQL Server application. All of this stands in stark contrast with the anemic instrumentation offered in SQL Server Analysis Services, Microsoft's wonderful multi-dimensional data repository that is a free feature-set within the SQL Server product.
Posted August 14, 2009
At a rather muted Microsoft TechEd in Los Angeles in May, the crowds were diminished and the educational content was slimmed down. In the past, SQL Server sessions were so abundant that you'd have trouble choosing which of several you might want to attend. This year, the state of the economy was reflected in many ways, including the one, or, in just a few cases, two sessions per time slot allotted SQL Server professionals. Despite the low ebb, the Microsoft SQL Server team made an exciting announcement about the upcoming availability of the SQL Server 2008 R2 CTP (Community Technology Preview).
Posted July 13, 2009
In my many years on the board of directors of the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS), I frequently exhorted our members to strive for individual achievement and personal excellence. One of the best paths for many SQL Server professionals is through certification, especially if they lack years of demonstrated on-the-job experience. However, certification only paints half the picture. While it might demonstrate, at a minimum, that you passed a test (or several tests) about the database technology, it tells nothing about your standards for good conduct.
Posted June 15, 2009
Third-party applications are a very important part of the IT landscape. Many of us have faced the common dilemma of trying to decide whether to build or buy that next important application our organizations need. (By the way, I'm talking about smaller, specialized applications like an inventory management system for the company warehouse, or a practice management system for a doctor's office. I'm not talking about the huge and incredibly sophisticated ERP systems like SAP and Oracle Financials.)
Posted May 15, 2009
The idea of "SQL Server in the cloud" is all the rage as I write this article. Many SQL Server experts already predict the demise of the IT data center and a complete upending of the current state of our industry, in which large enterprises can spend millions of dollars on SQL Server licenses, hardware and staff. I have to admit, when I first heard about this idea, I was ecstatic. What could be better for an enterprise than to have all the goodness of a SQL Server database with none of the hardware or staffing issues? However, on deeper examination, there is much about which to be cautious.
Posted April 15, 2009
In my last column (published in the February e-edition and the March print edition of DBTA), I reviewed the overall coding landscape for SQL Server with special focus on LINQ to SQL, a new technology introduced by Microsoft in late 2008. LINQ to SQL promised to make developers' lives much easier by allowing them to focus on writing programs in their favorite Visual Studio language and letting LINQ to SQL write all the Transact-SQL code. The problem is that LINQ to SQL writes very bad Transact-SQL code.
Posted March 15, 2009
SQL Server has supported VLDBs (very large databases) for some time now. Back in the SQL Server 2000 days, I recall hearing multi-terabyte databases were unusual but doable. Now, they are commonplace, while databases in the hundreds of terabytes inhabit the part of the map that says "there be dragons." While VLDBs are quite common on SQL Server today, highly scalable systems that can be flexibly extended in the same fashion as Oracle/RAC are less so. So, how do you design a highly available architecture for SQL Server if it's not like Oracle/RAC.
Posted January 15, 2009
Implementing PBM in your environment will probably require more than just a few superficial changes.
Posted December 15, 2008
Posted September 15, 2008