Articles by Kevin Kline
2023 was a year marked by innovation and change in the enterprise technology landscape. Companies of all sizes continue to accelerate their digital transformation efforts and leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning-powered solutions, including observability tools, to keep up with today's increasingly complex network environments.
Posted December 21, 2023
Finding a needle in a haystack is next to impossible—so much so, it's become shorthand for the frustration of a fruitless search. Now, imagine you've been told there may be a needle in the haystack, or one could appear at any time, even in a place you already searched. You spend the most valuable hours of your day searching for the needles, but in our case the needle is performance or reliability anomalies. Meanwhile, the haystack grows larger by the second, as more and more is added to the overflowing pile.
Posted December 14, 2023
Mankind has long dreamed of the promise of automation. Our earliest ancestors imagined it as something the gods could wield. In Homer's The Odyssey, Hephaestus, the Greek god of smithing and craft, uses automation to complete simple repetitive labor. Buddhist legends speak of automated guards who watched over the Buddha's relics.
Posted October 12, 2023
Data is the cornerstone of the modern digital business. IT teams, database professionals, and business leaders use data to make informed decisions, increase efficiency, and stay ahead of business objectives. Applications also need data to run efficiently to ensure teams don't encounter any bottlenecks.
Posted August 10, 2023
Microsoft has recently released a powerful new DMV specifically to help with memory issues, sys.dm_os_out_of_memory_events. It is currently available in Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Managed Instances. This DMV consolidates and simplifies telemetry from SQL Server ring buffers, applies heuristics, and provides a result set. The DMV stores a record for each out-of-memory (OOM) event that occurs within the database, providing details about the OOM root cause, the memory consumption of database engine components at that point in time, potential sources of memory leaks, and more.
Posted June 02, 2022
Database applications have vastly improved in recent years, but despite our best efforts, they can still feel frustratingly slow. A report that is supposed to take minutes might instead (for unknown reasons) take 2 hours. Corporate teams complain that every time they work with the database, it gums up the works, leaving users grumpy and managers suspicious. This is no small matter. According to the SolarWinds Query Report 2021, nearly one-third of data pros surveyed manage more than 300 databases in their organization's environment.
Posted April 07, 2022
Microsoft announced at the end of February 2022 that significant changes are in store across its SQL Server analytics products. To set the context, the broader enterprise IT marketplace was still primarily on-prem when Microsoft first introduced its cloud analytics products in 2017. Since that time, we've seen a flood of migrations to the cloud with analytical workloads at the forefront, since a cloud-based approach to analytics offers greatly improved manageability, deployment simplicity, as well as standard cloud benefits like flexibility, cost control, and scalability.
Posted March 11, 2022
In early November 2021, Microsoft announced the private preview of its flagship database product, SQL Server 2022. At some point in 2022, we will see SQL Server 2022 released as a general availability (GA) product, but the specific release date has not yet been disclosed. We can expect to see a variety of the announced features in the next major release deployed to Azure SQL customers. Microsoft has a long history of deploying new features to the Azure cloud far in advance of the on-prem products.
Posted February 08, 2022
When it comes to improving the performance of database systems, there are nearly as many approaches as there are DBA (database administrator) teams. Mature disciplines—from medicine to aviation to accounting—also have mature processes that represent the generally accepted workflows and procedures needed for best results, or, at a minimum, to prevent the worst from happening. However, DBAs do not have an equivalent for the FAA handbooks found in every aircraft cockpit in America—that's a shame because so many of our DBA workflows and processes could be made easier, more reliable, and more predictable with a bit of planning and foresight.
Posted December 08, 2021
The world of the data professionals and DBAs is swirling with threats and risks, and those dangers are on the rise. You're probably accustomed to using longstanding database features to secure your databases, including roles and permissions, and you're likely familiar with working with your identity management admins to control and create your user authentication scheme.
Posted October 05, 2021
Several events each year, such as Microsoft Build in the late spring and Microsoft Ignite in the fall, were traditionally marked by a bevy of new product features and previews. In the old days, it was important to link new features to conferences because you had to press tens of thousands of CDs or DVDs to ensure widespread distribution. That's no longer necessary, so it's possible for us to see important new capabilities released to the public at just about any time. Let's talk more about a few recent and important announcements.
Posted July 21, 2021
Due to my background working with other major database platforms such as Oracle, MySQL, and PostgreSQL, I've long been an advocate for the SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA). This powerful and easy product can quickly and effectively migrate most popular relational database platforms into SQL Server. The migration process using SSMA usually results in a 80/20 or 90/10 migration, in which 80%-90% of the database objects migrate without an issue. But 10%-20% typically requires additional hand-holding and manual migration work.
Posted June 10, 2021
An important new set of features for security and confidential computing was announced at the recent Microsoft Ignite virtual conference and are now in public preview. Although the name doesn't exactly trip off your tongue, Always Encrypted with Secure Enclaves offers important new capabilities for organizations that need greater control and security over their data while also enjoying the agility, scalability, and productivity gains of the public cloud.
Posted April 06, 2021
In 2020, we endured the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on health and life, and we also saw multitudes of businesses and organizations collapse. One of those casualties was PASS, also known as the Professional Association for SQL Server.
Posted March 01, 2021
DBAs and data management teams have long struggled with supporting data governance functions. Naturally, a well-managed organization wants to extract maximum value from their data assets. But that is incredibly difficult for companies whose data assets were created over a period of years or decades without an integrated, top-down data architecture.As these data management systems grow organically over time and as new data management systems are added, users of corporate data resources face a variety of challenges.
Posted February 10, 2021
Microsoft and Red Hat have collaborated for more than 4 years on SQL Server and have come up with a variety of ways to better manage the server internals for higher performance. For example, the Windows OS has Large Pages and an option called Lock Pages in Memory. In Linux, you have the same capabilities using Transparent Huge Pages via trace flag 834, and even more memory management options by tuning dirty page ratios to prevent disk swapping.
Posted December 10, 2020
Many organizations are building their new applications on Linux rather than the Windows operating system for reasons of security, performance, and manageability. In addition, they are now able to take advantage of avoiding mixed operating system environments in the public cloud. Many of these customers have been longtime Linux users—and although they loved SQL Server, they disliked having to run SQL Server on Windows since they were the only Windows servers in their entire enterprise.
Posted November 04, 2020
If you are an old hand at Microsoft SQL Server, you have probably used the SQL Server Agent (i.e., SQL Agent) service and MSDB database for the last 20 years. With a humble and largely unchanged feature set since it was first introduced, SQL Agent is one of those incredibly useful and cost-saving features we have come to expect from the Microsoft Data Platform. However, SQL Agent faces one important shortcoming: It can run on Azure VMs and on Azure SQL Managed Instances, but it is not available on Azure SQL Database. As a result, we need a substitute.
Posted October 08, 2020
Microsoft continues to make positive strides in the world of open source. The company once considered open source software to be an anathema, but now it's common for Microsoft to pull software from—and also push software to—the open source software community.
Posted August 11, 2020
Here's one big advantage to moving to Microsoft Azure SQL Database—you never have to patch. That's all well and good, but most of the SQL Server installed license base is still on-premise. If you're in this category, then it is essential that you keep up with patching and security fixes regularly. The information in this article is the sort that experienced SQL Server DBAs keep close at hand. So, let's take a few minutes to walk through the details of how to do that.
Posted June 10, 2020
I've kept you informed over the years about not just the latest news and features in SQL Server, but across the entire Microsoft Data Platform, both on-premise and in the cloud. This includes additional products such as SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS), SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), and their cloud siblings, Azure Synapse Analytics, and Azure Data Factory (ADF). Another important and powerful sibling product is Azure Cosmos DB, previously known as Document DB, which I first wrote about here many years ago.
Posted April 08, 2020
Azure Arc and the Rising Tide of Kubernetes
Posted February 10, 2020
A New Chapter of Business Intelligence Begins with Azure Synapse
Posted January 02, 2020
The annual PASS Summit, the industry's largest gathering of SQL Server professionals, hosted more than 4,000 attendees in Seattle recently recently. PASS (www.pass.org) has grown to more than 300 local chapters around the world, and its 1,000th SQL Saturday will likely be held sometime in early 2020. The opening keynote by Rohan Kumar, corporate vice president of data and AI at Microsoft, focused on the achievements and growth of SQL Server in the marketplace, as well as on the new features and capabilities now available in the public release of SQL Server 2019.
Posted December 01, 2019
Back in the 1980s, a Stanford University computer scientist and professor named Donald Knuth introduced the concept of "literate programming," in which a computer program's logic is explained in a natural language such as English. The "literate" program would be further enriched with images, graphs, traditional source code, related macros, and scripts almost as if the programmer were writing an essay, and using all of these components together could still be compiled as usual. The most notable products to arise from this concept were notebooks, such as Azure Notebooks, Jupyter Notebooks, Apache Zeppelin, and the Apache Spark Notebook.
Posted October 01, 2019
The big cloud vendors tout many reasons for running IT infrastructure in the cloud. A very prominent benefit is "accelerated innovation and delivery." That's a powerful selling point because every IT manager I have ever known wants to deliver better results, faster, and at lower cost. However, it seems that the less IT managers know about doing actual hands-on IT work, the more demanding they are.
Posted September 03, 2019
Maybe you are still getting up-to-speed with the whole concept of cloud computing. If so, I have a lot of sympathy for you because there is so much to learn and because cloud technologies advance so rapidly. Here's one more important concept to add to that pile of things to learn—edge computing.
Posted August 07, 2019
SQL Server Drill Down: What's New in the Microsoft Data Platform, Build 2019 Edition
Posted June 10, 2019
Will the DBA disappear? No, far from it. But specific skills needed by DBAs and certain job roles fulfilled by DBAs will certainly change as we move to the cloud.
Posted May 01, 2019
If you haven't been paying a lot of attention, you might have missed the rise of a new form of virtualization, based at the operating system level, called "containers." While there are many specific software programs, by far the most prominent is Docker. So, from here on out, consider "Docker" and "container" to be synonymous.
Posted February 08, 2019
About 5,500 of the SQL Server faithful came out for the PASS Summit 2018 in Seattle last November. As usual, the event had the feel of a great big family reunion. It's always a fun time, with lots of socializing in the halls of the conference center and at the various restaurants and gathering places around town. The training was also top-notch this year with more than 16 tracks of sessions going on from early morning until evening—literally hundreds of SQL Server developer, DBA, architect, BI, and data science session
Posted January 02, 2019
The 2018 Microsoft Ignite conference was overflowing with attendees this year, as user enthusiasm continues to grow with the advent of CEO Satya Nadella.
Posted December 04, 2018
On August 30, Microsoft announced the public preview of the Azure Database Migration Service (DMS) to support online migrations of various databases to Azure. What's an "online migration"? Online migration means that your databases remain operational while conducting the migration. This provides quite a few obvious benefits.
Posted October 10, 2018
Microsoft is on the march with multiple upgrades and improvements across the span of its cloud data products. Here are a few of the more prominent highlights.
Posted August 08, 2018
On June 20th, the Microsoft SQL Server team dropped the most recent release of SQL Operations Studio to the public. This is just one of many, many product announcements that demonstrate Microsoft's very serious commitment to interoperability and to meeting the needs of their customers wherever they reside, even if that's outside of the Microsoft ecosystem. One of the hallmarks of SQL Operations Studio, compared to the venerable SQL Server Management Studio, is that it's lightweight and expandable.
Posted July 02, 2018
If you've used Azure in the past, you probably know that there are two main ways to deploy SQL Server on Microsoft's cloud—Azure SQL Database, the PaaS offering; and Azure VMs running SQL Server. Microsoft is now offering a third deployment option in preview which provides full SQL Server engine capability, including SQL Agent, along with native VNet support.
Posted June 01, 2018
Women's issues have headlined the news media for the past several months. Many stories, ranging from the #MeToo movement to the "Brogrammer" email blast at Google, have shown that women in technology (WIT) face negative work conditions and social pressures. In light of that, it seemed appropriate to dive into the topic of WIT within the SQL Server community (aka, the Data Platform community) and gauge where we're at.
Posted April 12, 2018
The SQL Server Vulnerability Assessment tool (VA) is a feature within SQL Server Management Server (SSMS) 17.4 that scans your SQL Server instances of version 2012 and later, identifies security issues, and suggests fixes to the vulnerabilities it finds. It works for on-premises SQL Server and Azure SQL Database, whether housed on physical or virtual servers.
Posted February 01, 2018
This year's PASS Summit packed more than 5,000 data professionals into the Washington State Convention Center for hardcore technical sessions covering all aspects of the Microsoft data platform. Here are some highlights.
Posted December 01, 2017
At this year's Microsoft Ignite, a variety of executives made a host of announcements that are important and relevant to data professionals. It is worth noting that there were actually four areas of focused innovation discussed at the keynote level: enabling IT and developer productivity, providing a consistent hybrid cloud, unlocking intelligent solutions (read: AI), and ensuring trust through security, privacy, and cost controls.
Posted November 01, 2017
With all of the hype around data being "the oil of the 21st century" and the rise of "the algorithm economy," it seems reasonable to make it a priority to learn more about how laws affect our lives as DBAs. The first law that I have targeted is probably the best-known data law in the U.S.—HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
Posted October 18, 2017
Announcing SQL Server 2017 Release Candidate 1
Posted September 27, 2017
Not only has the Microsoft SQL Server engineering team added more and stronger leadership, outstanding individual engineers and staff members, but it is also radically moving its entire development process into a "cloud-first" ethos. Now, I'd like to show one of the most salient results of this new development process-accelerated product releases. It was only a few years ago (and is still the case for other data management platforms) that a major new release takes at least 2, but more likely 3 years. With the "production-ready" release of SQL Server 2017 Community Technology Preview 2.0, we are only 1 year from the last production release.
Posted May 05, 2017
I always look forward to new research from Unisphere Research, a division of Information Today, Inc., publishers of this magazine and other great products for data professionals. The latest report which you should read is "SQL Server Transformation: Toward Agility & Resiliency 2017; PASS Database Management Survey."
Posted April 07, 2017
SQL Server Named DBMS of the Year
Posted March 02, 2017
There's a very handy new tool from Microsoft called the Database Experimentation Assistant (DEA). The DEA makes it very easy to conduct A/B testing for SQL Server upgrades, providing quantitative insight into the performance differences across two versions of a database workload on SQL Server.
Posted February 08, 2017
One of the long-standing differentiators between SQL Server's Enterprise Edition (EE) and Standard Edition (SE), besides price, were the large number of features available only in EE. This is also true for other lower editions of SQL Server such as Web Edition and Express Edition. But there's big news in the air!
Posted January 03, 2017
If you are a SQL Server professional, but you don't know about the PASS Summit, then you are missing out. The annual conference is convened every fall in downtown Seattle, the backyard of Microsoft, and attracted over 6,000 attendees this year. And, since it's so close to the Microsoft Redmond campus, hundreds of the SQL Server developers and program managers get to attend—answering user questions, delivering sessions, and presenting chalk talks and panel discussions.
Posted December 01, 2016
Back when I managed my employer's enterprise architecture, prior to the days of virtualization and cloud computing, one of my most difficult projects was to build out a sandbox environment for a major proof of concept (POC). Locally hosted servers and all of the required licenses were expensive and scarce. If you're still struggling with scarcity when conducting research and performing POCs, I've got to tell you you're doing it wrong.
Posted November 02, 2016
SQL Server Adds Even More New Features in Data Science
Posted October 07, 2016
As a heavy user of other RDBMS data platforms, I have long appreciated the extra effort that Microsoft put into their data management and administration tool, the SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). While SSMS is an outstanding administration and T-SQL programming tool, it does have its minor qualms and quibbles.
Posted September 02, 2016
I had the pleasure to spend some time with my old friend Mark Souza, a general manager in the Data Platform team at Microsoft, while speaking at the SQL Saturday event in Dublin, Ireland. Now keep in mind that Mark and I have known each other since the 1990s when SQL Server was just being ported to a brand new operating system called Windows NT. Mark and I were having a laugh and more than a twinge of nostalgia about how much SQL Server has improved over the decades and now sits atop the heap on most analysts' "best database" reports. This isn't just two old-timers sharing a few war stories though. This is a living, breathing transformation that is still in process.
Posted August 04, 2016
There's a new buzzword on the loose, the data lake. At first glance, a data lake could be easily mistaken for a data warehouse. The two big data concepts have a common focus on analytics and they may, in certain situations, produce roughly equivalent output. But that's about where their similarities end.
Posted July 12, 2016
While temporal data support is something that has existed in the past within other database platforms, it is a newly available feature with the RTM version of SQL Server 2016. In case you haven't heard of temporal data values (or for some, "bitemporal"), here is a brief explanation.
Posted June 09, 2016
Many thought it was an early April Fool's Day prank, but it was no joke: On March 7, 2016, Microsoft announced the beta release of SQL Server on Linux with the intention of shipping a full release of the product by April of 2017.
Posted May 04, 2016
Microsoft has been on a tear for the past couple of years. It has been pushing forward with a very steady stream of powerful new features and capabilities, even entire product lines, within its Data Platform business. But while Microsoft has been hard at work on this deluge of new technologies, it would be completely forgivable if you haven't noticed. The reason it's OK is that Microsoft is advancing on multiple fronts, both in the on-premises product line and even more dramatically with the Azure cloud-based products.
Posted March 31, 2016
Microsoft first truly disrupted the ETL marketplace with the introduction of SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) back with the release of SQL Server 2005. Microsoft has upped the ante yet again by bringing to market powerful ETL features to the cloud via the Azure Data Factory, which enables IT shops to integrate a multitude of data sources, both on-premises and in the cloud, via a workflow (called a "pipeline) that utilizes Hive, Pig, and customized C# programs.
Posted March 03, 2016
If you're into data and databases and you have not heard the term "machine learning," may I suggest that you're not reading enough? This technology is hot and hyped, largely because it is the secret ingredient in many successful Big Data projects.
Posted January 07, 2016
In addition to StretchDB and AlwaysEncrypted, there are two more exciting features in the works for SQL Server 2016: dynamic data masking and row-level security. In the case of these two features, they'll be released first to the cloud platform (Azure SQL Database) and, later, to the on-premises version of SQL Server.
Posted December 02, 2015
The PASS Summit 2015, the largest conference in the Microsoft SQL Server world, was held in October in Seattle, WA. The event provided a look at key initiatives that Microsoft's SQL Server group has been working on and a glimpse of what's ahead for the future.
Posted November 09, 2015
Prior to SQL Server 2016, currently in CTP, your main method for encrypting a SQL Server application was to use a feature called Transparent Data Encryption. TDE provides strong encryption, but with some shortcomings. First, you have to encrypt an entire database. No granularity is offered at a lower level, such as encrypting specific tables or certain data within a table. Second, TDE encrypts only data at rest, in files. Data in memory or in-flight between the application and server are unencrypted. Enter Always Encrypted.
Posted October 07, 2015
The Top 10 Mistakes Made by SQL Server DBAs
Posted August 10, 2015
New Releases for the Microsoft Data Platform
Posted July 08, 2015
If you've been managing databases for any length of time, you've probably had to contend with the "noisy neighbors" scenario. In this scenario, you have several applications, each with their own database residing on a single instance of SQL Server, which don't share the resources of the server nicely. To deal with this issue, you might want to investigate Resource Governor as an alternative.
Posted June 09, 2015
With all the cheerleading and the steady drumbeat of new features being released to Azure, it's easy to lose track of the many cool and valuable new features released in the on-premises version of SQL Server. One of the crown jewels of SQL Server, the cardinality estimator (CE), underwent a large redesign for SQL Server 2014 to improve performance. Cardinality estimates are an extremely important part of query processing. In a nutshell, cardinality estimates are what the relation engine predicts for the number of rows affected by a given operation, including intermediate row sets like those created by filters, aggregations, joins and spool.
Posted May 14, 2015
Using StretchDB, an enterprise can "stretch" an on-premises database into the cloud, such that "hot," heavily used data is stored in the on-premises instance of SQL Server, while "cold" and infrequently used data is transparently stored in Azure. A stretched database automatically and transparently manages synchronization and movement of aging data from on-premises to the cloud.
Posted April 06, 2015
IT Employers Must Adapt to the Looming DBA Shortage
Posted March 12, 2015
Does the Looming Shortage in DBAs Spell Opportunity?
Posted February 11, 2015
Converging Factors Mean Major Opportunities for DBAs
Posted January 07, 2015
Delayed durability offers something that many SQL Server professionals have wanted for years—the ability to disable transaction logging. Why turn off the transaction log? You can accelerate performance in a lot of situations where you do NOT need transactional consistency.
Posted December 03, 2014
The holiday season is right around the corner, a time for cheer and goodwill towards men. That got me thinking about the whole "most wonderful time of the year" tune playing in the background and how that has some special implications for the SQL Server world. Here's a bit of context: I'm writing this article for you in the midst of the biggest gathering of SQL Server professions in any given year, the PASS Summit. One of the most visible activities when attendees get together for the very first time at the registration desk or the assembly hall for the first keynote address is the huge number of hugs, backslapping, fist bumps, high fives, and a variety of other happy and genuine reunions.
Posted November 12, 2014
The PASS Summit, put on each fall by the Professional Association for SQL Server is the biggest SQL Server specific event in the world and it brings in many thousands of people from around the world. Its secret ingredient is the remarkable sense of comradery and overall friendliness of this professional association.
Posted October 08, 2014
Skimming the newspaper on a recent summer morning, Kevin Kline was astounded to read about Russian hackers' success in grabbing 4.5 million records by way of good, ol' fashioned SQL injection attacks. "This is like saying a bunch of robbers rummaged through 450,000 houses because none of the home owners knew about locking doors and windows. It is that serious and that elementary of a mistake," writes Kline, who outlines security steps that all developers should implement.
Posted September 10, 2014
If you've ever worked with a packaged product, such as a CRM system, that includes reporting and querying features, then you know how inflexible they are. It can be infuriatingly difficult to get data out of these systems, systems for which you paid big money, without losing sleep, hair, and peace of mind. Enter PowerBI.
Posted August 05, 2014
As the manager for enterprise architecture in a very large IT organization, the C-suite executives frequently posed the question, "What database platform is best for this application today and for the future?" There are now some very powerful tools available to you to assess and track the viability of the various database platforms you might be considering.
Posted July 03, 2014
Other News in SQL Server 2014 RTM
Posted June 11, 2014
The Best of SQL Server 2014 RTM - 6 Reasons to Think About Upgrading
Posted April 14, 2014
Big Data and Microsoft SQL Server HDInsight
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
Upcoming Business Intelligence Enhancements in SQL Server 2014
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
Great Tools for Database Benchmarking
Posted August 31, 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
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
Running Your Own TPC Benchmarks
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
Use TPC Database Benchmarks to Save Money
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
Master-Level Blogs for the SQL Server Professional
Posted March 07, 2012
2011 in Review: NoSQL Sturm und Drang, While Relational DBs Hibernate
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
Database - Abstracted
Posted October 15, 2011
CPUs in Flux
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
Reading Between the Lines on SQL Server 2008 R2 Features
Posted August 10, 2010
Compliance - A Key Element of a Data Management Strategy
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
Now that I know I can post, let me state at least some of what I stated broefe.The thinking patterns of a person is something that is learned over time and is driven by success and motivation and curiosity. Success , of course, does not necessairly mean the greatest success to be had, but some success.Outside of people like you and I, most get rather lazy about thinking and once they become somewhat successful are reluctant to improve further.Optimizing SQL require one of two approaches: (a) an intimate knowledge of how the underlying database works basically, how it will parse the SQL, how it will attempt to optimize the SQL, how it will attempt to match it to indexes and the like. The other approach is by trial and error .Alas, SQL, if my may say so myself, sucks as a language. Basically, it works hard at trying to hide all the low-level machinations of the database system; yet you can't write good SQL unless you deal with those low-level machinations!!! The very fact that it hides these details makes it even trickier to optimize, because its optimizer is trying to be a one size fits all , and it has to guess about a lot.Indeed, in optimizing SQL, not only are you dealing with the low-level machinations, but you are also dealing with the default assumptions of its optimizer, as well! It's kinda insane having to work around both.So, that certain data analyist will never be able to deal with all of these complications. He is to be understood, actually, because he is actually trying to use SQL in the way it was intended so as to not have to deal with all the low-level details that he shouldn't have to deal with anyway.Alas, this is really the failing of many, if not most computer languages, ORMs, and other systems designed to simplify and to hide complexity to really effectively use them eventually you have to understand the complexity it's trying to hide you from, and worse how it's trying to hide you from it!!!!!It's amazing how little has changed over the years. I ran into these same issues dealing with Microsoft's infamous MFC framework, and even Java. I had to deal with this in my C and C++ days, and also had to deal with it when I wrote a lot of PHP code.So, for just kicking it around, the SQL language it great! But when you get serious that all the limitations comes to the fore. And this is true of nearl everything in computerdom.My, this came out quite a bit different from what I wote broefe!
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
The Future of Coding for SQL Server, Part 2
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