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Upgrading to SQL Server 2012 – Why?

This is the first post in a series on Upgrading to SQL Server 2012. Tips, tricks, hazards, pitfalls, and real world experiences.

 

Why upgrade?

As with any piece of software, we need to weigh the business benefits against the time, effort and cost associated with an upgrade. I believe the most compelling reason to upgrade is the Always On availability groups. This is going to be a major paradigm shift for many businesses approach to high availability in the SQL Server space. Why? The traditional approach to high availability has been clustering, coupled with either log shipping or replication. Starting in SQL Server 2005 (a similarly disruptive release of SQL Server as my friend Andy Leonard mentions here) we had Database Mirroring – a great piece of technology that we have been using since it was turned on in SP1.

DB Mirroring is great but it has it’s flaws. Most notably, you cannot query a mirrored database. Yes, you can create snapshots but that approach is clunky and not real time. So you can’t use a mirrored database for reporting easily. Now that we have Always On and read only availability groups, a true way to mix High Availability and read only reporting is really a possibility.

Take some time and rethink your HA/DR and reporting strategy with Always On in SQL Server 2012.

 

 
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March Meme Monday

Published on March 5, 2012 by in Meme Monday

Thomas LaRock in his Meme Monday series asks us to write about:

List out all the little things you do as a DBA, since the term DBA means so many different things in each shop.

Here’s my list:

  • Backups/Restores
  • Test Restores – that’s a biggee
  • Troubleshoot performance issues
  • New Technology cheerleader to the masses
  • Poorly written application debugger
  • Vendor liaison to explain above said poorly written application
  • Owner of the Interfaces
  • Work many maintenance windows
  • Apply Service Packs and Cumulative Updates
  • Cleanup Crew for when things are thrown in with poor planning or communication
  • Hand holding with unsure developers
  • Proving it’s not the SQL Server
  • Server automation script writer
  • The Voice of Reason on production issues
  • Supervise all ad-hoc code run against production
  • Install SQL Server / Maintain SQL Server / Give Last Rites to decommissioned SQL Servers
  • Fighter of battles of who has access to production.
  • Guardian of the data
  • Educate Vendors on how to properly index a database.
  • Refresh Test/Dev from production

I do many other things on Tom’s list, these are just some of the ones that he does not mention.

 

 

 

 
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Speaking at SQLRally

I am honored to be selected by the NTSSUG program committee and PASS to present at SQLRally on May 10-11. I will be speaking on Upgrade Roadmap: Let’s Delve into SQL Server 2012. Basically this is my Upgrade Roadmap – taking you to R2 talk  updated for SQL Server 2012. I will be working on it earnestly in the coming weeks and can’t wait to see you in Dallas!

 

 
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Thoughts on Ola Hallengren’s Maintenance Solution

Published on February 17, 2012 by in SQL Server

I have been playing around with Ola Hallengren’s Maintenance Solution for some time on our Test and Dev SQL Servers. This week I began deploying it to production.  Our previous maintenance solution was a cobbled patchwork of home grown scripts, and some stuff from the Microsoft AIT Automation scripts that badly needed an update.

One thing that is very important to me in terms of a maintenance solution is that it needs to be portable – you can run the code on a SQL Server and it installs with a minimum of configuration. No GUI allowed. I like Ola’s solution in that you only need to make 1 config change to install it: Change the drive letter and folder for the Backup root.

The other thing I like is that you can tweak each server separately by adding or removing parameters to the stored procedures. In an ideal world every server would be the same in terms of drive layout, config etc. I strive for this but in reality this is not achievable. Compromises must be made and this solution allows you to tweak where needed.

I was very happy to see support for 3rd party backup tools. We use Red Gate’s Hyperbac on about 1/3 of our servers so I added a BackupSoftware= ‘Hyperbac’ parameter and it just worked – compressing the files with *.HBC file extension. Big Win, Ola!

Other customizations we turned on:

@BackupSoftware=’HYPERBAC’

@Verify=’Y’

@Checksum=’Y’

Also, typically with databases over 50GB, I prefer to turn on

@NumberOfFiles=’4′

It just makes things easier to manage.

A couple of minor points that I want to make. You will need to assign job schedules to the maintenance tasks, and any overrides to the default configuration (Example, 48 hour retention instead of 24) need to be put into a custom script that you run after you do the install. Finally, one minor complaint with the solution is that there is no naming consistency for the job names so that they all appear in the same area in the Agent job scheduler. Yes, I know the Job category is “Database Maintenance” , but I suspect that few people use or look for this functionality.  One other gripe is that it doesn’t generate Auto-Restore scripts, but after reading the FAQ section that feature is planned for a future release.

In summary, this is a great solution that has a lot of functionality and flexibility for your maintenance plans. Best of all, it’s free.  I highly recommend it.

 
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IT Pro Camp Orlando Recap

My adventure started on Friday when I climbed aboard an AirTran flight from Akron/Canton airport to Orlando. I love flying out of CAK. It’s so friendly and easy. We had a great flight down to Orlando. After landing, I called Chad Miller (Blog | Twitter) who had graciously volunteered to pick me up at MCO.  After getting lost twice in the airport, I finally found Chad and we were on our way. We went over to the hotel and checked in and then over to Logan’s for some fellowship with the organizing committee and other speakers. The food was excellent. We had Steak Tenders, chicken sandwiches, and half burgers.  Dan Stolts (Blog | Twitter) from Microsoft and I talked for quite a while about all things IT.

I met some other speakers , Jose Chinchilla (Blog | Twitter) , and  Blain Barton (Blog | Twitter)  from Microsoft talked about some of the group’s vision for the IT Pro Camp format.

On Saturday morning  , I got up early and headed down to the breakfast area where I ran into Michael Wells (Blog | Twitter), the leader of the Sarasota PASS chapter.  We chatted a little about the improvements to his awesome SQL Server deployment system using Powershell that is on Codeplex.  Michael and I then headed over to the event at the ITT building.

The event was well run by both volunteers and ITT staff. We had some great food for breakfast and Dunkin donuts coffee. Thanks for the fruit and OJ, Blain!  Since my session started at 9:45 and I still had a few tweaks to it, I decided to sit in Alex Funkhouser (Linkedin | Twitter) and Russ Fustino (Blog | Twitter) doing an mock interview for an IT position for the session: Your IT Career: For love or money.  There were lots of great questions and comments during the session. Afterward I was up for my session on: Networking for IT Pros.  I had about 12 people for my session which was a little thin but not being from the area, I half expected this.  There were lots of great questions, however and I think it went well.

Afterward, I stayed and watched my friend Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter) present on Professional Development Plans. Having seen this session before, I was happy to be the IT guinea pig as Andy painted various career development scenarios for the attendees.  The room was packed as he explained that each person needs to take charge of their own career first and foremost.

After an awesome BBQ lunch, I recorded a brief video podcast on the event with Russ Fustino from sponsor Grape City PowerTools. You can catch the RussCamTV video here After that,  I was able to catch a ride to the airport with PASS community evangelist Karla Landrum (blog | Twitter).

In summary, I like the IT Pro Camp format. I think it fills a void between the SQL Saturday world and the Developer oriented code camps. Having a mainstream appeal, however, poses some marketing and advertising challenges in that the event doesn’t cater to specific groups (example: Sharepoint or SQL Server)

 
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IT Pro Camp Orlando

I’ll be speaking at the IT Pro Camp in Orlando on Saturday January 21, 2012. Hope to see you there.  It appears that the event is set up largely like a SQL Saturday, which piqued my curiosity. But it has broader appeal, hence the “IT Pro” moniker.  I submitted 2 sessions for the event and the organizer asked me to pick my 1st choice, which some SQL Saturday organizers don’t do. (Thanks!) So I will be presenting on “Networking for IT Pros”.  This will be the 1st time I present this session, which is about half in person networking and half LinkedIn networking do’s and don’ts. I’ve really tried to include my lessons learned and what works and what doesn’t, as I have learned a lot about networking over the past 3 years.

If all works out well, I intend to submit the abstract or a variant of it toSQL Rally 2012. The one thing I’m wrestling with at this point is whether to focus on in person networking or on the LinkedIn piece. I won’t know that until the presentation is done and how much content I end up with. It’s about 80% done as I write this.

I’m also looking forward going back to Florida and seeing some of the great people in the Orlando area that I’ve made friends with over the past year. Can’t wait!

 
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From 0 to SQLSaturday

Published on December 31, 2011 by in SQL Saturday

2011 Year recap (or from 0 to SQLSaturday)

Looking back, this year has been a pivotal one. I can note that I am not going to review goals hit / missed because I did not have any goals for 2011.  I can say that 2011 was the year of the SQL Saturday. Coming into the year, myself and the team, were feverishly preparing for SQL Saturday #60 Cleveland. As we all know, it was a huge hit! Discovering how rewarding I found the SQL Saturday experience, I can say it was a pivotal moment in my career and my life. My career was lost in the desert without a compass and SQL Saturday helped rescue me and locate a path forward. Amazingly enough, I went on to present at 9 (yes, that’s right) SQL Saturdays in 2011. In addition to that, I volunteered for or spoke at the following events:

3 – local user groups

2 – Regional IT events / code camps

1-  National conference (International Legal Technology Association – ILTA)

1- Lightning talk at PASS

Not bad for a rookie. I have met a lot of great people this year and am honored to be associated with such great events.

It’s been a busy year, and reflecting on it, it shows my style; or, a lack of balance. Next year, I hope to put some balance back into things.

 

 

 
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