Review: Quest POTW webcast – Getting Started with SQL Server Management Studio

Very Niiice! Today was Quest Software’s bi-weekly Pain-of-the-Week webcast and this week’s topic was Getting Started with SQL Server Management Studio. We were lucky enough to have not one, but two SQL rock stars presenting today in Brent Ozar (Blog | Twitter) and Michelle Ufford (Blog | Twitter).

Brent kicked it off with a quick intro and then handed it over to Michelle to walk us through the basics such as creating a database, adding tables/columns/objects/etc as well as going through all the options available such as creating Maintenance Plans, creating backups from within SSMS, and the SQL Server Agent. They even demoed some of the nice little tools available in the latest SSMS such as activity monitor and the built-in reports. A question was raised about if the new SSMS offered a view equivalent to the taskpad view in SQL 2000 Enterprise Manager and the answer is…kind of. If you’re using SSMS 2008 (which you should be since you can install it without having to have a SQL 2008 instance) that view has been replaced by the built-in reports. You can access the reports by right-clicking your Instance or even a database itself, go to Reports, go to Standard Reports and select which report you’d like to view. And like we learned yesterday, some of these reports come from our default trace! Another fun tidbit of information learned from this presentation was that if you choose to (granted this isn’t recommended) right-click a table and select the Edit Top 200 records, it opens the records in an Access-like grid and allows you to change data directly. But this is cool and useful, why isn’t it recommended? Well when you open records like this it puts a lock on those records so nobody else can get to them. So in a production environment clearly this is a no-no but at least you know the feature’s there. For the record the recommended method would be to do something like this:

UPDATE table_name
SET column1=value, column2=value2,...
WHERE some_column=some_value


After Michelle wrapped up our tour of SSMS, Brent then gave us a quick tour of Quest Software’s Toad for SQL Server product. This is a pretty slick product that is aimed towards the development community. It gives you basically the same things as SSMS for the most part but it also gives you so much more. For instance you are able to do a query and re-sort your results using column sorting as you would in Excel (i.e. click column name to change order). You can also do filtering via this method as well. What’s the big deal about this? Well every time you change your ordering you don’t have to make a roundtrip to the server to re-query your data, it holds everything locally so its speedy. This is where Borat pops up and says “very niiiiiiiiice”. There was also some slick thing it did with pivots but that was the point where my desktop froze so all I got was audio from the phone call, though the people commenting on Twitter seemed to like…whatever it is it did. But don’t take my word for it, try it out yourself and go download a 30-day demo of the product at Quest’s website!


That pretty much summed up the webcast this week! They’ll be doing a follow-up webcast on June 11th with more advanced tips as well. you can register for that webcast here. If this post didn’t quite do it for you, you can catch all POTW webcasts on-demand over at Quest’s website. Today’s presentation should be up in a few days.

PASS DBA SIG: Understanding the Default Trace

Today during lunch was the monthly PASS webcast for the Database Administration SIG. This month’s topic was understanding the default trace and was presented by Jonathan Kehayias (BLOG Twitter). Jonathan did a great job as he very clearly explained the nuances of the default trace (i.e. what it really is, how you query it, what’s it do, etc.).

The presentation files are available at his blog. If you get a chance definitely check out the on-demand replay which should be available next week. On a side note this is my second or third one of these I’ve attended and I absolutely love it! I think PASS is doing a great job providing this sort of on-going training for the community and I also tip my hat to people like Jonathan who are willing to take time out of their day to present.

SSWUG Virtual Conference: Follow-up Thoughts

Ok a few weeks ago was SSWUG‘s second virtual conference and my first experience with the virtual conference experience. Granted this review is a bit late but better than never I suppose. First off I have to tip my hat off to Stephen Wynkoop, Chris Shaw and the rest of the folks at SSWUG that put this event together.

First off this conference was a fantastic value at only $99 for 3 days of high quality SQL training. For those who haven’t experienced a virtual conference before, it is layed out much like a real conference you would attend. You enter the conference and are placed in a lobby-type page that leads to either sessions lobby, exhibit hall or on demand section (sessions are available on demand after the conference). Entering the sessions lobby lets you select which conference you registered for. This conference offered a track for SQL Server, Business Intelligence, Sharepoint Once inside you are presented with several rooms to choose from. Like a real conference you choose which session you want to attend in which room.

The sessions are pre-recorded videos and while you’re watching the session there is also a chat room dedicated to that room. During the session the speaker is in the chat room answering any questions anyone has regarding the content. I thought this was great as normally you wouldn’t have this sort of interaction with the presenter. The other great thing is that sometimes the conversation in the chat would spin off on another great topic/point. Granted the downside to this format is that your attention is drawn away from the video but that’s the beauty of them being on demand!
The other great communication tool that was implemented in to this was Twitter. SSWUG placed a Twitter feed in the main lobby that allowed those not on Twitter to see what was going on with those Tweeting about the conference. This was done by encouraging participants to tag their tweets using the #sswugvc hashtag. I’m now a big Twitter user so this was a major plus for me. Another place to interact was, of all places, the vendor booths! During this conference it seems like the Quest Software booth was the place to be as most of the people I interact with on Twitter made their way over there. In addition to hocking Quest products in the booth I actually got to know people a little better like Tim and Lori Edwards, Brent Ozar, Chuck Boyce Jr. and Tom LaRock to name a few.
At noon everyday there was a part of the conference that had to be, hands-down, one of my favorite parts and that was the live Q & A sessions with Stephen Wynkoop and Chris Shaw. They would have a general topic of discussion and take questions live over the chat room and Twitter. It’s great seeing two major players in the SQL Community discussing their thoughts on things. Plus with the live aspect of things we could ask questions and the conversation could go in various directions. Another fun thing that came out of the live talks was the keynote bingo that I came up with on the last day. I think everyone that participated had fun with that and funnily enough Stephen and Chris got in to it as well as they purposely started mentioning things from the card towards the end of the final live session for kicks.
All in all I thought this was an absolute blast! Granted I was watching the sessions in my office and got sidetracked every so often with work but that’s also the beauty of it. Your organization still has you around so you’re still work-functional (sorry) but you’re also getting your training out of it. If you miss something you can either catch the afternoon replay session or just take advantage of the on-demand option or order the DVD from them which includes all demos, scripts, videos, etc. The other thing that this conference made me realize was the true power of social networking specifically Twitter. Out of this conference I got a slew of followers and managed to cement relationships with other SQL professionals. Plus out of Twitter came the infamous SQL Editions onlsaught of Tweets which I believe actually originated from the people hanging out in the Quest booth!
A huge thanks goes out to SSWUG and all the vendors who sponsored, an event like that couldn’t be put on without your support. Events likes this are also key when the economy is in the state it is in. For me, sadly, I don’t think I’ll be able to attend PASS this year due to travel restrictions with our organization right now but hopefully I’ll be able to attend next year. Until then virtual conferences like this will be key to my on-going training as well as attending regional and local events such as SQL Saturday and local user group meetings.

Tampa SSUG 5/19/09 Review

Tuesday night we had our monthly SSUG. Our special guest this month was Jack Corbett (aka unclebiguns) joining us from Orlando. Jack is a software developer for New Tribes Mission in Orlando. For his take on the evening check out his blog entry on the night.

We kicked off the night with a discussion I led about social networking. As most discussions tend to lead, the topic dominator was Twitter. A few of us shared how Twitter has managed to help us in various facets of our job be it job opportunities, problem resolution or just general networking. A few of us in the audience are already on Twitter such as Jonathan Kehayias, Jack Corbett, Pam Shaw, and Steve Turner. Besides Twitter we also covered sites such as LinkedIn. LinkedIn was specifically mentioned as helping people find jobs. One member in attendance shared with us that he actually landed his current position because of Linked in which shows that social networking does work! One new thing I did learn out of this conversation was something called MSDN Social which I’ll have to check out. Thanks to Travis Page for pointing this one out to us.

Next up was Jack’s talk on SQL Server Profiler basics. I thought I knew enough about profiler but boy was I wrong! What’s funny is that Jack asked the room how many of us currently use profiler as part of our DBA arsenal. Only about a quarter of those in attendance raised their hands. He followed up by asking how many of us knew that SQL Server 2005/2008 had a trace running by default on install and even less hands went up. This is pretty surprising considering its a feature specifically built in to make it easier for us DBA’s to do performance analysis. Considering Extended Events is the next “big thing” in this arena coming out of the Redmond camp for SQL Server I think either we need to blog more about these sorts of things or Microsoft better come up with a Mojave Trace profiler and say “surprise, its really SQL 2005!”. Anyhow back on track…another thing I learned was that the profiler takes wildcards. Yes, that’s right, you trace on ‘ADv%’ or ‘%acon’. I thought this was pretty cool.

Another thing that’s new in 2005 Profiler (thankfully, since this particular issue drives me nuts) is the ability to pause a trace mid-stream, modify your trace values, and continue the trace without losing any of your previous data already collected. Speaking of pausing, a button that I just never noticed all this time was right up top (Auto Scroll) that stops the profiler from skipping to the latest data. I don’t know how many times I’ve been staring at the data scrolling by, see what I think is a problem query, click on it and by the time I do the screen rolls over two or three times so I have to go back and hunt for that line. In the words of Charles Barkley, “just turrr-ible”.

During the presentation portion where we were discussing dissecting deadlock issues, someone mentioned that one time they had a deadlock issue but it wasn’t showing up properly when they traced it using the 2005 profiler. Jonathan Kehayias enlightened us that mutli-deadlock victims won’t show in 2005 profiler and that this situation is common in parallelism issues (which this guy had). The 2008 profiler, on the other hand, does handle that issue and display it properly. The next tip I picked up and can’t wait to use was the fact that with 2005 profiler you do correlation of data between profiler and performance monitor. In order to do this you need to have started and ended both with scheduled times. Another note is the Counter Log from perfmon needs to be in Binary File type in order for this to work. Once you have your traces done go to File menu, and save your profiler trace to a file. Then open that trace file. Once its open you should be able to go to File menu and select Import Data. Navigate to where you saved your perfmon trace and open it. Once you have selected it you will see a graph overlayed underneath your trace. Now if you click anywhere on that graph you will get a line that shows exactly which point in your profiler trace that performance spike happened so you can see exactly which SQL is causing (if any) problems! Click on the image above for an example of this.
Overall I thought this was a great meeting. We had a packed house and good discussion and tips. Personally I feel I even got a little more out of it than usual thanks to social networking. Prior to Jack’s arrival for our meeting he and I have been interacting on Twitter so it made it a little easier to meet him for the first time which was pretty cool. Next month I’m slated to do a presentation on Policy Based Management so I’m pretty excited for that. Another exciting announcement is that apparently we’re getting Kevin Kline to come speak at our group which should be really awesome.

VMware Unveils New vSphere 4

vSphere Ok so now VMware has officially unveiled their new platform vSphere 4 (aka ESX 4.0) I figured I would give my quick reactions to today’s announcements. First off, to be fair, I’m a rabid VMware fan-boy. Not that I won’t give the other virtualization platforms a fair shake but from a business standpoint VMware is way out in front and with this new release it looks like they’re staying there. Second, will the folks at VMware PLEASE invest in someone to make a better presentation? You have enough capital, make it happen.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the features that we’ll have available in this new version:
I’m sure I’m missing some but these are just the quick major points to run through. Kudos to VMware for acknowledging the movement of virtualizing databases and addressing that specific issue. With this release it looks like they really focused on optimizing an environment for database servers to thrive in. Today’s demo showed a virtualized Oracle instance hammering the server (CPU) on a physical box. In the new virtualized environment the server’s resources were much better and they were actually able to move 2 SQL Server instances on to the same box and performance still didn’t degrade by much. Now granted this demo was for Intel’s new Xeon 5500 processors and it depends on the type of database as well as 3,000 other "what-ifs" but at least it showed where VMware’s head is at. Brent Ozar recent did a webcast on performance monitoring your SQL instances and warned that once virtualized its much tougher to get true metrics from your instances so be wary with rosy numbers.
The next exciting feature I saw was thin provisioning of storage for VM’s. The way this works is that if you create a VM that you specify as 20 GB the system doesn’t really take 20 GB away from your storage, it only takes what is ACTUALLY being used. This is key since you actually start over-allocating storage to your machines which can be a blessing or a huge curse. What was really awesome is the fact that you can thin provision on-the-fly while performing a storage vMotion which I thought was really slick.
VMware’s flavor of clustering is finally coming to us in the form of VMware Fault Tolerance. I, for one, have been waiting for this with baited breath since often it is often a cumbersome and annoying process to setup a Microsoft cluster. Fault Tolerance technology allows you to run two instances of the same VM on separate hosts. If one goes down the other picks up the work seamlessly. The folks at VMware demo’ed this by bringing up a Blackberry emulator that had emails continuously streaming to it. The presenter pulled out the blade that held one of the VMs and the emails never stopped flowing. They also did a similar demo at VMworld with a streaming movie. Very exciting stuff!
The last big one I’ll go over is their new move towards policy-based management with Host Profiles. Anyone who has setup multiple ESX hosts in their environment can attest to the pains of discovering 1 or more of your servers had one little setting that was different from the rest in a cluster or environment which caused all sorts of headaches. Now with Host Profiles you create a standardized policy of what settings should be set in your host servers. Now when you deploy your ESX servers you simply apply this policy to your servers and you can see which servers are in compliance and which are not. The policy system also lets you see on the fly if someone makes a change and causes your server to fall out of compliance. Lots of really exciting possibilities with this especially in fast-growing shops.
Overall I was very impressed with the new offering although the recent naming changes for marketing’s sake I could do without. One thing that hopefully they’ll show on their website in the coming days is the improvement for monitoring in VCenter. When virtualizing your infrastructure metrics are gold and currently I feel the Virtual Center’s monitoring is OK but can definitely use improvement.  I’ve been pining for waiting this new release ever since the first announcement was made at VMworld so I’m very anxious to get a copy of this in our environment and start putting the new features to use and putting the virtualized databases through their paces. VMware states that vSphere 4 will be available "this quarter".