I had the opportunity to speak at SQL Saturday Phoenix this last weekend. It was a beautiful day and I got to meet some people that I had only talked to virtually and catch up with people that I hadn’t seen in awhile.

I was doing a session on statistics that I had done back in January. About a month ago, I purchased a Surface Pro and since I’d installed SQL Server 2012 on it, I thought I’d try using it for my session. The Surface worked well and everything was going great until I got to my demo. For part of the demo, I show the different ways that you can view the statistics on your tables and one of the methods is with the DMF sys.dm_db_stats_properties. That DMF was release in SQL Server 2008 R2 SP2 and is great because it can show you the number of modifications to a column since the last update. So, I ran the statement using that DMF and got this lovely message.
No can do

Needless to say, I was confused. I’d done this session on SQL Server 2012 (on my laptop) and it worked fine. I verified that it wasn’t a typo. So instead of going insane (my first thought), I did a little dance, said that I would blog about what the problem was and went on with my demo.

In the back of my mind, for the rest of the session, I remained confused. Isn’t SQL Server 2012 > SQL Server 2008 R2 SP2? Actually, no and that was the problem. SP2 for SQL Server 2008 R2 was actually released after SQL Server 2012 RTM. I hadn’t had the chance to update my surface to SP1, so sys.dm_db_stats_properties didn’t exist yet.


As a result of this, I was reminded of a couple of things. One – versions and service packs in SQL Server aren’t necessarily linear. The second (and more important) is to go all the way through your session on the machine that you’re using to present. I know better, but I’ll cut myself some slack this time. SQL Saturday Houston should be smoother. :)

 | Posted by loriedwards | Categories: Speaking, T-SQL | Tagged: , |

Being Thankful

20 November 2013

We’re quickly moving into that holiday season. My family and I have been amazingly blessed. We have a roof over our heads, we can share meals together, we have kids that make us proud and we love each other. Honestly, every Christmas season, when asked, I can’t think of a single thing that I want because everything that I need is fulfilled.


The only thing that makes me somber during these days is the thought of those whose day to day living is harder. I’ve lived through times like that – days where I told my little boys that we couldn’t rent a movie – I didn’t have the extra $3 to do that. It wasn’t about teaching a lesson or showing the value of money – those $3 had to go towards food. I know the stress that it can cause a family when every day is hard and the thought of doing something special for the holidays is impossible. Those times can occur when people run into unexpected emergencies or make some insanely bad decisions.


My hope is that, if families have the overabundance of love that we have, that we share it with those don’t have it right now. I know of people in the community already that have made decisions that will positively affect others for the rest of their lives. If we could all just do what we can, whether it’s time or money – I still think that it could create a genuine change for those who receive it.


When I was younger, I served with a community service organization for about 10 years. Most of our service was for young women and children, and one of the places that we worked with often was a shelter where women with drug issues were court appointed to spend their time. Most of these women were pregnant and/or had young children with them. Being pregnant with my first at that time, I couldn’t imagine that plus being addicted to drugs. We spent time with them, talking with them, talking about possibilities for the future and playing with the kids that were there. During the time that we served there, we saw many women come and go. A couple of years later, I was having breakfast with a friend. A young women, appearing very professional , came up to me and asked if I remembered her. I didn’t at first, since the change was so great. She told me about how she’d gotten her life back on track, was raising her child and working at a regular workplace. One thing I remember her saying was “We could never understand why you guys would want to come and spend time with us. We knew that you had families and other things that you could be doing, but it always made us feel good that you took time for us”. I know that she made the hard choices and that she did the work to pull herself up. I’m just glad that maybe I could be a small stepping stone or someone that shined a light that showed her a better future. I didn’t spend a dime, I just took the time to listen and have a conversation with someone many people might pass by.


This is the way that I want to express the thanks that I have for everything that I’ve been blessed with. I hope that others do as well.

In my new position here at SQL Sentry, I get to talk with many different data professionals. Some of them have far moreLearn experience than I do, but I seem to be running into more and more people that are very new to the field or have been thrust into that field. This post is for you – new DBAs and accidental DBAs.


Being a DBA was a second career for me – you can read about how I got here in this post. I had no idea how much I would have to learn. I want to share some of the resources that have been invaluable during my career. These are the places that I went for help and education.


Twitter – There is a strong, active SQL Community on Twitter. I started with following the people who had authored books that I read and then looked to see who they followed. There are also a number of Twitter Lists that you can follow. You can see who I follow at www.twitter.com/loriedwards. Best thing about Twitter? The #sqlhelp hashtag. Ask a question, add the #sqlhelp hashtag and you get feedback from some of the brightest minds in SQL Server land. Be polite and reasonable (don’t ask for a detailed description of compressed encrypted backups in SS2014 over Twitter) and it’s like being in a master class every day.


Blogs – Blogs are helpful, since they generally provide good information on topics that you can consume in 5 or 10 minutes. I’ve typically followed blogs of people who say things that are interesting to me on Twitter. PASS (Professional Association of SQL Server) has a list of their members who blog. I would definitely follow SQL Performance, the SQL Skills group, Brent Ozar Unlimited and, of course, the SQL Sentry crew. Tom LaRock (blog/twitter) also keeps a blogger ranking list that will give you some additional people to follow. Not only can blog posts help you to solve current problems, but they can also introduce you to new functionality.


Webcasts/webinars – There are many different groups that regularly put out webinars. SQL Sentry is currently doing a series on reading execution plans. At our SQL Sentry TV site, we have other videos on query tuning and other tips. PASS virtual chapters regularly have topical webinars on a variety of subjects. Many of the bloggers that I mentioned above put out regular webcasts. You can also watch your Twitter feed for upcoming webinars.


And the best for last – more help from the SQL Community – Pretty much everyone understands that a DBA has to start somewhere – it’s generally hard to go to school to become one. Also we understand that there are plenty of system admins out there that find themselves saddled with DBA responibilities. Because of this, a number of bloggers have put together series of posts aimed at those of you that are just starting out. Here are a few:
SQL Skills – Accidental DBA Series
Brent Ozar Unlimited – Ozar’s Hierarchy of Database Needs – A 6 Month DBA Training Plan
Jorge Segarra – SQL University


There are more resources out there, but hopefully this gets you started. For any of you experienced DBAs that are reading this, please add resources that are/were helpful to you. Choosing to become a DBA involves constant learning, but I can promise that you’ll never be bored. I hope this has been helpful.


Postscript – Somehow, in my haste I forgot two of the sites that I’ve learned so much from.
MSSQLTips
– There are great blog posts, tutorials and videos here.
SQL Server Central – There are great forums here that answer all sorts of questions – plus you can post your own questions and get answers from some very smart people. I also used to take a shot at their Question of the Day to see what I still needed to learn.

 | Posted by loriedwards | Categories: Uncategorized |

PASS Summit 2013
After taking a year off, I’m heading back to the PASS Summit in Charlotte. This year will be a little different for me since I’m attending to help represent my company, SQL Sentry. I’m looking forward to seeing some people that I haven’t seen in a couple of years. I’m also looking forward to seeing a bit of Charlotte – SQL Sentry is actually located in Huntersville, close to Charlotte, but I’ve never really been there.

The first year that I went to the Summit in 2009, I went as a regular attendee. I met some people, attended a ton of sessions, went to some evening events, most notably a very late night breakfast on the last day of the Summit where I met Allen Kinsel (Blog/Twitter).

As a result of that meeting, I worked on the Program Committee for the next two years. Working on the Program Committee is great, a ton of work, a smidge of stress, but I had the opportunity to meet so many people including wonderful volunteers. It’s also one of those volunteer experiences where you actually get to see the results of all of your hard work. Unfortunately, since there is still work to do during the Summit, I probably only went to one or two sessions those two years.

This year, I’ll be working at our booth throughout the Summit. I’ll be demo-ing our awesome software, spending time with our team and talking with Summit attendees. We’ll probably also spend a decent amount of time trying to get Kevin (Blog/Twitter) into a kilt. I’m excited to talk with the folks that come to our booth, to let them know how SQL Sentry might help them, but even to pass on some knowledge that I may have gathered during my time as a production DBA. One of the things that I love best about my job is that – the opportunity to help people out. I doubt that I’ll even make one session this year, but I know that, once again, the Summit is going to be a great experience.

Before attending my first Summit, I had read that meeting other database professionals was equal in value to the knowledge that you get from the sessions. Admittedly, I was skeptical. The Summit has a huge number of great sessions by great speakers. That was the reason that I wanted to attend. Now, though, heading into my fourth Summit, where I know that I’m not going to be attending sessions, I’m just as excited as my first Summit. I’m going to have the opportunity to see old friends and meet new people. The learning, while not in a session hall, continues during discussions with other professionals and hearing the challenges that they experience in their jobs.

The word community, as much as it gets passed around, really applies at the Summit. I’m glad to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to participating in this new role. When you have a moment, come by and say hi to me and the rest of our team!

 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: DBAs, Discussion, PASS | Tagged: , , , |

One month in

25 March 2013

Four weeks ago today, I began working with SQL Sentry. Making the decision to take this job sounds like it should have been a cakewalk. I get to work for a great company and work with people that I respect and whose company I enjoy. I get to work from home and take advantage of the soft skills that I wanted to get back to using.

Although this all sounds great, there was one little thing that kept gnawing at the back of my brain. I wouldn’t be a ‘real’ DBA any longer. Actually I wouldn’t be a DBA at all. I’d heard this from others as well – that my skills would get rusty and that I was becoming a sales drone. I knew that I was incredibly tired of being on call – for most of my career I had been the only DBA, so everything fell on me. I also knew that I needed to switch things up a bit because I was burned out and, unfortunately, I’m still more than a few years away from retirement. At the same time, though, I had worked hard to pull together the skill set that I had and much of that had come from experiences that I had gone through, so if I lost that, I wouldn’t get it back. At least not anytime soon.

Now here I am one month in and I’m finding that I’m actually learning even more about SQL Server. How can that be? Prior to this, I have to admit, I learned what I needed to learn as I needed to learn it. If my company was never going to use Analysis Services, I was probably not going to study much on SSAS. In this job, though, our customers come from all different types of environments and the metrics that are most important to each of them are incredibly disparate. My head may be on fire I’m finding myself studying more so that I will be able to answer the questions that our customers might have. I’ll be attending the SQLSkills Immersion Event on Internals and Performance in May and if that doesn’t make my head explode than I don’t know what will.

Admittedly I won’t have to deal with issues in my environment on a day to day basis – (although I did have a drive go bad on my laptop, causing a ton of my test databases to go suspect), but I need to be a good resource for my customers if they run into issues. That, and I work with some amazingly intelligent people and I’ve always been just a little competitive. I don’t see my skills getting rusty – I see an opportunity.

 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: Uncategorized |

Simple, But Powerful Advice

18 February 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I was saddened to learn that someone that I had worked with many years ago when I was a sales associate at Foley’s Department Store, one of the first jobs that I had worked while going to college, had passed away of bladder cancer.  When I started at Foley’s, Ralph was an older gentleman who had previously taken early retirement from a middle management position back East and had decided after moving to Tucson that he was not ready to be completely retired.  So, he embarked on a second career at Foley’s and I was fortunate to have him be the one to show me the ropes when I started my position there.  Ralph was a pretty amazing fellow in that he always saw the bigger picture.  Thus, when we he went to train me to be a sales associate, he took time to not only train me on what I needed to know to do the job at hand, he also took it upon himself to impart wisdom that he had learned over the years that he thought would be useful to me way beyond this sales position, which he knew I wasn’t planning to make my career.

 

As I reflected back on my friendship with Ralph after I had learned of his passing, one piece of advice that he had given me came to mind.  This was a piece of advice that I had used constantly throughout the 25 years since I worked at Foley’s and it was Ralph’s mantra.  The advice was “plan your work and work your plan.”  Oh, how simple that advice seemed at the time it was given to me, but that simplicity is very deceiving.  Almost every time that I have screwed something up over the course of my career, it can be traced back to a failure to follow this simple piece of advice.  It is not enough just to have a plan; you have to make sure that you actually follow it.  How many times do we have processes or checklists that we fail to follow because we think we know how to do the work faster or we think we know the process by heart only to have that come back and bite us because we left something out.  This advice has become golden to me over the years and constantly keeps me from doing stupid things.  I still find it amazing today that sometimes the simplest advice that we are given can be the most prolific.

 

In honor of Ralph, I wanted to share this story and bit of advice in the hope that someone might reap the benefits from it that I have. 

 

Rest in peace old friend, you deserve it.

 

Ralph Pennacchio 1930-2013

In a little over a week, I’ll be starting my new position at SQL Sentry. I’m excited about this new position for so many different reasons. I get to work with a great group of people – some of them I’ve known for awhile and some that I have yet to meet. Having worked solo for so long, I’m excited to be a part of a team. The other huge benefit is that Kevin Kline (Twitter|Blog) is going to be my boss. It’s not very often that you get to work for someone you respect and whose company you enjoy.

The next step on my journey

The other exciting part of this position is that I’m going to get back to educating. Since I was very young, I’ve wanted to teach. I even had the chance to teach computer science at the community college here for a few years. The only reason that I left that was the huge difference in compensation between teaching IT and practicing it. I was talking with my hubby a few months ago about where I wanted to go career wise. There were a lot of options, but they all included making use of some of the soft skills that I have including the opportunity to teach. With SQL Sentry, I’ll have the opportunity to help ensure that our customers know how to use our tools to their advantage. For any of you that have worked with SQL Sentry tools, there is a lot going on and I know well how little free time DBAs have. My hope is to work with Kevin and this team to provide learning content to help our customers get up to speed as soon as possible.

I’m so pleased that I’m getting this opportunity to work in a position that lets me make use of my DBA skills and make use of my educational background. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to talk with some of you in the near future!

 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: Uncategorized |

What in the heck?

What in the heck?


I know that I haven’t blogged in forever, but I thought this particular bug might hit some of my fellow IT people out there.

A couple of months ago, I was fortunate enough to pick up a consulting gig. This was when I realized that I’d been working off of laptops that came from my employers and didn’t have a decent one of my own. I purchased a Lenovo laptop (that I’m very happy with) and, with it, came Windows 8. I actually like it for the most part. It’s shiny and that’s good. The ability to group the tiles and title them really appealed to my OCD. It was great for everything except for the reason that I purchased it.

When I initially started the consulting work, I was working off of an older laptop that had Windows 2008 Server. I connect via a VPN to a VM that they had set up for me. Everything connected perfectly fine and I was working away at the desk that I’d set up upstairs. A couple of weeks ago, my new laptop arrived and at the time it was easier for me to work downstairs. Set up the VPN on my Win 8 machine and everything was great.

Once I moved back upstairs, though, everything went crazy. My VPN connection started disconnecting constantly – I couldn’t keep a connection for more than 5 minutes. I brought up my old laptop, connected to the VPN and everything was fine. I went back downstairs with my new laptop and the connection was fine. By the way, my other internet connections on the Win 8 machine were never affected – only the VPN connection. In case you need help catching up:

  • Old laptop – Windows Server 2008
    • Downstairs – Internet and VPN connections work
    • Upstairs – Internet and VPN connections work
  • New laptop – Windows 8
    • Downstairs – Internet and VPN connections work
    • Upstairs – Internet connections work – VPN disconnects every few minutes

As one last try before going back to my old laptop, Tim put a Win 7 VM on my new laptop last weekend. Guess what? It works fine everywhere. I’ve been working on it all day(upstairs) with no disconnects. Same laptop, same wireless card, same router, same VPN client – just an earlier version of Windows. I’m baffled.

While I hope I’m the only one that’s seen this type of craziness, I doubt it. Maybe this will help someone else from spending a week running up and downstairs.

 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: Discussion, Miscellaneous |

If you have used the Central Management Server (CMS) feature in SQL Server 2008+, by now you know that you can’t add the SQL Server instance that you are using to host the CMS as a registered server to the CMS. That is, you can’t directly add it. There is, however, a workaround as long as you connect to your servers via TCP/IP. To work around this limitation in the CMS functionality:

  1. Right click on the CMS and click “New Server Registration”

  2. In the “Server name:” text box type in the IP address of the server, a comma and the port number that the instance is listening on. In this example, the test server’s IP address is 192.168.1.1 and the instance that I want to add, which also houses the CMS, is listening on port 1433.

  3. In the “Registered server name:” text box, type the name of the instance (in this case, Test) and voilà, we have now been able to register the CMS instance on the CMS.

Over the last couple of years, I have met a number of you, who as I, are required to struggle daily to make CommVault work as the enterprise backup solution for your SQL Server databases. Given that, I thought I would share with you one of the issues that we have run into and possibly any third party product could run into that uses Microsoft’s Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS). To be fair, I have to give the credit for the research and most of the write up of this issue and solution to one of the DBA’s that works for me (whom I am sure many of you know J), Samson Loo (twitter: @ayesamson).

Problem:

I/O operations are frozen on one or more databases due to CommVault issuing a “BACKUP DATABASE WITH SNAPSHOT” command and remain frozen until the operation completes successfully or is cancelled. (This is appears to be known behavior of VSS. If you wish to dig further into how VSS works, I would suggest reading these articles: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/aa384615(v=vs.85).aspx and http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa384589(v=VS.85).aspx).

This particular message gets logged in the SQL Server error log whenever any backup service makes use of the SQL Server Virtual Device interface to backup the database with snapshot. Microsoft Backup (ntbackup.exe), Volume Shadow Copy Services, Data Protection Manager, Symantec Backup Exec and other third party tools, in addition to CommVault can cause this message to be logged.

If ntbackup.exe is configured to take a backup of a drive that happens to house SQL Server data files, then the command “BACKUP DATABASE WITH SNAPSHOT” is issued to ensure the backup is consistent since the data files are in use. During this time, the I/O for the database that is currently being backed up is frozen until the backup operation is complete.

The message that you will typically see logged is:

    Error:

I/O is frozen on database master. No user action is required. However, if I/O is not resumed promptly, you could cancel the backup.

 

 

    Note: In the example error message above, the database master was referenced, but this could be any database on your instance that is being backed up.

Solution:

Disable VSS in the subclient following the steps below:

  1. Open the CommVault client (often called the “Simpana CommCell Console”)
  2. Navigate to the target subclient
  3. Right click anywhere in the white area

  4. Select Properties
  5. Uncheck “Use VSS” and click OK

 

Again, extreme thanks go out to Samson Loo (twitter: @ayesamson) for providing most of this content!