Trends and news around the convergence of data, cloud and infrastructure

Podcast recording with Dallas DBAs

I'm thrilled to have recently recorded a podcast with Kevin3NF of Dallas DBAs called Data Bits. I had an absolute blast with it, and we laughed for over an hour with fun war stories and goofy things that I chuckle with. You should check this out if you get a moment! Listen to the other podcasts while you're there. You can get a really good sense for the people behind the persona, and it's fantastic to see more about these folks!


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Packet Pushers Podcast released

I am thrilled to have recently recorded a podcast with our friends over at PacketPushers. The podcast, "How an IT Specialist Chooses Adjacent Competencies", talks about how adjacencies in IT, as well as deeply intertwined technologies that compete and conflict with each other, can become a great means to specialize in multiple technologies to become an increasingly valuable asset to your organization and career.

General IT practitioners are incredibly valuable, as it makes you immensely adaptable to emerging and changing technologies. Specializing in one area gives you the potential to become the master at that topic. What is better - specializing or generalizing? I find that you can do both - and quite successfully mind you - but it takes your interest in multiple topics to make it happen. Listen in to learn more!

For those of you who read my blog, you'll find that I have an intense fascination with how large database servers (notably Microsoft SQL Server) play nice - or often enough do NOT play nice - with the infrastructure underneath, regardless of on-premises or public cloud placement. I've been virtualizing these systems and doing performance tuning of these platforms for over 20 years now. I'll never say I've seen it all, but I've seen a lot of how infrastructure and database systems often do not work well together, and knowing one side well makes you stronger at the other.

Coincidentally, I recorded this podcast with Scott Lowe, who authored the book "Mastering VMware vSphere 4", the book that I used to help start my VMware certification path many years ago back in 2009. I'm amazed at how I was able to connect to contribute so many years later! Thanks Scott for your great words of wisdom!


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PASS Summit 2020 Precon Announcement

I am thrilled to announce that I have been accepted to deliver a preconference boot camp called 'Amplify Your Virtual SQL Server Performance' at this year's PASS Summit conference, to be held the week of November 9th-13th. My precon is to be held on Monday, November 9th.

Description: Virtualization has been the norm in data centers for years. However, implemented incorrectly, your SQL Server performance can take a massive dive. Are you sure that your SQL Servers are running at optimal performance? This full-day boot camp covers all aspects of performance engineering for virtualized SQL Servers on all virtualized platforms, including VMware and Hyper-V.

We will review critical topics such as virtualization layers, VM construction, NUMA, resource scheduling, query parallelization and physical server alignment, “right-sizing,” and storage performance-oriented presentation. New features such as SQL Server containers and hybrid cloud architectures will be demonstrated. Backups, high availability, and disaster recovery guidelines will also be reviewed. Most importantly, this seminar informs you on methods and terminology to improve your collaboration with your infrastructure team in order to streamline your critical SQL Server performance.

PASS has commited to ensuring that the conference will take place, even with the pandemic still rampant at the time of this writing. They are going to make a decision on if the event will be held in-person or online hopefully by early June. So, register today for this outstanding event! Even if you decide that my precon is not for you, the precon offerings at this year's conference are stellar! I can't wait to see you all there, either virtually or in-person!

Scene from PASS Summit 2019

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Clumio’s Rapid Recovery is Amazing for SQL Server

Clumio’s Rapid Recovery is amazing, and you should know more about it.

You might not have heard of Clumio before. Clumio is an upstart SaaS-based backup solution for both cloud and on-premises environments where the storage endpoint is in the cloud instead of a storage platform in your own datacenter. I’ve been exploring their offerings, since I’m a data nerd and always intrigued by these sorts of things. I gave their Rapid Recovery architecture a solid once-over with the flagship SQL Server availability solution architecture called Availability Groups.

The physical environment that I performed the tests on consists of:

  • Two HPE DL380 Gen9 servers
  • VMware vSphere 6.7, latest update
  • Pure Storage //M20 all-flash SAN
  • 10GbE iSCSI connected storage
  • VAAI is active in the vSphere architecture

The SQL Server testbed VMs were configured as the following.

  • Four total virtual machines
  • Two SQL Server 2019 Enterprise edition and two SQL Server 2016 Enterprise edition VMs
  • vHardware compatibility level 15
  • 4 vCPUs, 16GB RAM
  • Six hard disks, spread amongst multiple VMware Paravirtual SCSI controllers, for a total of 500GB of consumed space per VM
  • Windows Server 2019 Datacenter operating system
  • A fileshare witness for the Windows Server Failover Cluster was configured on a third VM

Two SQL Server Availability Group pairs were configured, each on 2016 and 2019 respectively. The database VMs were then setup with Clumio to replicate their backups to the cloud, and my Internet provider is fast enough that I was able to replicate this up to the cloud within a day.

Now, let’s get a stream of end-user traffic to change some data. I used the HammerDB synthetic database benchmarking tool to generate a workload in a database called ‘tpcc’. I built an initial database at 400GB on each primary instance of the Availability Group with the benchmarking utility so we had some pseudo-real data to work with. Once constructed, I set up a pair of users on a standard workload on a 24-hour timer to continuously insert a stream of data changes into this database, all while Clumio was backing up the servers on a periodic basis.

After a day, I shut down the VMs, and went to the Clumio web-managed interface to restore these VMs into new VMs for database validation. I first instructed Clumio to restore the first VM in each Availability Group replica pair, then the second.

Each restore took 4.5 minutes to restore the entire virtual machine and have it running and active in VMware. Four minutes to restore a 500GB VM of active database data? That’s absolutely incredible, even for an on-premises solution. Given the fact that this is a cloud-native solution is almost unbelievable if I had not witnessed it myself. I’m floored at just how quick this performed.

But did SQL Server come up? Short answer – yes! Restoring a SQL Server Availability Group solution, especially given the Windows Server Failover Cluster (WSFC) configuration underneath, is a delicate but straightforward process.

I first restored the first of the two VMs. The presence of the file share witness allowed the WSFC to come up properly without issue. The first of the two AG replicas also turned right on successfully with no errors in the error logs. The second VM was then restored, and because the restoration point was from the same point in time as the first replica, the databases on the secondary replica were successfully able to come back online and re-synchronize with the primary replica.

It. Just. Worked.

If the second VM had been restored from a different point in time, the database synchronization inherent to the AG could have caused a database transaction log pointer mismatch, and would have meant that the secondary AG database copies would have needed to be re-synchronized. Nothing in this process of re-synchronization is any different than if the database servers had been restored in a more traditional backup and restore process, and is quite normal for DBAs to need to re-sync as needed for these sorts of scenarios.

The process was repeated both on the SQL Server 2019 and 2016 servers, and worked as advertised each time.

During the initial backup streams, there were never any issues while taking database transaction log backups, including dropped transactions or application-level errors.

The speed of restoration process exceeded anything that I could have envisioned. The magic performed in the Rapid Recovery process made this restoration process quick without the need for additional fast storage in your own datacenter. I’m thrilled to have explored this, and am quite eager to continue to work more with the technology!


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Webinar – SQL Server Business Continuity – Know Your Options

I’m proud to announce a new webinar that I’ll be presenting at 1pm Eastern on Thursday, May 21st, in conjunction with MSSQLTips and SIOS called “SQL Server Business Continuity – Know Your Options“.

SQL Server database business continuity, including high availability and disaster recovery, is not an easy topic to engineer for. The business must work with the IT teams to define service-level agreements, statistically significant scenarios to plan for, and then decide on a budget.

What are the questions you should ask before starting to build servers? Are the questions different if you are running SQL Server in the cloud vs on-premises? What haven’t you thought of that will threaten to disrupt your strategy during a real disaster? This conversational webinar will discuss all of the scenarios and topics that you should consider for enterprise business continuity planning and strategy before, during, and after building your SQL Servers. Be better prepared for the possibility of disruption to help save your business with the strategies discussed!

I look forward to seeing you there! RSVP for this free webinar here.


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