Insufficient data from Andrew Fryer

The place where I page to when my brain is full up of stuff about the Microsoft platform

May, 2009

  • Lying about your age

    Lying is generally not a good thing, but as I was ordering something for my neice’s birthday I was asked to enter my date of birth and deliberately put in the wrong date. I can only imagine that the store concerned saw this as added security but I’m not convinced.  The other classic question in this space is mother’s maiden name.  This might have helped back in the 80’s but both facts are relatively easy to discover especially considering how free and easy people are with their personal information on sites like FaceBook, LinkedIn etc.

    For each of the many sites I have to register on, I have differnet passwords, made up dates of birth and imaginary maiden names for my mum.  Of course this dishonesty can go too far and we have the whole issue of grooming on social networking sites and kids  pretending to be over 18 so don’t be too imaginative even if you are an old f*** like me.

    A couple of other tips:

    • If my bank rings me and tries to take me through security, I ask for the callers name and then I phone the bank clear security and ask to speak to them
    • Check your credit card bill thoroughly. Fraudsters are smart and often take small regularly amounts off your card, so one guy I met at a recent event had lots of rail tickets bought on his card which took him over a year to pick up.
    • In internet Explorer 8 (IE8) you can check that the site you’re visiting is safe by either selecting the padlock (if it’s a secure site) to validate the certificate or selecting the safety dropdown –> smart screen filter –> check this website…

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    If you haven’t tried IE8 then you can get it here

    A lot of my friends and family are in law enforcement, so please help them to have a quiet life by being a little smarter than the people who are after your identity and cash.

  • SQL Server Lifecycle and Support

    My post announcing the next version of SQL Server picked up a couple of comments and rather than squeeze my reply in another comment I thought i would make it into a post.

    Most customers started adopting SQL Server 2000 in 2001/2. Back in those days my laptop had 256Mb RAM coupled with a Pentium P3 running at 650MHz and a 20Gb hard disk. When working from home I had 64k ISDN. On the server front I might be lucky enough to be using a dual P3 or an early XEON with maybe 1-4Gb RAM with perhaps some 40Gb drives to play with.

    If I look at what I have in my bag as I write this I have a dual core laptop with 4Gb RAM (which I can use all of as I am on windows 7 64bit) I have a 1 terabyte of disk. I was talking to a client yesterday who had 48 cores in each of his servers with 256Gbytes of RAM and multi-terabyte databases running across a geo cluster. 

    While technology has been marching on what else has changed over the last 7 years? Personally I use a lot more multimedia for work, I am permanently connected to the web, which means I can find what I want very quickly but also means I have to be careful. Another revolution in the Microsoft world since 2002 is SharePoint reflecting the need to collaborate and share all sorts of data all of which ends up in SQL Server

    So what does this mean for the DBA? It means more data in SQL server more data per DBA and more varied data.  So development of SQL Server has focused on scalability, manageability and the need to store all of these new kinds of data as well as the traditional oltp (do we still use this term) in the database.

    Most of the flak on my last post was how often things change.  You might argue about how often a release of SQL Server should come out.  Five years between SQL Server 2000 & 2005 was seen by many as being far too long as server advancements, and security threats appeared.  Three years coincides pretty well with windows server itself and if you look at the latest releases SQL Server version these come out shortly after the operating system. This means that SQL Server 2008 can support 64 cores because Windows Server 2008 can, with Windows Server 2008 r2, this rises to 256 cores so SQL Server 2008 r2 will support that.  One other simple but obvious point is that every feature in SQL Server 2008 was asked for by someone who needed it for a very good business reason.

    It would be great for Microsoft if everybody bought every release of our software, but the reality is this does not happen. So the biggest competitor to Vista is XP and the biggest competitor to SQL Server 2008 is SQL Server 2000. In the real world when you have a project to do or need to change your infrastructure to reflect some business change you should carefully consider whether there is advantage in using the latest or upcoming release of the product.  However I would also caution against using a superceded version just because it is the standard. What you get if you do this is an increasingly ageing infrastructure which suddenly needs to be completely replaced, which in turn means you have a huge spike in your capex and a huge need for resources to do migration. On the other hand you do need some stability and so what this means is that you are generally running a mixed economy on your servers, using the latest and greatest where it makes sense and maybe holding onto older versions because of constraints such as third party applications.

    However if you have to run SQL Server 2000 today because some mission critical legacy application needs it you could have SQL Server 2000 supported to 2015 as per Microsoft’s support policy. BTW this compares pretty well with Oracle for example: 10g came out in 2005 and will end mainstream support in 2010/11 with extended support to 2013 (http://www.orafaq.com/wiki/Oracle_10g). 

    So this all comes down to managing change and that is what top IT professionals including DBA’s do.

    Finally I am very interested in  comments like those made on my last post so thanks  to Michael Swart and Shihab Hassan for the feedback.

  • TechNet Virtual Conference 19th June

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    Normally at this time of the year the evangelists would be wandering the UK with the TechNet road shows.  However this year TechNet has gone virtual as it’s become very apparent that you are finding it even more difficult to justify a day out of the office not to mention getting approval for travel expenses.

    So how does that work?

    The TechNet Virtual Conference is on 19th June, on any screen you can get internet access from.  You don’t have to watch all the sessions and you don’t have to watch them on the 19th if you are busy that day as they will be available to watch on demand after the event. However on the 19th all of the speakers will be on line to field questions about the sessions so if you can make the time then you can get essentially the same experience as going to a real event. 

    It’s all shot in HD as you can see from this trailer…

    ..and what are we covering?

    The TechNet team asked you to nominate what you wanted sessions on and the winners are all in this event including:

    • Windows 7 – Deployment and Management
    • Windows Server 2008 R2 - 10 things to make life easier for IT Pros
    • An overview of Office Communications Server R2 and voice capabilities
    • The trials and tribulations of SharePoint implementation

    The full agenda is here, and as well as the session on Windows Server 2008 r2 I am covering Data Protection Manager (DPM).

    In addition to these technical TechNet sessions there’s a special track for IT managers:

    • How IT will change over the next 10 years and why you should care - an exclusive session delivered at TechEd EMEA
    • Growing the Business and Managing Costs at Microsoft – An Insider’s View, presented by Asif Jinnah, IT Manager, Microsoft UK

    and because it’s virtual we have virtually included Mark Russinovich to do the keynote – Mark is a Microsoft Technical Fellow specialising in the Windows platform and the top speaker at TechEd EMEA last year so well worth watching.

    We do still need you to register. 

    Register today

    ..In the days of real TechNet road shows you would get a goody bag for turning up so for this virtual conference, the first 500 to register will sent a rather better goody bag (even the bag looks pretty good) which I understand has coffee and bikkies in.

    So top content, top speakers, and top swag all from the comfort of your hot desk, hotel room or home.

  • SQL Server 2008 r2

    For those that couldn’t justify going to to TechEd in LA, you may not be aware that the next version of SQL Server has been announced.  Following the Windows Server practice of major minor releases then new baby is SQL Server 2008r2.

    Why another release so soon? Maybe this video will help..

    Watch the Introduction to SQL Server 2008 R2 Video

    How does the new release help? here’s a quick rundown of what’s coming in r2..

    • 256 Core support. BTW you’ll need Windows Server 2008 r2 as the operating system for this.
    • Master Data Management.  I posted some time ago that Stratature master data management tool that Microsoft bought would be rolled up inot SharePoint 2010, but now it’s going to be in SQL Server
    • Better project management and integration with Visual Studio
    • add-ins for Office 2010 :
      • Self service analysis  (the Gemini project)
      • Share your work in SharePoint 2010
      • Analysis Services Dashboard in SharePoint 2010
    • Self service reporting
      • Report models get unspecified improvements
      • Virtual Earth integration
      • Libraries to share report components

     

    If you are interested in this you can register for the beta here.

  • Expenses on Virtual Earth

    There’s a lot of heat on MP’s expenses so if you want to quickly see how your local MP compares then have a look at them on Virtual Earth here..

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    What I like about this is that it shows the spikes, so in my neck of the woods this MP is in red because he’s claiming a lot.  But what’s interesting is that by and large other MP’s living in the same area are generally claiming less.  I am not suggesting this is wrong but it does bear closer examination.

    Another good example of visualising this sort of data was in HM Customs (way before HMRC). A team could get sales data for beer from the breweries for 2 different months and then plot the biggest drop in sales on a map. Why? Well people don’t suddenly stop drinking so what it showed is where potential bootlegging was going on i.e. the trade had simply moved to car boot sales and the like.

    The clever bit about this is that while you can use Virtual earth via it’s SDK to plot this data, the data itself doesn’t need to leave your organisation i.e. you use your software (in this case a SQL Server database) plus the (virtual earth) service to do this. This is what software plus services is all about. Here Virtual Earth experts Shoothill have the expenses data in SQL Server and have plotted in onto Virtual Earth as an example of what can be done.

    OK I’d better fill in my expenses before Eileen shouts at me.

  • LINQ and Entity Framework

    Developers talking to DBA’s – what’s the world coming to?

    Despite what some people think and a few cheap jokes there are many areas of commonality between these two worlds particularly in SQL Server, and two of these are LINQ and entity framework. 

    I know they both provide some sort of semantic layer between the data and the development environment but I wondered what they do exactly and why there are two. So I sandbagged a developer evangelist, Mike Taulty at  SQL Bits goes fourth and interrogated him in front of some bright lights and cameras to find out more.

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    He’s put the video on Channel 9 (they won’t let me in there) and I have now put it on TechNet Edge here.

  • The Converging Paths of SQL Server and SharePoint

    image SQL Server DBAs  don’t necessarily get SharePoint and SharePoint administrators (SPA?) often don’t know too much about SQL Server. Of course SQL Server is where SharePoint data gets stored so if SQL Server isn’t configured properly SharePoint will suffer.  In smaller organisation SharePoint administration is often just given to the DBA as another task with little or no extra training. 

    It’s also important to understand how the various high availability features in SQL Server can be used to also make SharePoint highly available as well as how to lock down permissions in SQL Server so no one is a back door into that SharePoint data.

    So Quest Software and Coeo thought it would be good to get some experts in both technologies to spend a day explaining how they both work and fit together:

  • Christian Bolton, SQL Server MVP and Director/Database Architect, Coeo Ltd.
  • Doug Davis, Director of Product Management, SharePoint, Quest Software
  • Iain Kick, SQL Server Systems Consultant, Quest Software
  • Viral Tarpara, SharePoint  Evangelist, Microsoft
  • and er .. me,  Andrew Fryer, SQL Server Evangelist, Microsoft

    If this is a part of your world then the event is from 9: 00 (registration and breakfast) from 8:00) – 5pm on 27th May at Microsoft’s  Cardinal Place office in Victoria London.

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    and you can register for it here.

  • 64 bit

    I have seen some comments on the tweet sphere about SharePoint 2010 only being available as a 64 bit application. I don’t have a problem with this for a number of reasons:

    • SharePoint like SQL Server loves memory and as document sizes and the richness of content stored in SharePoint grows then 2/3Gb i snot really going to work.
    • Windows Server 2008 is the last 32 bit server operating system from Microsoft – Windows Server 2008 r2 is also only 64 bit.
    • Virtualisation platforms like Hyper-V can happily run 64 bit virtual machines so this is not a constraint either.

    Of course SharePoint is built on SQL server but unlike SharePoint SQL Server will continue to be 32 bit as it needs to run on pretty well anything from phones, to netbooks and notebooks and onward to servers and data centres.

    Why am I rambling on about SharePoint because along with SQL Server it’s the core of Microsoft’s BI platform,and I’m preparing for a combined SQL SharePoint event of which more later.

  • SQL Server versions side by side

    There are occasions where you need multiple versions of SQL Server running at the same time and you may not have sufficient hardware to run them on separate machines.

    The traditional approach to this is to run an instance of each version, in fact I have one demo rig which has an instance of SQL Server 2000, 2005, and 2008 all running on Windows Server 2008 it’s not supported but hey it works and allows je to test all my upgrade scenarios.

    However if you are worried about versions of some of the common components (more information on this is on TechNet here)  then a better way of isolating them is to virtualise them using Hyper-V.  This also has a number of other benefits:

    • You can run each version on a different version of the operating system e.g. SQL Server 2000 on Windows 2003, SQL Server 2005 on windows server 2003 r2 and SQL Server 2008 on Windows Server 2008.
    • You can mix 32  and 64 bit installations
    • You can snapshot and revert to a an earlier state very easily.
    • You can quickly stop the version you don’t want.

    Of course this approach does have licensing implications if you are in production and for that you need to understand how the different editions of SQL Server are licensed here.  You might still want to take advantages of using a virtual machine to test the configuration of a production box.

    So in my opinion hyper-v is the answer what’s the question?

  • SQL Server TV

    One of the Microsoft guys at the last SQL Bits events was Chris Guest who works in the Media Room team which is all about TV over the internet.  I wasn’t sure why he was at a SQL Server event so I grabbed a camera (well two camera and and cameramen) to find out more…

  • SQL Services

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    I finally got around to editing the videos  I made at SQL Bits Goes Fourth, and first up is Simon Munro of EMC Consulting (Conchango as was) talking about what SQL Services will mean for DBA’s.  I’ve posted it to TechNet Edge so you can pull it down or stream it anyway you want from here.

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  • Windows 7’s big brother

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    I have got Windows 7 RC  running my games rig at home and all is well with Flight Simulator X, GRiD etc but what interests me at work is Windows Server 2008 r2.  This is also at RC  and is available to download with your TechNet subscription here.

    Like Windows 7 it’s evolution not revolution and my favourite things are..

    • R2 core (minimal install of the operating system) now supports .Net and can urn asp .Net websites.  It can run the SQL Server 2008 database engine but this won’t be supported until the next release of SQL Server.
    • DirectAccess, which I have mentioned before provides a seamless VPN experience to Windows 7 end users and only uses standard secure ports that are open on most firewalls.  DirectAccess client PCs can then be centrally managed as though the PCs were on the corporate LAN.
    • Branch Cache is commercial bit torrent to enable secure file sharing at branches thus reducing the need to repeatedly get the sane information form head office and so makes better use of the WAN.
    • Active Directory gets a recycle bin, a friendly UI for occasional users and Powershell support
    • Hyper-V Live migration allows virtual machines to be moved across nodes in a cluster without loss of service, which is similar to v-motion except that this is built in to Windows Server 2008 r2 rather than being an option
    • Windows Server 2008 r2 can support 256 cores so SQL can use these directly or take advantage 32 virtual processors available in Hyper-V in the new release.
    • AppLocker extends group policy to give the IT Pro back control of the PC, by mandating what can and can’t be run on a desktop, and doing it in such a way that if a new version or sp comes out you don’t have to change the policy.

    That’s far from the complete list, and you can see that what makes Windows 7 significant for business is how it uses these features on the new server version.  If you want to find out more stay by your PC on June 19th.

  • SQL Server and Data Protection Manager

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    I was busy recording session movies last week for a big TechNet event, hence the slip in blogging regularly. One of these was on the little known Data Protection Manager (DPM) a comprehensive archive and backup solution for the whole Microsoft platform including SQL Server 2008. But why a separate backup tool for SQL Server now that Enterprise edition has compression and encryption built in to backup?

    My argument would be that it protects everything Microsoft from one interface so you don’t have to worry about conflicts between tools and schedules and it’s ease of use plays well for the IT Professional who has to manage multiple applications like Exchange and SharePoint as well as SQL Server.  It also understands how to protect active directory and can backup the system state of PC’s and servers.  The only odd thing is that it is ridiculously cheap, but then so is SQL Server.

    The secret to all of this functionality is volume shadow services (VSS) which allows DPM agents (installed on each server protected by DPM) to map which blocks an application like SQL server is using and detect when any are changed.  Periodically (controlled by you) DPM will then copy over these changed blocks to disk or tape managed by the DPM server. These together with an initial copy of the database allow DPM to recover SQL Server to any 15 minute interval as far back as you configure and have space for. 

    If you have the transaction log and database on different disks then in a disaster recovery scenario you can use DPM to get you back from loss of the database to within 15 minutes of failure (with the no recovery feature set on) and then replay the logs.And the same thing applies to Exchange and SharePoint, your files etc.

    DPM is smart enough to understand and work with clusters, mirroring, replication and log shipping, as it is not to designed to replace these high availability features, but to provide disaster recovery and long term archiving.

    For my demo I setup DPM to protect two SQL Server one running 2005 and one with 2008 on.  I could then protect and then restore a 2005 database onto SQL Server 2008 and use DPM to do a simple side by side upgrade.  

    If you want to know more about this then you can watch my TechNet session when it comes out (June 19th) or go to the DPM site here.