Insufficient data from Andrew Fryer

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

March, 2010

  • Spotting Databases

    SQL Server has  a habit of popping up here and there without you necessarily knowing about it. This is a testament to its versatility and how  it will generally just keep on going often without support from the IT team.

    However in age of auditors, risk management and compliance, you do really need to know where these database are for a number of reasons

    • If someone has gone to the trouble of setting up SQL server in the business without your knowledge it is probably holding important data which should at least be backed up. 
    • There may be specific compliance issues involved e.g. the database my be holding personal data , or it may be being used to provide statutory reporting.
    • It might not be licensed
    • you might want to embark on a consolidation project

    So how can you find these SQL Servers? These most economical solution is the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Tool which is a) free and b) simple to use.  Version 5 of this invaluable tool is in beta and can be downloaded from Connect here. (You will need a Live ID).

    Of course there are other Microsoft based databases (aka Access and Excel) that you need to find for the same reason. The good news is that there is another tool for this is the Office Migration Planning Manager (OMPM), which is also a free download.  Having found these what should you do about them?

    Essentially they need to be accorded the same processes and protection as for any other databases (I am using the term database here in the loosest sense), as these could contain sensitive or personal data that is vital to your business.

    So use the free tools and understand where your key data is before you suffer an attack of the auditors!

  • What are doing with SQL Server 2008 R2

    When SMS texting first came out I am absolutely sure the mobile phone companies had no idea how popular it would be or the type of use it would be put to.

    SQL Server 208 R2 is not a revolution on the same scale, but things like PowerPivot, StreamInsight and Master Data Management are significant new capabilities.  While  we at Microsoft in the UK can see some obvious applications of these new features we are very interested in what is actually being tried out with the thousands of copies of the beta that have been downloaded.  So if you’re able to share what your up to I’d love to hear from you. 

    stream insight

  • Using Hyper-V to make a demo sandbox part 2

    Continuing from my last post about using Hyper-V for demos, I recognise that many people try and just create one VM with everything Microsoft BI rammed into it. Ram being the operative word as it’s RAM your most likely to be short of particularly on a laptop.

    If you want to run SQL Server (with all the BI components) SharePoint, PowerPivot on one machine possibly configured as a domain controller  you’ll need at least 8Gb RAM available to do it. BTW the workarounds for installing SharePoint/ PowerPivot on a domain controller from Dave Wickert aka PowerPivotGeek are here.

    Having decided you want to this what are your options?

    • If you go down this one machine approach a possible way of getting running as fast as possible is to create it as a Hyper-V virtual machine and then boot from it  by modifying the boot record using the BCDEDIT utility in windows 7. My team mate James O’Neill has an excellent post on how to do this here
    • Otherwise if you use Hyper-V you’ll have to dual boot your laptop into windows server 2008 R2 with the hypervisor role installed. Give the virtual machine 7.5 Gb RAM i.e.reserve 512Mb for the Hypervisor on the physical operating system /machine.  
    • You can combine the options above and either have  a choice of VHD’s to directly boot into or have one of the these with VHD’s with Windows Server 2008 R2 and the hyper-V role installed.  From this you can run Hyper-V and start virtual machines as when you boot form VHD you are not inside a virtual machine it’s just that the VHD is acting a s areal disk. BTW do not put the gust VM’s inside the VM that you are booting from as it will be slow and confusing.

    Finally for any partners reading this there is a demo virtual machine (version 9.2) available to partners complete with the latest demos and scripts to get you started. The link to download it is here.  Having got it you can boot form it as I have described above.

  • After TechDays there’s After Hours

    Hopefully you are aware of Tech Days in the UK during the week of 10-16 April, but you might not be aware of the After Hours evening event on the 14th April. This is  still about technical stuff but with homage to  scrap heap challenge and Top Gear, rather than the day events where we all concentrate on the business ready infrastructure world.  It’s at the Vue Cinema in Fulham Broadway, but sadly I will be elsewhere as I am sure I will be standing a few pints for the hardworking MVP’s and community guys working on SQL Bits for the following day in Westminster.

    However if you are coming to both events this after hours session is great fun and a good newtworking opportunity.

  • Thames Valley PTA

    I am on a secondment to another division of Microsoft in the UK for the next six weeks as a Partner Technology Advisor (PTA!).  It’s a job swap with my friend Jamie Burgess so he gets to be an evangelist while I help partners get up to speed with all the new stuff in SQL Server 2008 R2.

    So the blogging will ease off a little while I meet partners and produce some specific materials for them on the UK partner portal. I will not be disappearing entirely so come and say hello at Tech Days  for the SQL Server IT Pro Day on 15th April and SQL Bits on 16th April.

    BTW if anyone reading this is working for a partner, I would be interested in knowing how I can help you during this temporary engagement.

  • TechEd Middle East 2010


    Only in Dubai can you spend a balmy (25 degrees C) evening with MVP’s from UAE and Saudi Arabia overlooking a snow covered ski slope!

    I was there for the first TechEd for the Middle East and while I did 3 sessions, the most interesting bit for me at an event like this is the conversations you have on the exhibition stands:

    • “My Oracle dbas think Oracle is more secure than SQL Server”.  I simply don’t accept this and my evidence is:
      • Our internal use of SQL Server behind
      • SQL Server accreditation for use in the US and UK government known as common compliance criteria
      • The Net.  If it was broken you would have read about it.

    I could argue the SQL Server is more secure than Oracle, but I would concede if you follow best practice from us and Oracle then you can make both very secure. The trouble is that not everyone does and in the case of the customer I was talking to he had to admit that he was not regularly patching Oracle with the latest security fixes. so not Oracle’s fault as such, but not secure either.

    • “Should I virtualise SQL Server?” It depends  on what you are looking to achieve, but you should only lose 10%-ish of the performance of the server if you follow best practice form Microsoft for Hyper-V or from your virtualisation vendor, a common theme I should mention is pass-through disks where the database resides “as is” on a SAN and is referred to in the VM as a LUN i.e. only the SQL Server binaries are virtualised.  Virtual clusters can be created (and are supported) so that nodes can be patched , upgraded etc. without loss of services.
    • “I want to use central management servers and policy based management servers to monitor all my SQL servers but how do I find them?”  Cunning DBA’s often change the default UDP port (1433) for SQL to something else for security. There are special tools e.g.

    The only things I can’t really help with are deep technical support problems for a number of reasons, not least of which is that I am not deep enough into SQL Server anymore. So I will normally refer the delegate to our excellent team of support engineers as most customers have access to this but don’t realise it (through  various agreements with Microsoft and/or TechNet subscriptions).

    The same applies to e-mail and comments on my blog -  I’ll help if I can, but I’m out and about a lot with other commitments so replies might take some time.

  • Meteorology and Cloud Control

    The word we us for predicting the weather came from the guys who used to try and predict when meteors and comets would appear which in turn was supposed of influence events here on earth. Nowadays the Met Office are actually getting a lot better at it and attempts have also been going on for the last 50 years to also try and control it e.g. limiting the power of tornados or encouraging rain in arid areas. 

    When it comes to IT cloud control might seem irrelevant as the provider does all the administration for you when you provision a service like Azure EC2, Google, or V-Cloud.  However while the tin is taken care of the rest is still down to the good old IT professional and this was bought home to me recently during an excellent talk at the London Vmware user group by a speaker who I will refer to as  Stu (he wishes to remain anonymous and I did get his permission to blog this of course)

    The key points of his Virtual First presentation that apply to pretty well any cloud provider are..

    • Need to have well planned checklist to deploy a vm to cloud
    • Need to understand human logic in the current process e.g. manual process for deciding IP and DNS settings
    • Self service doesn't not mean no governance
    • Challenge convention
      • Cloud is seen to be much cheaper because there is no support (e.g. EC2). so offer a “no support” option for vms internally so that like can be compared with like.
      • Don't have Server Naming convention use the tools in Vmware or Microsoft’s  System Center Virtual Machine Manager (which can manage Vmware and Hyper-V vm’s)
    • Think about offering local admin support but be aware other support teams may be unhappy with this e.g. those supporting the applications on top of the operating system.
    • There’s no standard unit of compute so you don't know what to provision in the virtual world i.e. user needs to prove they need to stay physical so measure and decide on the basis of evidence (old hardware vs new hardware) A good resources is rpe 2  which gives a performance index on a huge range of physical servers.
    • Keep it Simple. Don't go mad with complexity – the chances are the business will bite your arm off anyway as in a virtual world provisioning a workload is possible in a couple of hours rather than 2 months. For example provide Simple  fro your offerings e.g.  high medium low performance vms with or without support.
    • Think about decommissioning workloads to keep the costs of cloud down or the local data centre operating at maximum efficiency.
    • Think about scripts (PowerShell/Vmware PowerCLI) and requesting a new or change to VM to meet change in demand.
    • External issues don't think about physical stuff remember ip address for example tag workloads that have a regulatory requirement like data protection HIPAA, PCI

    So I go to the Vmware user group to find out best practice pick up any issues the community have with Microsoft solutions running in a virtual world and thus support the IT professional in the UK even if we differ on the virtualisation platform we use.