professionals are familiar with the term "planned downtime" and
"unplanned downtime". The first is painful to ask for, and the second
is painful to explain. We strive not to have either. SQL Server 2008 and SQL
Server 2008 R2 have introduced features, such as better recovery from corrupt
pages in a Database Mirroring and so forth that attempt to keep the problems
down. But "planned" and "unplanned" can also be used to
describe our daily work - and we don't have a choice most of the time for how
we deal with either kind.
Planned work is the
task we do because it has a schedule, or at least *could* be scheduled.
Backups, building a server, applying a service pack, reviewing the logs - all
of these could be things that we can schedule. Looking at my "Tasks"
in Microsoft Outlook, I have a lot of things that I have scheduled for today,
this week, and this month. I never really close or complete some of them, I
just change the due date to the next period of time when I need to deal with
that task again.
Other work is very
"unplanned". This kind of work can come from anywhere - from a
co-worker who needs help, a manager with an emergency request, and most of the
time from a server that has a problem, with anything from issues with
Replication to a failed backup.
It's kind of
difficult to meld these two together. When you're in the middle of building a
server, it's hard to leave the server room, run downstairs to talk with an
irate manager and then fix the issue with the system's database so that her
application can still run. Even worse, for data professional it's often a case
of having to prove it *isn't* the database that is causing the performance
problem - but that's another post.
There are, however,
tools and processes that can help you deal with both planned and unplanned
work. As I mentioned, I use Outlook for just about everything, since I can
access it from many locations (even my Windows Mobile phone) and it
combines my calendar, tasks, contacts and of course e-mail in one place.
Another tool I've
come to rely on is OneNote. Of course you can just use notepad or a
Word-processor to take notes, but OneNote is integrated with Outlook (and just
about every other Microsoft program), it can "share" notebooks
between teams and has a rich set of tags to help qualify what I need to know
visually and quickly.
But tools aren't
the whole story. First, I try to keep a level head during the interruptions.
I've been a data professional for a really long time, so I've gotten over the
panic stage. It also helped that at one point in my career I volunteered as an
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) on an ambulance, which of course *really*
puts you in life and death situations. After that, a server crash isn't cause
for complete panic.
I have developed a
process to deal with both of these kinds of work. I plan what I can - trying to
look out as far as possible, creating checklists, and coordinating with the
rest of my team and my organization. I try to get the most important planned
work done as soon as possible - first thing in the week, first thing in the
morning. That way, if I get an unplanned event, as much as possible of the
planned work is complete. In a way, I'm planning for unplanned work!
For the truly
unplanned work, such as an emergency, I keep a OneNote page nearby with links
that are categorized by the type of issues I think I might face. I document
each step I follow to correct the issue, even if I have to wait until later. I
try and keep the energy from all of the emotions low, and work on the problem
as systematically as it will allow. Above all, I communicate constantly,
letting the right people know what has happened, what is happening now,
and what I'm doing about it. That OneNote document comes in really handy
So how are you
doing it? How do you handle the work that comes at you from all sides?
discussed consolidation and virtualization - one of the hottest topics
customers raise with us these days. CTOs are typically looking to control
costs, but cost savings are hardly automatic: you must choose the right
strategy. In some (notorious) cases, I have seen CPU utilization actually drop
on consolidated boxes; typically because the servers were IO-bound.
these potential pitfalls, how are you to go about setting a strategy? A great
starting point is our server consolidation
guidance, including a flowchart to walk you through the right choices. For
example, for many folks considering virtualization, security is a real concern
- a flowchart helps you choose between virtualization, and instance or database
consolidation. Similarly, for high availability, manageability and other
potential concerns, we can walk you through the options.
resources include our all-up Virtualization
Brief - at two pages it's certainly brief, but it will give you a
pretty good high-level overview of the options and benefits for SQL
Server, Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Exchange.
We also have a rather good customer
case study with Avanade, where you can see how the right choices enabled
them to cut physical servers from 136 to 20, while increasing their database
performance by 50%. (I can tell you now, they were not IO bound!)
our video conversation, Ted also makes it clear that partners will be important
in guiding customers. Our generic guidance and tools are invaluable for
understanding our architectures and capabilities, but partners are especially
well placed to get into specifics, whether hardware or integrated systems.
This conversation about
virtualization and consolidation is one we often have directly with customers:
it was great to be able to have it with Ted before the cameras for a wider
In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon was excited to spend the evening reinstalling the OS and apps on his laptop. My wife asked me if I would find that fun. I had to admit that it wouldn’t suck but there were a number of other things that I’d rather do. Last week I reviewed a soon to be published report on the cost of administering various database platforms, including SQL Server. While there is lots of interesting data in the report what I found most interesting was the breakdown of where DBAs spend their time. Since the report hasn’t been published I can’t give out any specific findings but I will share this: according to the report the activity DBAs spend most of their time on is deploying new database servers; accounting for about 40% of their time. I almost fell out of my chair when I read that statistic. Let me say that again: about 40% of a DBAs time is spent deploying new database servers. Really? See the end of this posting for the activities included in deployment.
It’s imperative that managers of DBAs perform a regular audit of where their team spends their time. Then use this data to drive decisions on where to standardized and/or automate tasks with the overarching goal of reducing the time spent on the particular task. In general DBAs make a good salary and the job requires a specialized skill set. Ensuring your DBAs are spending their time on the most important tasks is not only good for your business it’ll be good for the morale of your DBA team. In my experience DBAs don’t mind working hard, they just want to be working on important and interesting projects; I don’t know deploying database servers qualifies.
Activities included in deploying new database servers:
* If you find that your team is spending significant time deploying database servers you should take a hard look at the sysprep feature new in SQL Server 2008 R2. It just might be the silver bullet you’re looking for.
Well, just look again. $250 million is a helluva partnership investment, even for giants in the industry. It's always the case that press releases tend to be somewhat "glossy" - frankly, they all sound the same to me - so again, it's easy to overlook the details. Better than the press release, look here, to some of the applications that are already available, some of the case studies that already prove the value of the collaboration, and some of the details of hardware, software and services that are being integrated: http://bit.ly/5VTD4k
From a purely personal viewpoint, I have to say that the people I work with in Microsoft and HP are genuinely excited about the extended partnership. My friend at HP, John Santaferraro has been tweeting like crazy! For us it's not just marketing, and that's particularly true in the database and business intelligence fields. SQL Server is the most rapidly growing database platform, our BI is making strides in the market, and our partners in HP have also made some very compelling business intelligence investments.
So what is it, that we are offering?
For one thing, pre-configured, packaged solutions for OLTP, BI and DW workloads for different sizes of business. For SQL Server, this is great. Today, our customers see the cost-effectiveness, ease-of-use and power of the SQL Server and Microsoft BI platforms, but they often see only that. We are after all a platform company (having, I suspect, more platforms than the Jackson Five.) The new solutions build on the platform with HPs services and hardware experience which are, of course, first class. If this was a just a case of packaging up a services, software and hardware offering to make it easy to market, I think I would be unimpressed myself, but there is more to it. We are developing tools and services specifically for these offerings - from Microsoft, tools to make virtualization easier; from HP, customized BI professional services in information governance, master data management and so on. These professional services from HP are critical - they have over 11,000 certified Microsoft Professionals, so building out a portfolio of service offerings specifically for them, greatly increases our clout.
For the mid-market, I can see some of our other partners being concerned at first reading of the announcement. However, I see good news for them, too. Naturally, the noise has been about the big things HP and Microsoft can do together, even if somewhat exclusively, but the channel remains very important to us. ("Super-important" as Microsoft execs are wont to say.) After all, we have 32000 HP and Microsoft channel partners.
They will see much larger investment in our marketing programs - something like ten times the current spend, I believe. The investment will go into bundled software and hardware packages that should reduce sales cycles, new financing options to make integrated solutions easier to acquire, and - hugely important and hopefully worthy of a cheer - integrated support from dedicated field engineers.
I hope this gives some impression of why we are excited by the announcement. Of course, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, and we'll be watching over the next year and more for the restaurant reviews of this particular dessert to come rolling in. I'm looking forward to them.
Meanwhile, it's time for me to get out of my hotel room, away from this laptop, and out into the Arizona sun. Even after so many visits, I'm not going to take it for granted. Look at the HP / MSFT announcement in that light.