My SQL Saturday Chicago Precon–Managing and Architecting Azure Data Platform

Published On: 2019-01-16By:

After the MVP Summit in March, I’m headed to Chicago to speak at SQL Saturday Chicago, and on Friday March 22nd, I’ll be delivering an all-day training session on the Azure Data Platform. The term data platform is somewhat of a Microsoft marketing term, but we will talk about a wide variety of topics that will help you get up to speed on Azure.

All of the morning, and some of the afternoon will be spent talking about the core infrastructure of Azure. You’ll learn about topics like:

• Networking
• Storage
• Virtual Machines

While these are topics normally outside of the scope of the DBA, in the cloud you will have to at least understand them. Want to build an Availability Group in Azure? You’ll need to build an internal load balancer and map probe ports into your VM. Remember how you normally complain to the SAN team about your lack of IOPs? In the cloud, you can fix that yourself. You’ll also learn about what’s different about managing SQL Server in the Azure environment.

In the afternoon, we’ll spend our time talking about platform as a service (PAAS) offerings from Microsoft. While we will spend most of our time talking about Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Managed Instance, I’ll also spend some time talking about other offerings like CosmosDB, and when it is appropriate to use them.

It will be a packed day, so put your learning hat on. You can register at Eventbrite here—there are five discounted tickets remaining.

My LinkedIn Learning Courses

Published On: 2018-12-29By:

I’ve had the good fortune to start working with LinkedIn Learning (which was formerly known as Lynda, but through acquisition became part of LinkedIn and now Microsoft), and I’ve recorded several SQL Server oriented courses there. You can find my author page here — these topics are oriented around a wide array of topics–security, concurrency, performance, and development.

In addition to the videos, you can follow along with the code samples I’m using in my demos. The format of the courses are videos that are around 5 minutes, so it’s easy to get up to view a few courses. If you have any questions around any of my training, hit me up here.

 

Using Azure Key Vault with Azure SQL Database

Published On: 2018-12-11By:

Recently I was writing a PowerShell script to help a customer automate the process of deploying Azure SQL Databases. One of the challenges of automation that I remember since the dawn of time, is how to secure credentials in your automation script. Back in the old UNIX days, we used permissions to protect files and then read in the password files, but it was messy and probably not as secure as I would have liked.

One of the benefits cloud computing has offered is building out a lot of infrastructure and opportunities for smaller organizations to take advantage of structures that used to only be available to large enterprises. A good example of this is Azure SQL Database geo-replication—in the past if you wanted to have a database in four regions throughout the world, you had to lease space in four data centers, build a global network, and possibly even get people in place in different parts of the planet to make sure those machines stayed running. Now, with a few mouse clicks you can have your database on four continents (and for as cheap as $20/month, or realistically $1000/month)—this is where we see the real benefits of cloud computing. Another one of these components is Azure Key Vault—in the past Hardware Security Modules provided root trust amongst other security features. Now, in Azure, we can use Key Vault for password management, certificate management, and hardware trusts.

Key Vault is especially handy when trying to pass in a password to a script. Since it’s fully implemented with PowerShell, CLI, and Rest API, we can easily call it in a script. This script example is pretty basic, but it’s all I needed to securely pass a password into my automation job.

Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 12.29.33 PM

The first thing you will need to do is create a key vault, and then create a secret. Once your secret is created, you will be able to reference it in code.

I pasted this image for readability, but you can see my code example on GitHub here. It’s pretty basic—I’m defining a variable called password, and getting from the Key Vault, and then passing it into the -SQLAdministratorCredentials in New-AzureRMSQLServer.

Columnstore Indexes and Key Lookups–The Worst

Published On: 2018-11-14By:

Key Lookups are one of my least favorite SQL Server execution plan operators. This is where for each record in an index seek, SQL Server goes back to the clustered index and looks up a record. Generally, we either live with this condition (for a very small number of rows) or we fix it by adding columns directly or adding included columns to our nonclustered index.

However, in the plan below, we have a different scenario. We have a clustered columnstore index, that has an additional nonclustered index on the table. This was a feature that was added in SQL Server 2016 to allow point lookups on a column without having to scan many row segments of the index. This works pretty well for some conditions, though it is important to know that it can slow down your inserts significantly.

In the last year or so, with a large customer who makes fairly heavy use of this pattern, I’ve noticed another concern. Sometimes, and I can’t figure out what exactly triggers it, the execution plan generated, will do a seek against the nonclustered index and then do a key lookup against the columnstore as seen below. This is bad for two reasons–first the key lookup is super expensive, and generally columnstores are very large, secondly this key lookup is in row execution  mode rather than batch and drops the rest of the execution plan into row mode, thus slowing the query down even further.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 7.38.32 AM

I’ve anonymized the schema, but that key lookup is against my clustered columnstore index. This query never finished. So what’s the resolution? Index hints–I’m not a big fan of using hints, but sometimes you need to kick the query optimizer in the shin. When I changed this query with the index hint, it completed in around 7 seconds. The ultimate fix is for Microsoft to fix this costing, but that’s hard. You can vote on my User Voice item here:

https://feedback.azure.com/forums/908035-sql-server/suggestions/36015868-key-lookup-against-columnstore-index-causes-slow-q

If you see this pattern pop up at all, you will definitely want to hint your queries.

 

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