SQL Server Magazine UPDATE—brought to you by SQL Server Magazine
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THIS ISSUE SPONSORED BY

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(below COMMENTARY)

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(below NEWS AND VIEWS)


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January 23, 2003—In this issue:

1. COMMENTARY

  • Managing Configuration

2. SQL SERVER NEWS AND VIEWS

  • Microsoft Releases SQL Server 2000 SP3
  • Article Provides Checklist for Installing SP3 on a Virtual Server
  • Results of Previous Instant Poll: Working from a Baseline
  • New Instant Poll: Configuration Management

3. ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Live Microsoft-Certified Training at Your Desktop
  • Online Seats Limited for Memory Management Event

4. RESOURCES

  • What's New in SQL Server Magazine: Keeping Up with Web Releases
  • Hot Thread: Running a Profiler Script in DTS
  • Tip: Importing an XML File

5. HOT RELEASES (ADVERTISEMENTS)

  • DataHabitat ZeroCode ETL
  • SQL Server Magazine Connections 3-for-1 Offer

6. NEW AND IMPROVED

  • Monitor SQL Server Transactions in Realtime
  • Verify Available Disk Space on SQL Server

7. CONTACT US

  • See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

1. COMMENTARY

  • MANAGING CONFIGURATION

  • (contributed by Brian Moran, news editor, brianm@sqlmag.com)

    The escalation engineers in the SQL Server Product Support Services (PSS) group have a complex job. Of course, they help callers solve specific problems. But one of their primary jobs is to help customers learn how to prevent problems in the first place. Over the past few weeks, I've shared advice I got from Bob Ward, an escalation engineer for SQL Server PSS. Ward explained that, although most customers know about the best practices that will prevent problems in their systems, many don't adhere to those best practices. Our readers have confirmed Ward's observation. The past three Instant Polls on the SQL Server Magazine Web site have asked readers if they follow these best practices, and most respondents have acknowledged that they don't. This result reveals that many customers are leaving their systems vulnerable to problems.

    In the past two issues of SQL Server Magazine UPDATE, I discussed two of the three best practices that Ward recommends: establishing and testing a recovery plan and creating a performance baseline for your system. This week, I close the best-practices discussion by looking at Ward's third recommendation: tracking configuration changes and settings within the servers and databases you support.

    Have you or a colleague ever said, "Wow! That database setting doesn't seem right. I wonder how long it's been like that?" If so, Ward's advice applies to you. Ward says that a surprising number of support calls revolve around the lack of a solid configuration-management plan. Too many customers simply don't track how and when changes are made to their server environments—and this lack of ongoing awareness can create many support problems. When you don't track your system's configuration, you might

    • inconsistently apply service packs and security patches
    • drop or add an index on a production box for testing purposes, then forget to add the index again when testing is finished
    • change the database recovery model setting for bulk load tasks, then forget to reset it when the tasks are complete
    • purposely or accidentally make a poor database configuration choice such as turning on auto shrink for production databases that experience widely ranging volumes of data in the course of a standard usage cycle
    • be unable to reset a production database to its original configuration after a complete rebuild because no one knows for sure what the original server and database settings were

    The list of possible problems is almost infinite. But focusing on the list misses the point. Support calls—and the daily management of our database systems—would be much simpler if we tracked metadata-level changes to our database environments more rigorously.

    I've spent the past few weeks establishing that a problem with best-practice compliance exists. But so far, I haven't tried to offer advice about how customers can do a better job of adhering to the best practices we've discussed, nor have I queried Microsoft for ideas about what the company can do to make best practices easier for customers. I have some thoughts about both sides of the equation, and 'll share them with you over the coming weeks. But I'd also like your input. Do you or your colleagues successfully implement these best practices? Send me an email describing your techniques. Do you have ideas about how Microsoft can make avoiding problems easier for us? Tell me your ideas. I'll share the best advice with your fellow SQL Server Magazine UPDATE readers.


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    2. SQL SERVER NEWS AND VIEWS

  • MICROSOFT RELEASES SQL SERVER 2000 SP3

  • Microsoft has posted the latest updates to SQL Server 2000 in Service Pack 3 (SP3). The new service pack includes fixes for known vulnerabilities and provides numerous added benefits. SP3 improves serviceability by providing enhanced error reporting, improved multiserver administration, and a new monitoring API. DBAs can now use QLogic's SANblade QLA2350 Fibre Channel controller to reduce CPU consumption and improve performance. And SP3 helps DBAs secure their SQL Servers by providing new security patches, enhancements to SQL Server Agent, and updates to security documentation in SQL Server 2000 Books Online (BOL). You can download the latest service pack at
    http://www.microsoft.com/sql/downloads/2000/sp3.asp

  • ARTICLE PROVIDES CHECKLIST FOR INSTALLING SP3 ON A VIRTUAL SERVER

  • Before you install SQL Server 2000 Service Pack 3 (SP3) on a SQL Server 2000 virtual server, you must complete several essential checks to your system. Read about these checks—and why your installation might fail if you don't complete them—in the Microsoft article "INF: SQL Server 2000 Service Pack 3 Pre-Installation Checklist for SQL Server 2000 Virtual Server for Failover Clustering" at
    http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;811168

  • RESULTS OF PREVIOUS INSTANT POLL: WORKING FROM A BASELINE

  • The voting has closed in SQL Server Magazine's nonscientific Instant Poll for the question, "How do you use baselines in your database environment?" Here are the results (+/- 1 percent) from the 192 votes:
    • 4% To monitor daily performance changes
    • 10% To track performance changes over time
    • 8% To troubleshoot problems when they come up
    • 14% All of the above
    • 64% We haven't established a baseline

  • NEW INSTANT POLL: CONFIGURATION MANAGEMENT

  • The next Instant Poll question is "Do you keep records to track and manage your system configuration?" Go to the SQL Server Magazine Web site and submit your vote for 1) Yes, we've kept a record of our original system configuration, 2) Yes, we track changes and regularly update our configuration record, or 3) No, we don't have a formal tracking system.
    http://www.sqlmag.com

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    3. ANNOUNCEMENTS


    (brought to you by SQL Server Magazine and its partners)

  • LIVE MICROSOFT-CERTIFIED TRAINING AT YOUR DESKTOP

  • SQL Server Magazine University (SSMU) e-Learning Center, partnering with Holistech, offers live online training by the industry's best instructors! Convenient 1-hour classes at your desktop save you time and money. Plus, students have 24 x 7 Virtual Lab access—not lab simulation, but realtime experience on real servers. Get the details at
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  • ONLINE SEATS LIMITED FOR MEMORY MANAGEMENT EVENT

  • Don't miss Kalen Delaney's 1-hour live Web seminar, "SQL Server 2000 Data Storage, Part 1: Memory Management," on Friday, February 7, at 11 A.M. (Mountain time), brought to you by SQL Server Magazine University (SSMU) and Solid Quality Learning. No need to leave your desk! Click here for complete details and register today!
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    4. RESOURCES

  • WHAT'S NEW IN SQL SERVER MAGAZINE: KEEPING UP WITH WEB RELEASES

  • For some DBAs, if it doesn't come in the box, it doesn't go on their server. But Microsoft's SQL Server Web downloads can add functionality to your database server. Learn about the benefits of these free updates in Michael Otey's January 2003 SQL Server Magazine article "Keeping Up with Web Releases," online at
    http://www.sqlmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=27499

  • HOT THREAD: RUNNING A PROFILER SCRIPT IN DTS

  • Norton has a script that SQL Server Profiler produced. He wants to run the script as a Data Transformation Services (DTS) package so that he can schedule it as a job. When Norton runs the script in Query Analyzer, it works. But when he copies the working script from Query Analyzer into DTS, the parse fails and he gets an error message. The script's GOTO statement references the label ERROR, but the label hasn't been declared. Why does this script parse and work well in Query Analyzer but not in DTS? Offer your advice and read other users' suggestions on the SQL Server Magazine forums at the following URL:
    http://www.sqlmag.com/forums/messageview.cfm?catid=5&threadid=12102

  • TIP: IMPORTING AN XML FILE

  • (contributed by Microsoft's SQL Server Development Team, questions@sqlmag.com)

    Q. How can I import an XML file into SQL Server 2000?

    A. You can import an XML file into SQL Server in several ways. Here are three approaches.

    If you want to extract the document's entities and attributes into relational tables, the fastest way to import XML into SQL Server is to use the Bulk Load COM interface in SQL Server 2000 Web Release (SQLXML) 3.0 Service Pack 1 (SP1). The interface comes with the free SQLXML download at http://msdn.microsoft.com/downloads/default.asp?url=/downloads/sample.asp?url=/msdn-files/027/001/824/msdncompositedoc.xml . This method of importing XML is fast, and the download documents the Bulk Load tool with code samples.

    If you don't want to extract the document's entities and attributes into relational tables, you can use the textcopy.exe command-line utility. Using textcopy.exe is a good method for loading the document into a text data type column.

    If your XML document is simple, you can use Data Transformation Services (DTS) by writing transformation code that looks at each line of the XML document and extracts the information into tables. This approach requires you to define the XML file as an input data source, define a database table as the output data source, and write ActiveX script that parses the input for "<" and ">" characters to extract entities, attributes, and their values.

    Send your technical questions to questions@sqlmag.com.

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  • SQL SERVER MAGAZINE CONNECTIONS 3-FOR-1 OFFER

  • SQL Server Magazine Connections will co-locate with Microsoft ASP.NET Connections and Visual Studio Connections May 6-9 in New Orleans. Attendees will have a chance to win a Harley-Davidson! Register now to save:
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    6. NEW AND IMPROVED


    (contributed by Carolyn Mader, products@sqlmag.com)

  • MONITOR SQL SERVER TRANSACTIONS IN REALTIME

  • AppDancer Networks released AppDancer/FA, network application flow and analysis software. The newest version lets you monitor SQL Server and Exchange Server transactions in realtime. AppDancer/FA not only monitors your devices and applications and all associated IP flows but it also lets you understand the inner workings of your network. The software can show you whether your network is suffering from overuse or incorrect usage, which cause brownout conditions. The software supports SQL Server 2000 and 7.0. For pricing, contact AppDancer Networks at 770-643-6800.
    http://www.appdancer.com

  • VERIFY AVAILABLE DISK SPACE ON SQL SERVER

  • Woodstone released Servers Alive 3.3, a program that can monitor any Winsock service, ping a host, and determine whether a Windows NT service or process is running. You can use the software to retrieve a URL, look at your database, and report on available disk space on your server. Servers Alive can also verify SQL Server and Oracle available disk space. You can run Servers Alive natively as a service. You can monitor as many as 1000 hosts and services, including all TCP services such as POP3, SMTP, FTP, and DNS. Servers Alive supports SQL Server 2000, 7.0, and 6.5 and costs $90 per license. Contact Woodstone at
    http://www.woodstone.nu

    7. CONTACT US


    Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:

    • ABOUT THE COMMENTARY — brianm@sqlmag.com
    • ABOUT THE NEWSLETTER IN GENERAL — kathy@sqlmag.com

    (please mention the newsletter name in the subject line)

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    • PRODUCT NEWS — products@sqlmag.com
    • QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR SQL SERVER MAGAZINE UPDATE SUBSCRIPTION?
      Customer Support — sqlupdate@sqlmag.com
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