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July 24, 2003—In this issue:
- Pressing for the Nines?
2. SQL SERVER NEWS AND VIEWS
- Innovator Awards Competition Deadline Approaches
- Tip: Database Performance Portal Tests Connection Performance
- Results of Previous Instant Poll: Accelerating BI
- New Instant Poll: Downtime Tolerance
- What's New in SQL Server Magazine: Analyzing Money
- Hot Thread: Using Profiler to Trace a Timeout Error
- Tip: Counting Blank Spaces
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- SQL Server Magazine Connections: 4 for 1 Offer
- You Don't Have to Miss What's Already Happened!
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Implement Windows Authentication for Java Access to SQL Server
- Monitor Your Database
7. CONTACT US
See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
(contributed by Brian Moran, news editor, firstname.lastname@example.org)
In the old days, SQL Server's primary users were small departments and workgroups, and administrators used the "when in doubt, reboot" philosophy to keep SQL Server up and running. Times sure have changed! Now many enterprise-class organizations use SQL Server and depend on 24 x 7 server availability. Customers spend a lot of time and money designing highly available, fault-tolerant systems for their businesses.
SQL Server's high-availability capabilities have improved, but no one can claim 100 percent availability. DBAs commonly refer to a server's "number of nines" when talking about availability. For example, a server that has four nines is available 99.99 percent of the time. A year contains about 31,500,000 seconds, so 99.99 percent means your system can be down for about 52 minutes per year. Five nines, 99.999 percent, allows you only 315 seconds of downtime. Adding a sixth nine would allow you only 32 seconds of annual downtime. So you can see how "adding nines" to your system's availability becomes increasingly difficult. Thinking about an unscheduled reboot, just for the heck of it? Forget about it.
Microsoft is always looking for ways to improve SQL Server so that customers can achieve higher levels of availability. The company performs extensive availability research and likes to receive feedback from customers that helps SQL Server developers evaluate availability trends. A colleague of mine at Microsoft is putting together a list of the 10 most common causes of unplanned outages, and I told him that you would help. Yes, you. Microsoft needs to know why systems become unavailable so that the development team can fix the problems.
Send me an e-mail message telling me what problems make you reboot your servers and what causes your planned or unplanned downtime. After all, even a planned outage is difficult to accommodate when you're trying to achieve four nines of availability. I'll send your messages to Microsoft and share the summarized reader comments with you in an upcoming commentary.
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2. SQL SERVER NEWS AND VIEWS
SQL Server Magazine has issued a last call for submissions to its 2003 Innovator Awards program. Your SQL Server technical savvy could win you a trip to Palm Springs--if you hurry. The deadline for submissions is August 1. The awards program recognizes SQL Server users who develop unique, creative solutions to technical problems.
To qualify for the awards program, you must have created a technical solution to a SQL Server problem or enhanced a program or system feature to improve performance or return on investment. Examples of qualifying innovations include: scaling out your system with SQL Server 2000's federated database support; implementing OLAP or data mining to give your company's decision makers the power to analyze data; using SQL Server's XML functionality to develop Web services and platform-independent applications; and using tricks to squeeze the best performance out of your SQL Server database or to get the answers you need.
One top winner and three runners up will receive pewter mug trophies for their creative problem-solving efforts. The top winner will also receive the SQL Server Innovator's Cup traveling trophy to keep for 12 months and free round-trip airfare, lodging, and registration for the SQL Server Magazine Connections Conference in Palm Springs, California, October 12 through 14. Submit your entry at http://www.sqlmag.com/awards.
(contributed by Randall C. Kennedy, director of research for Competitive Systems Analysis, Inc.)
SQL Server Magazine offers on its Web site a Database Performance Portal (at http://csaperform.sqlmag.com) that lets you conduct ad-hoc performance testing of client/server database connections. With this tool, you can simulate a variety of two-tier runtime scenarios that span the range of available connection types and driver implementations. You can use the results of these simulations to qualify new client, server, and network hardware and software purchases; perform systems health monitoring; conduct off-site performance analysis; and identify infrastructure bottlenecks.
For example, in a recent test project CSA Research technicians used the Database Performance Portal Workload Simulator to evaluate the performance overhead associated with various connection protocols as it applied to both transactional and non-transactional OLE-DB and ODBC connections. We developed a standardized methodology--with a common duration and data set size--then varied the connection-string parameters through the Data Links dialog box. Using the results that the Workload Simulator returned, we were able to accurately measure the effect of switching from OLE-DB to ODBC over TCP and Named Pipes connections when running in a 2-tier application environment. To our surprise, we discovered that ODBC is as much as 33 percent faster than OLE-DB in transactional, ADO-driven environments in which SQL Server 2000 is the database target.
We used a similar method to compare network infrastructure components as part of a research project for Intel Corporation. First we established the methodology. In this case, we varied the data-set size and number of concurrent workloads. Then we executed the scenarios across both our target network segments. Using results we compiled from the Workload Simulator, we were able to develop a first-of-its-kind white paper about the benefits of a pervasive Gigabit Ethernet environment. The white paper showed that when we deployed Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop, two-tier application performance improved as much as 47 percent over traditional 10/100 "Fast" Ethernet.
What makes both of the above examples work is the flexibility and configurability of the Database Performance Portal's Workload Simulator object. Because the Portal lets you read from and write to almost any ADO-accessible data device, you can easily contrast subtle changes in client, server, and network infrastructure. The Portal also gives you the ability to store session data online and compare results across multiple sessions by using the Portal site's built-in charting functions. Because of these features, many SQL Server DBAs have made the Database Performance Portal an integral part of their administrative toolkits.
The voting has closed in SQL Server Magazine's Instant Poll for the question, "Do you use SQL Server Accelerator for BI?" Here are the results (+/- 1 percent) from the 180 votes:
- 05% Yes
- 42% No, but I'm interested in the new release
- 53% No, and I'm not interested
The next Instant Poll question is "How much downtime can your system handle at any one time?" Go to the SQL Server Magazine Web site and vote for 1) None, 2) 1-15 minutes, 3) Less than 3 hours, 4) Less than 8 hours, or 5) Availability isn't a concern.
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Don't miss the Business Intelligence Mini-Series, an advanced-level online training course for SQL Server professionals. This four-part Web seminar series will be August 6, 13, 20, and 27, 2003, from 1:00 P.M. to 2:00 P.M. Eastern time and taught by business technology professional Scot Reagin. Get complete details, including early-bird pricing information at
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You can learn about OLAP from working on any kind of data, but when you work with other people's data, you might maintain a professional distance from the confidential details that data reveals. When you work with data that you care about personally, you can get more involved in the analysis and gain more insight about OLAP. In "Analyzing Money," Russ Whitney describes how to create an OLAP solution to analyze data you really care about: your personal finances. Read this July SQL Server Magazine article at
Cchitanu is using an application that recently started returning the error "Microsoft OLE DB Provider for SQL Server--timeout expired." Cchitanu is sure this error comes from the application because the database looks fine. What counters can cchitanu use in a SQL Server Profiler trace? How can he locate the stored procedure or query that's causing the problem? See what other DBAs have said, and offer your advice, on SQL Server Magazine's Performance forum at the following URL:
(contributed by Brian Moran, email@example.com)
Q. Why does the command SELECT LEN('123'+' '), which counts the number of characters in a field, return three when it should return eight? Three characters plus five blank spaces is eight characters in total. How can I count the blank spaces?
A. When in doubt about unexpected behavior, read SQL Server Books Online (BOL). The BOL entry for the LEN() function says that it ignores trailing blanks. Many people make the mistake of assuming the LEN() function will count trailing blanks because similar functions in other programming languages do. To get the answer you're looking for, use the DATALENGTH() function instead:
SELECT DATALENGTH('123' + ' ')
Send your technical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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6. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Carolyn Mader, email@example.com)
DataDirect Technologies announced DataDirect Connect for JDBC 3.3, a set of Type 4 JDBC drivers with Windows authentication support for components that connect Java applications to SQL Server data. Windows authentication eliminates the need for users to login separately to multiple applications and provides security features such as secure validation and encryption of passwords, auditing, password expiration, and account lockout after multiple invalid login requests. DataDirect Technologies has implemented Windows authentication by using Kerberos. Unlike other vendors, DataDirect Technologies has implemented Windows authentication in its JDBC drivers without making calls to external DLLs, which is important to many Java developers, because using Type 4 drivers eliminates the need to install the database-specific client library or additional DLLs. Contact DataDirect Technologies at 301-468-8501 or 800-876-3101.
Pearl Knowledge Solutions announced SQLCentric 1.2, a Web-based SQL Server-centric network database monitoring and alert system that you can deploy to your company's intranet. If any SQL Server or SQL agent in your network goes down or if drive space drops too low, SQLCentric notifies you by email or pager. The software integrates with your email system to provide you with autoalerts and follow-up messaging. The administration module lets you manage servers and groups and configure runtime parameters. The software is cluster aware for SQL Server 2000 and can display the name of each node in the cluster. You can choose any database server in your network to use as SQLCentric's master database server, so you can keep IIS separate from SQL Server. For pricing, contact Pearl Knowledge Solutions at 917-499-7622.
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