By: Allan Hirt on December 30, 2016 in Book, Classroom, PASS Summit, SQL Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2016, SQL Server V.Next, Teaching, Virtualization, Vmware, Whitepaper, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2016 | 4 Comments
Hello, everyone. Can you believe 2017 will be here in just a few days? 2016 seemed to fly by. It’s been quite a year. I wanted to take the time in my final blog post of the year to recap some of what has happened, talk about some stuff that is coming, and update you on some stuff, too.
The Elephant in the Room
There is the matter of the book. As many of you are (as well as I am) painfully aware, I officially announced in 2013. A lot has happened both personally and professionally between then and now. One thing I haven’t talked about but came to a head in late 2015 was my health. Without getting into specific details, from January of 2014 until almost the end of 2015, I was not in good shape. I hurt myself and over time, it got to the point where the pain was so bad I basically couldn’t sit, stand, or lay down without pain. I am a non-“medicate yourself” person, so I didn’t take anything for it. I tried to soldier through it. That was a huge mistake.
I can tell you that the amount of time I spend on the road speaking and going to customers didn’t help, either. There was just no time to stop and get off the road due to work commitments. Schlepping luggage, airplane seats, and everything else exacerbated what was going on. I was shattered by the time I hit hotel rooms. It didn’t help that my hand was also messed up as well which not only affected my ability to type but also my ability to play bass. Since I couldn’t stop using my dominant hand, that took about seven months to heal.
I did my best to put a brave face on things publicly, but if you saw me at PASS Summit 2015, you would have seen me at my low point in terms of how I was feeling. It was hard to miss the Leaning Tower of Allan. Right after PASS Summit, I went back to the doctor and spent the rest of the year and the first few months of 2016 in physical therapy. Luckily for the first time in nearly two years I had contiguous time I could deal with what was going on with me. Knock on proverbial wood, physical therapy took care of things and to date, I feel great. I haven’t felt this healthy in years. If you saw me at PASS Summit this year, it was clearly night and day.
What does that have to do with the book? Needless to say, as time dragged on, it became harder and harder for me to get my normal work done, let alone sit for hours on top of that writing. I’m not looking for a pity party or sympathy, nor am I absolving myself of anything book related, but anyone who has experienced excruciating pain to the point of it being debilitating knows what I am talking about. I’m not active/active, you know. All kidding aside, don’t be a martyr like me if you’re feeling bad: take care of it. I let things go to the point where I had no choice and if physical therapy did not work, surgery may have been something I needed to explore. Quality of life became a very real issue. To put a capper on 2016, I’m just getting over bronchitis which has sidelined me for a good portion of December.
So where does that leave things? I’m back on track despite the bronchitis. My spare time over the past few months (which hasn’t been much – we’ve been slammed with the day job which isn’t 9 to 5 …) has been spent working on the book and should really, truly be content complete over the next little while barring any unforeseen problems.
Before anyone asks, the book will still be covering SQL Server 2008 R2 especially because Microsoft recently announced that they are (unfortunately) now giving the super duper paid extended support option (Premium Assurance – see this and this) which gives up to 16 years of paid support on that as well as Windows Server 2008 R2. It makes what I’m doing more vital than ever since I’m crossing all the major versions of SQL Server and Windows Server. I’ve also made some other hard choices as to what will/will not be in the book:
- SQL Server 2016 and Windows Server 2016 are now in scope
- Yes, there will be public cloud-related content – not just on premises/physical stuff
- SQL Server v.Next – including SQL Server on Linux – is not in scope. This will be part of the first major update to the book, timeframe TBD since we have no release date for v.Next. If you haven’t been paying attention, the paint is barely dry on SQL Server 2016 and we already have CTPs of v.Next (as of the writing of this blog, we’re up to 1.1).
I’ll wrap up this section with this thought: I never intended for things to go this way. I not only thought I’d be done, but I’d be on the updates by now. The road of good intention wound up being full of potholes which bent my rims and threw my car out of alignment. As I have mentioned before, my 2005 book which was much smaller in scope and size, took 3 years. I’m not happy about the circumstances, but there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. They say what does not kill you makes you stronger, right? Again, I’ll reiterate – don’t let health issues build up. Take care of yourself.
Let’s Talk PASS Summit 2016
Once I took care of my health, 2016 really took a big upswing. Besides all of the customer work we did which hasn’t slowed down, some of the highlights of the year included teaching in Australia, precons at SQL Nexus in Copenhagen and SQLBits in the UK, speaking at VMworld in Las Vegas, and the capper of them all: PASS Summit 2016.
I’m very fortunate that I have presented at PASS Summit most years and have had a preconference session for quite a few of the ones in recent memory. I was the first to introduce live labs three years ago and try to push the envelope each time my abstracts are accepted. I am glad PASS took a chance on me then – we had no idea how it would play out – and three years later, it keeps getting bigger and better. By now, we have a lot of the logistics stuff down pat since I keep getting selected. Let me be clear – I don’t assume I’ll get a precon because there are no guarantees. I know I’m lucky.
As with the previous years, we talked about capping the number who could sign up at around 100. There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which is making sure that I have enough proctors (i.e. things are manageable) and the convention center can handle the bandwidth needed. Much to my surprise, at one point when I checked in they had sold over 100 seats – PASS forgot to cap it. We then decided to cap it around 110. People still wanted to sign up, so we upped it to 120. Finally we said the heck with it, and filled the room (capacity: 136).
An additional 36 people does not sound like a lot of people, but from a backend and management perspective, it is. I’ve never done anything that big with labs. I had to talk to the folks hosting the VMs since everyone gets their own set (i.e. hundreds of VMs – not a small backend to have to account for), we conferred with the convention center, and on it went. I had so many people come up to me before and during PASS Summit telling me they wish they could have gotten in – as far as I know, I think I was the only sold out one on Monday (can’t speak for Tuesday). No pressure, right? I remember one encounter going down the elevator at the Hyatt heading over the morning of the precon. One of the conference attendees saw my badge and made the association. He mentioned how he wanted to get in but couldn’t. I mean, what can you say? I’m flattered and humbled by that demand. I never take any of this for granted, and would give the same energy if one person showed up or that sold out room of 136.
Things went off with only minor issues (power, which we took care of in a break; same issue as last year), and it was awesome to see that many people doing labs at once. I snapped this picture during the day.
Figure 1. 136 people doing labs. Glorious!
I also had a half day session on what was new for availability in both SQL Server 2016 and Windows Server 2016. It was an expanded version of a talk I had been doing for over a year, aided by the fact that Windows Server 2016 had just been released so I could demo things I couldn’t before. I had no idea what room I was in, and thought there may be some interest, but there were many good sessions at the same time. Much to my surprise – on the last day of PASS Summit no less – I was in a huge room (400+), and nearly every seat was filled for most of it. Below is a picture of one side as the room was starting to fill. I’d have to look at years past, but it may have been one of the biggest rooms I’ve talked in, and definitely one of the most full. Again, no pressure – just hundreds of people who can skewer you if you suck. Luckily that didn’t happen. I had my best scores ever for a PASS Summit for both the half day and the precon. No complaints, and I can’t say enough how good of an event PASS Summit was – and not just for me.
Figure 2. Room filling up for my half day session
In addition to contributing to and reviewing this whitepaper from VMware, I wrote one entitled “Planning Highly Available, Mission Critical SQL Server Deployments with VMware vSphere” that was published in November. I didn’t blog about it, and some of you may have missed it. It was my first real return to writing released publicly in a long time. It’s not marketing fluff, and hope you find it useful.
Dual Microsoft MVP
One of the things I am very proud of is that back in July, I was not only re-awarded as a Data Center & Cloud Management (aka Windows Server nee Cluster) MVP, but I was also awarded as a Data Platform (aka SQL Server) MVP. There are other Dual Microsoft MVPs, but it’s nice to be recognized for the two things I do day in and day out.
Selected 2016 Numbers
0 – The number of laptops purchased by me in 2016. Yes, I’m still using the Vaio Z Canvas I got from Japan in June of 2015. More than 18 months is uncharted territory!
3 – The number of noise cancelling headphones employed by me this year. I got two new pair of headphones for travel at the end of the year. We’ll see which one stays. The old pair I used has already not made it back. One of these days I’ll do a blog post on what to consider for noise cancelling headphones.
4 – The number of bottles of Goober Grape I polished off this year.
5 – The number of countries I visited. Besides the USA, I was in these countries: Australia, Bulgaria, China, Denmark, and the UK.
45 – The number of flights I was on and how old I turned this fall.
100,000 – The approximate number of miles I spent in the air this year.
Too many – the number of (in)famous and influential people (not just entertainment folks) who died.
Training, Events, and Public Speaking in 2017
2017 is already shaping up to be a busy year. I’ll be back in the UK for two weeks at the end of March and early April teaching my 4-day Mission Critical SQL Server class in London via Technitrain and then it’s SQLBits 2017, where I’ll also be delivering a Training Day on April 6th. I will also most likely be speaking at the London SQL Server User Group again the week I’m teaching my class. Register early – both the class and the Training Day are likely to be sold out!
I’ve submitted for a few SQL Saturdays (I usually do about a half dozen a year, give or take), and as those are confirmed, those will be added to the schedule. A few User Groups have approached me, so I’m trying to slot those in as well. Get your requests in early! I’m hope to speak again at VMworld (fingers crossed), and will of course, submit to PASS Summit again.
I’m still working on additional public dates (besides London) for my classes, and should have them nailed down in the next few weeks. Once that’s done, they’ll be posted and we’ll run a special. Stay tuned! In the meantime, if you need some training and would prefer us to come onsite, don’t hesitate to reach out. Get on our schedule early before it’s filled up.
A Note of Thanks
Whether you attended one of my classes or preconference sessions, saw me speak in person or online, read some of my writings, or more sometime this year – including reaching out to me asking where the book is even if you’re annoyed at me – thank you. I do not take anyone for granted and without you, none of what I do is really possible.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special thanks to my longtime friend and business partner, Max Myrick. 2016 was SQLHA’s best year yet.
I only covered some of what happened. 2016 was a quite the year personally and professionally, and 2017 is looking better. I hope to see many of you next year, be it in person or online. Happy New Year!
By: Allan Hirt on September 28, 2016 in SQL Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016 | 7 Comments
If you’ve tried to install SQL Server 2016 on Windows Server 2012 R2, you may have run into an issue – KB2919355 may not be installed. Without this particular Windows update which is applicable to both Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2, that means if you are trying to install SQL Server 2016 on a desktop running 8.1, you’d encounter this, too. The error in SQL Server Setup can be seen in Figure 1.
Figure 1. SQL Server 2016 cannot install with KB2919355 missing
The new standalone SQL Server Management Studio installation has the same issue – it cannot be installed without KB2919355 installed as seen in Figure 2.
Figure 2. SSMS also needs KB2919355
In my case, I created a new VM with a fresh installation of Windows Server 2012 R2. I also ran Windows Update to ensure it had everything Windows Server thought it required. Figure 3 reflects this status.
Figure 3. Windows is up to date
As you can see in Figure 4, KB2919355 is not listed as one of the ones WU installed, so it has to be an optional update.
Figure 4. Installed updates
Looking at the list of optional updates in Windows Update in Figure 5, 2919355 is not shown. This means you need to download and install it manually.
Figure 5. Optional updates available through WU
I went to the KB article page for 2919355 (link is below) and clicked on the link for the Windows Server 2012 R2 files and downloaded all of them. I did not look at the installation instructions (note: don’t ever do this … updates are fussy and why I am writing this blog post) and plowed head installing the executable associated with KB2919355. Cue the sad trombone sound as seen in Figure 6.
Figure 6. Cannot install KB2919355
Going back and looking at the instructions, buried in the last step is what I lovingly call an “oh by the way” – you have to install KB2919442 (also not shown as an optional update in WU) first. Once you do that, things are smooth sailing.
So to install SQL Server 2016 on Windows Server 2012 R2, here is the installation order for these fixes:
- Download and install the update in KB2919442. This does not require a reboot.
- Download and install the update in KB2919355. Note that this has 7 files that you can download. To get SQL Server and SSMS installed, you really only need to install Windows8.1-KB2919355.exe. The others you may not need, and you only need clearcompressionflag.exe before running the 2913955 install if you have an issue.
- Reboot the server, as KB2919355 will require one once it is done installing. That means if you are going to do an in place upgrade or install an instance side by side, it will cause an outage to any existing SQL Server installation.
- Install SQL Server 2016 and/or SSMS.
If you are still having issues, you’ve got other problems going on that you will need to investigate. Hope this saves some of you some time.
Note that if you are using Windows Server 2016, you will not encounter this issue. Everything just works. If you want to take advantage of Windows Server 2016 with SQL Server 2016, contact us – we can help get you up and running with features such as Storage Spaces Direct which I blogged about a few days ago and SQL Server just officially announced support for at Ignite.
By: Allan Hirt on September 23, 2016 in RDMA, S2D, SOFS, SQL Server 2016, Windows Server 2016 | 1 Comment
It hasn’t been widely publicized yet in SQL Server circles, but Intel just published a brand new benchmark with physical SQL Server 2016 instances and Windows Server 2016. There are a lot of good numbers in there, but the one that should raise an eyebrow (in a good way) is 28,223 transactions per second.
How did they do this? They used new feature of Windows Server 2016 Datacenter Edition called Storage Spaces Direct (S2D). S2D is a new way to deploy a WSFC using “shared storage”, and it can be used either with Hyper-V VMs or SQL Server FCIs directly running on physical hardware. While in some ways it can be compared to VMware’s VSAN or something like Nutanix, the reality is that S2D is a different beast and can be accessed by more than just virtual machines (hence bare metal SQL Server 2016). I’ve demoed S2D in the past with older builds of the Windows Server 2016 Technical Previews, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the RTM bits soon.
S2D allows you to configure very fast local storage such as NVMe-based flash/SSD in each of the WSFC nodes and have those nodes then utilize it (no really … local storage for things like FCIs, and not just TempDB). Note in the picture underneath the specs the hardware is using RDMA NICs. In the immortal words of Jeffrey Snover “don’t waste your money buying servers that don’t have RDMA NICs”. This is true in the Windows Server world on physical hardware. VMware does not support RDMA or Infiniband as of now, but they recently added support for 25 or 50 Gb networks in ESXi 6.0 Update 2. It’d be great if VMware supported RDMA since it would really help with vMotion traffic. Time will tell!
UPDATE: It does look like VMware is edging towards RDMA see here and here for public evidence.
So what is RDMA? RDMA stands for Remote Direct Memory Access, which is a very (VERY) fast way to do networking. You can bingoogle to find more information, such as there are different flavors (RoCE and iWARP), and some say Infiniband and RDMA are one in the same. RDMA connectivity can revolutionize your storage connectivity and is great for things like Live Migration (and in the future, hopefully vMotion) networks. Its massive bandwidth enables things like converged/hyperconverged solutions because there is an insane amount of bandwidth and speed. Hyperconverged is the latest marketing buzzword bingo that every company uses a bit differently, so you’ll want to understand how each one is using it. Here’s the bottom line, though: fast networking is going to be the key to most things going forward including storage access. If you’re still on 1Gb or even just doing 10Gb, you should really consider looking at faster things.
I’ve been talking about RDMA and Scale Out File Server (SOFS) with SQL Server for years. SOFS, when implemented right, uses RDMA. SQL Server natively supports RDMA and SOFS – there’s nothing that needs to be done other than using SMB 3.0 (well, SMB Multichannel and SMB Direct) to store your databases and use something like SOFS to serve it up. In fact, a few years back, I designed and helped to implement a hybrid Hyper-V/physical FCI solution for a customer using RDMA and SOFS. I remember the meeting where I proposed the RDMA aspect of the architecture – people looked at me like I had two heads because it is a left field concept in the SQL Server world. Six months later when we got into a lab, none of us had seen such speed and most of the concerns and doubts faded away. Having seen and played with S2D for over a year now, I’ve seen the potential for how it can be used with SQL Server, and Intel’s new benchmark confirms it. If you care about pure performance with SQL Server, this is going to be an awesome architecture (SQL Server + S2D).
Ignite is just around the corner with the official Windows Server 2016 launch. S2D is here. If you want to take advantage of the speed and power of Windows Server (including 2016), RDMA, S2D, SOFS, Hyper-V, or vSphere (especially when RDMA is released) for SQL Server, contact us. It’s a brave new world, and SQLHA can guide you through it.
By: Allan Hirt on September 6, 2016 in Advice, Hardware, Lab | 9 Comments
Back in 2013, I decided that no matter what laptop I had, in some ways it would be better to have a small, light, portable machine that I could take with me to be more of an uber-VM box. That way, my laptop could always be small/light or I could have VMs running in both. I mean, I can be running 10 – 15 VMs at any given time.
It would also allow me to do things like, say, run VMware Workstation on my laptop but Hyper-V on the small machine. Since I started doing this, others have picked up and run with this idea as well. It’s not uncommon for people to use these kinds of setups now, whereas when I started, I was basically the only one. My setup has recently changed, so I figured I’d discuss what I’m doing now and give a bit of history of how much things have changed in a relatively short time.
When I decided to do this, the initial Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) machines were a bit underpowered for my liking. I initially ordered the DC3217IYE NUC, but it’s i3 was not up to the task – it was more the design than the i3 as I have run VMs on equivalent processors. For Version One of my small but portable VM box, I settled on the Foxconn NanoPC AT-7700. It had:
- i7-3517U CPU
- 16GB of memory
- 1 2.5″ SSD
This worked fairly well. For the barebones machine with no memory or SSD, I paid just under $500 US (since I get readers from all over the world). Being a U processor, it wasn’t always the snappiest configuration nor the coolest (yay fans), but it was a good foray into this type of setup. At that time, 16GB of memory cost me $100.
Fast forward to July 2014, and the “you must power your device on” rule which is still in effect when flying internationally.For what it’s worth, it’s real. I was selected for a random check at London Heathrow prior to a flight back last year. This was post-security right down by the entrance to the plane. Why is this date/event significant? Just prior to that, I purchased the Gigabyte Brix GB-BXi7-4770R I was going to take over to use while speaking. That didn’t happen, but I did use the Brix at home. So in a year I went from a U processor to:
- i7-4770R CPU – a full CPU, not a U
- Still 16GB of memory (204-pin 16GB DIMMs were not quite out yet)
- 1 x mSATA and 1 x 2.5″ drive (woot! more internal storage)
I think I paid $600 – $650 for it. The Brix is a hefty little thing, and while powerful, has its share of issues in my opinion. The fan is nearly always on (granted, I push these boxes), and running a server OS is no picnic. To be perfectly honest, the general problem with these setups is this: if you want to run a server OS such as Windows Server 2012 R2, driver support is non-existent or trial-by-error to get certain things to work. The last time I was using the Brix a graphics update nearly broke it. Ultimately, it’s not the best choice – especially today.
What all this meant was I needed to maintain a 16GB-based laptop which I was fine with as my main portable. Since I couldn’t take these with me, they became extra home virtualization/lab boxes. The Vaio Z Canvas I got in June of 2015 (which has the i7-4770HQ) is the best portable box/laptop I’ve ever had, and I’m hoping they do an update.
Fast forward to now. As I inevitably do, I push limits and 16GB is becoming less tenable for a configuration for testing and demoing. Again, I love my Z Canvas – it never gets hot nor do I ever hear the fan (except when updating Windows …). I also have more and more of a need to have a dual Hyper-V/VMware setup for various reasons. Running Hyper-V under VMware is possible, but not the best configuration. This configuration would never be my main portable VM box, but due to some customer work and what I need to finish the book over the next little bit, I needed something. Its first public debut will be for tomorrow’s 24 Hours of PASS – Summit Preview Edition where I will be doing the session “A Closer Look at Distributed Availability Groups” at 17:00 GMT (1PM Eastern/10 AM Pacific).
Enter the new Intel NUC – the NUC6i7KYK. Instead of just shipping less powered NUCs, Intel decided to ship a full blown one. First and foremost, it supports Windows Server 2012 R2 with its drivers, which is a huge selling point if you want to have a home lab and want to run something like Hyper-V not in the desktop OS. you can do things like Shared VHDX which simplifies FCI configurations (but also complicates and can cause other issues that are fixed in Windows Server 2016). A few weeks back, I picked one up. It’s configured with:
- i7-6770HQ (basically the newer version of the processor of what is in my Z Canvas)
- 32GB of memory (I paid $114 at MicroCenter; it’s usually about $120 on Amazon)
- It only has M.2 slots for drives, but it has two of them. More on that in a minute.
I wanted instant gratification, so I got mine at my local MicroCenter for $599. As of today, it’s $569.99 on Amazon. Talk about how far we’ve come! The new NUC is very light without the AC adapter/power brick. It ships with the skull cover which is not exactly my taste, and they include a plain one and a tool to change it, so I did. As you can see in Figure 1, it’s just slightly longer than a DVD and not much thicker than it.
Figure 1. New NUC vs. DVD case
Most people may be used to either more standard 2.5″ drives (SSD or HDD) or mSATA. This NUC only takes SSDs which have the M.2 form factor. An M.2 SSD looks similar to a stick of gum. Figure 2 shows what one looks like. For this build, I decided to go all out. I got what is the top of the line right now. These are not your normal M.2 drives. Sure, I could have “cheaped out” and purchased something like two Samsung Evo 850 1TB which are only about $350, and it would have been fine..
Figure 2. M.2 form factor SSD
Everyone who knows me I tend to do “go big or go home”, so I got what is arguably the best as of today – two 1TB NVMe M.2 2280 drives. The first is the hard-to-find OEM only Samsung SM961 1TB drives which is rated at 3200 MB/s for sequential reads and 1800 MB/s for sequential writes, and 450K IOPS for both 4K random reads and writes. It’s a smokin’ drive! The second one is the new OCZ (nee Toshiba) RD400 series (the RVD400-M22280-1TB) which is nice, but not as fast as the SM961. You can see its specs here.
I know there are some of you out there (including Max who is my business partner) who prefer to build PCs and pick things like power supply, case, etc. I am not that guy. I’ve done it, but I don’t geek out on that stuff. With this NUC, you unscrew the bottom, pop in the memory and drives, and away you go. Figure 3 shows what the NUC looks like with everything installed. I can’t say enough about how easy it is to get up and running with this.
Figure 3. Inside the NUC6i7KYK
I’ve set this up with one drive running Windows 10 with VMware Workstation 12, and the other running Windows Server 2012 R2. Again, thanks to Intel for supporting Windows Server 2012 R2 with drivers for the NUC. I did try to use Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 5, but had driver issues (even when I tried to upgrade from Windows Server 2012), so I will wait until it is fully supported by Intel. This has been MUCH easier than the Brix and I’ve had no stability issues. Intel’s BIOS utility is also well thought out. You will want to make sure that the CPU power saving setting is disabled (it is on by default) if you want the best performance. Like my Z Canvas, Intel did a wonderful job with system design. I rarely hear the fan and it stays very cool even when running quite a few VMs.
So if you’re building a new lab or even want a new home PC (even if it’s just for music or watching video), I think you can’t beat the new Intel NUC6i7KYK. You don’t have to load yours up like I did with top-of-the-line SSDs and 32GB of memory, but for about $1000, you will have something very powerful and for equivalent money, we’ve come a long way since 2013 and Version 1. Because I can travel with it in the US, it may come with me to PASS Summit but we’ll see … it’s too soon to tell.