WARNING: Distributed Network Names and Distributed Availability Groups

By: on February 23, 2021 in Availability Groups, Distributed Network Name, SQL Server 2019, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2019, Windows Server Failover Cluster | No Comments

Distributed Network Names (DNNs) are a relatively new Windows Server Failover Cluster (WSFC) concept. Up in Azure, DNNs effectively eliminate the need for an internal load balancer (ILB). The ILB allows applications and end users to be able to connect to an AG’s listener or the FCI after failing over to another Iaas VM. You should not really be using DNNs for any on premises deployments.

DNNs are supported as of SQL Server 2019 CU2 and require Windows Server 2016 or later. I wrote more about them in my blog post Configure a WSFC in Azure with Windows Server 2019 for AGs and FCIs. Go there if you want to see what they look like and learn more.

Right now, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend the use of DNNs for listeners or FCIs if you are using Enterprise Edition. Why?

DNNs do not work with a distributed AG which is an Enterprise Edition only feature. A distributed AG is something nearly many customers who have Enterprise Edition implement either for disaster recovery andor migration. If you want to use a distributed AG, you will need an ILB for the underlying AGs and/or FCIs. As far as I know, this is not officially documented anywhere on Microsoft’s site. I did confirm this limitation of DNNs with them.

If you use Standard Edition or think you will never use a distributed AG, you can use a DNN for AGs and FCIs in Azure. For D/R across regions (or on premises to Azure), that means deploying a stretched WSFC which is inherently a more complex architecture or using something like log shipping.

If anything changes, I’ll be sure to update this blog post.

In the meantime, if you would like Microsoft to add support for distributed AGs with DNNs, go add your vote over at Uservoice.

Technical Debt – The (Not So) Silent Crisis

By: on February 16, 2021 in Advice, Business Continuity, Technical Debt | No Comments

Here in the USA, many are experiencing unprecedented winter weather. For example, parts of Texas are without power and heat and experiencing blackouts. A big focus of what I do for customers – business continuity – has to account for things like the power going down. A few years ago California had rolling blackouts in the summertime. Austin tried that in this 2021 storm – and stop me if you’ve heard this before – the plan did not work since what happened isn’t what they expected. From this Austin-American Statesman article:

Austin Energy’s plan was to rotate the outages, meaning more neighborhoods would’ve shared the no-electricity burden for the entire city, for a period not to exceed 40 minutes. But the rotation was not possible, Sargent said, because it would have disrupted service for those critical operations.

There is a reason I strongly recommend testing all continuity plans. For IT folks, you do not just want your servers literally powering off. If that happens, pray you experience no data corruption. How are your backups? Test them recently?

Having said that, the Houston Chronicle wrote a damning article. Here’s the part I want to focus on:

“The ERCOT grid has collapsed in exactly the same manner as the old Soviet Union,” said Hirs. “It limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.

“For more than a decade, generators have not been able to charge what it costs them to produce electricity,” said Hirs. “If you don’t make a return on your money, how can you keep it up? It’s like not taking care of your car. If you don’t change the oil and tires, you can’t expect your car to be ready to evacuate, let alone get you to work.”

Some of what is happening in Texas is not only due to Mother Nature but also partially because of technical debt. Old, aging infrastructure eventually buckles and sometimes fails. Technical debt is not just an IT problem. Real life examples such as this bring the concept front and center.

Kicking the proverbial can down the road and saying things like “We’ll worry about that later, it’s fine now” is often what makes the end results so painful. Neglect increases risk whether it is intentional or not. Max and I help customers so these big leaps incur less risk and pain including managing external dependencies.

Look at your company if you are a FTE or your customers if a consultant. How many applications and servers have not been even looked at because they “just work” and “it/they is/are fine”? Budget is always a concern, but to paraphrase the old adage, you will pay now or pay later. Paying later is often more expensive. Insert your own scenario or question here but answer this:

What is the actual cost if that system/application/server fails or is unavailable? I bet it is more than if things had been dealt with all along or right from the start. You can sometimes avoid a quadruple bypass.

For those of you affected by this weather, my heart goes out to you. Stay safe and warm. Even though we are in the midst of a pandemic, please check in with neighbors and loved ones.

We must be prepared both in life and in business to handle both the expected and unexpected which also means managing your technical debt. This is what we help our customers do every day at SQLHA, so if you want to ensure your business can not only be resilient but also in a good place to manage handle technical debt, contact us today.

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

By: on February 1, 2021 in Advice | No Comments

The last time I did any appreciable travel pre-COVID-19 was late January 2020. I went down to NYC for a customer meeting. My next trip was supposed to be SQLBits in the UK in March which never happened for obvious reasons. For the better part of the past 20 years, I’ve flown 50 – 100,000 miles per year. Some people I know fly more than that. There are two ways I could have handled the sudden and enforced change in my life: look at it as a problem and be miserable or lean into it and make something of it.

At first, I must be honest and say I was bummed and missed being out there. What I came to realize is that this past year has become a blessing in disguise. Let me explain.

Nearly 20 years on the road does things to your life – both good and bad. There were stretches I was home and sometimes travel came in spurts, but I didn’t earn lifetime status with American Airlines and Marriott because I am a homebody.

What I realized quickly in my forced “staycation” is that I was weary. All those years on the road which came to a sudden halt was like getting off a treadmill still running at full speed. I needed a reset both mentally and physically. Just as COVID was kicking in, I was dealing with a hand issue that was not only hampering my ability to type (affecting work) but also made it hard to play bass. I also realized I had a backlog of projects and other things personally and professionally that were long neglected for one reason or another.

For example, I’ve never worked in an office when at home. I not only set one up, but I figured out a lot of stuff which will influence some exciting things I will announce in the upcoming months. I just never had dedicated time to deal with setting one up when I was home a few days here, maybe a week or two there. Even when I was home, I was working all the time or trying to squeeze one more rehearsal in because I may not be able to play for weeks on end. I didn’t allow myself to slow down. I had to cram something into every moment. That’s normal until it isn’t.

A big silver lining is that 2020 was a busy year for SQLHA. I basically didn’t have downtime all year and just this past week was the first one I took a breath. I am VERY thankful for the work as I know some were not. We have great customers (why aren’t you one? contact us today ;)). I never take it for granted.

Even with being busy, I made myself a priority. I not only feel the best physically I have in years but also rejuvenated. Part of that rejuvenation is being inspired. For example, before these two recent blog posts, I realized I hadn’t written one in nearly six months. I just wasn’t feeling it.

Did 2020 suck in many ways? You bet. It was not all sunshine and roses. I’ll just say this: I certainly have more salt than pepper in my hair after 2020.

Realistically I probably won’t be hitting the road in any meaningful way until later in 2021 or early 2022 since vaccines are just rolling out. Most countries are closed for visitors. Even travel here in the US is iffy to me at the moment. I’m going to continue making lemonade out of lemons by checking items off the aforementioned list of backlogged projects. I know I can’t tackle them all at once, but it feels good to be making forward progress. I am also making sure I give myself some time, too. Self-care matters. You’re no good to anyone if you’re exhausted.

When the time comes, I’ll be grateful to be out and about again and am looking forward to seeing all of you outside of a screen. I know one thing for sure: I will appreciate it that much more. Until then, stay safe and healthy.

Closing in on 30 Years in the Database World

By: on January 28, 2021 in Advice | 1 Comment

It was the fall of 1991. I applied for and landed a quality assurance internship at SQL Solutions in Burlington, MA which was located at 8 New England Executive Park right next to the Burlington Mall. SQL Solutions was purchased by Sybase not long after. I kept that internship through the end of graduation in 1994 and there’s no question it literally set up the rest of my professional career.

I always find it interesting how one thing, one event, one interaction can sometimes change the course of your life – good or bad. I’ve been on both sides of that.

I always went home in the summertime, but when back in MA for college, I was at Sybase twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday if memory serves me correctly). Two of the people I worked closely with and were my direct supervisors were women I still have the utmost respect for today. I’ve never seen gender, color of someone’s skin, religion, etc., as a problem then or now. No one should. I learned a lot in those two years, and I am forever thankful to everyone I worked with at Sybase. In fact, one of the people I met I wound up playing years later in various jazz ensembles (he’s a guitar player). Small world.

Part of me thought I’d land a permanent job at Sybase, but that wasn’t meant to be, and I believe things worked out how they should have. The skills I acquired in those two years gave me the foundation to land my first job post-college doing QA using FoxPro (then Visual FoxPro) for a company that did medical software. In reality, it set me up for life since I’m still tinkering with databases today.

In a harbinger of things to come, I once got in trouble in that job because I automated part of what I was supposed to do using Visual Basic and Excel macros. The results were predictable, so why would I eyeball that? Let a process tell me if it was good or bad. Was I DevOps before DevOps was cool? (kidding here, folks) That little “stunt” landed me on a PIP which I survived but it taught me a valuable lesson.

I can see why automating rubbed some the wrong way – here’s this young upstart at the tender age of maybe 23 trying to tell us how to do our job. I was just trying to free my time up to be more efficient and save my time for the stuff that needed my attention. It’s funny how automation and other things are commonplace now but were not then.

The events of the past year when we’ve all been stuck at home has given us time to reflect and see how we want or need to move forward and improve. I have always looked forward, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look to the past for inspiration. I look fondly on the early years of my career. In some ways I’ve come so far, but in others, I haven’t gone very far at all. I think I found my calling early if I wasn’t going to be a full-time musician but I marched to the beat of my own drummer and I’d like to think I still do to a degree. I’m certainly older. Wiser and smarter? I hope so. Better filter? Those who know me will have varying opinions here.

I’d like to think my success to date has outweighed my failures and shortcomings. I’m a work in progress. We all are. This is why even 30 years in, I try my best to learn and do new things knowing in some cases it will be difficult or I may be ahead of the curve.

A recent interview with Tomo Fujita by Mary Spender struck a huge chord with me. Paraphrasing what Tomo said at one point is this: teachers are not better than students and can learn from them even though they are still helping the student. This one quote stuck with me: “(A) teacher is just a great student.” Fast forward to about 8:37 if you want to see that interaction. It’s such a good interview where even if you are not a musician, you can apply a lot of what Tomo says to your life beyond that little bit.

I’m no longer that early 20-something but I learn something from all of my customers and students (including anyone who attends a webinar, etc.). I may not be the smartest person in the room and I’m totally fine with that but I’m at the proverbial table for a reason and it’s not just my boyish good looks and charm (laugh – it’s a joke). I’ll never try to be all things to all people; it’s impossible. I know my limitations. I can only attempt be the best me I can be at any given moment.

That 20-something also couldn’t have imagined one internship would one day allow him to travel the world and speak to, work with, and teach thousands of people. There are very few things as humbling when people tell you how you’ve inspired them or helped them and it made an impact.

Learn from your mistakes. Learn from every experience – good or bad. Learn from those around you. You never know what may shape and spark things to come … and remember to give back.


We Want YOU to Help the RDBMS Licensing Session at VMworld 2020

By: on August 3, 2020 in Licensing, SQL Server, Vmware, VMworld | No Comments

Hello everyone. Dave Welch from House of Brick (Blog | Twitter) and I will be co-presenting session HCP1634 “Licensing Oracle and SQL Server on vSphere” at VMworld 2020 this September. I will be focusing on SQL Server while Dave will be covering Oracle. Many of you may only use one of the database engines, while a fair number of you may have both in your data centers (or cloud providers). We know it’s going to be a great session but we want your input to make it even better.

Because VMworld 2020 is going to be virtual that means some sessions (including ours) will be pre-recorded. That puts a damper on interaction. We’d like to change that as much as possible and make it feel as if you were there in the proverbial room with us. Specifically, we would like to know some of your pain points around licensing SQL Server and/or Oracle in virtualized environments (on premises and/or cloud) as well as glean information about what you deploy so our session can reflect the audience. Normally we would poll the room at various points during the session, but that won’t be possible. We’re also taking questions that we’ll incorporate into the session as well. We cannot promise we will get to every single one, but historically, the licensing session has left quite a bit of time for Q&A, and we want to be able to still do that. The only way to make that happen is to gather them ahead of time.

How do you participate? It’s easy – take our survey and fill out the relevant bits that apply to you. Any names or e-mail addresses, organization name, and role information provided is completely optional. We will not use them for promotional purposes nor store them permanently. If we use your question, the name will allow us to possibly follow up should we need to do so.

The survey is live now and will close at midnight on August 11th. What are you waiting for? Go fill it out!

We thank you in advance and we will “see” you virtually at VMworld 2020.