Database Deployment: Growing Up

Ryan Booz uses schooling as an extended metaphor for database deployment:

In general, the biggest issues we hit continue to be client customizations to the database (even ones we sanction) and an ever growing set of core-pop data that we manage and have to proactively defend against client changes.  This is an area we just recently admitted we need to take a long, hard look at and figure out a new paradigm.

I should mention that it was also about this time that we were finally able to proactively get our incremental changes into source  control.  All of our final scripts were in source somewhere, but the ability to use SQL Compare and SQL Source Control allowed our developers to finally be a second set of eyes on the upgrade process.  No longer were we weeding through 50K lines of SQL upgrade just to try and find what changed.  Diffing whole scripts doesn’t really provide any good context… especially when we couldn’t guarantee that the actions in the script were in the same order from release to release.  This has been another huge win for us.

This is a view from someone in the middle of the process.  Ryan’s group isn’t pushing everything automatically, but they’re building out to that.

T-SQL Tuesday Roundup

Koen Verbeeck has his roundup of this month’s T-SQL Tuesday:

I asked the SQL Server community to write about their experience/opinion about the changing world we live in and how it impacts their daily job. The response was overwhelming: we had 30 participants in this months blog party!

Here’s an overview of everyone who participated. Take your time to read their stories, as they are very insightful, interesting or just plain fun to read.

There’s a lot of reading this month, with a well above-average turnout.

Thinking About Automation

Chrissy LeMaire has a series of thoughts on this month’s T-SQL Tuesday, and it was worth separating out from the rest of today’s batch:

Y’all know what I’m gonna say here! I love automation and PowerShell. I know for a fact that PowerShell and T-SQL together are the future of SQL Server administration. As someone who often presents about dbatools, the popular SQL PowerShell community project, I’ve seen the excitement and relief that PowerShell automation brings to SQL Server Database Pros.

From making it way easier to migrate entire instances to automating backup testing and verification, PowerShell makes it straight up more enjoyable to be a DBA.

There’s a lot of well-deserved plugging of dbatools.  Hint, hint.

Sundry Thoughts On Change

Here are a few takes on the most recent T-SQL Tuesday.

Dave Mason is feeling overwhelmed:

The 2-year release cycle has been tough for some of us. Other outside forces have compounded the burden. DBAs have had to learn about virtualization and cloud computing. We’ve had to dip our toes in the No-SQL pool, and embrace automation like never before. Soon, if not already, we’ll be working with containers and supporting SQL Server on Linux. Yeah, it’s trite to talk about how “change is a constant”. (Is there anyone unaware of this?) But most seem to agree that the traditional role of the DBA is undergoing a drastic transformation. Others predict it will be completely unrecognizable, if not extinct, in a few years. What’s a DBA to do? Double down on SQL Server and stay the course? Or branch out to a different field like analytics, BI, or data science?

Riley Major says to use your noggin:

This makes sense. In business, you don’t want to be viewed as a cost center. You want to be on the revenue side of the equation. Whether IT is a competitive advantage or just plumbing depends on how it’s being used. If you’re just keeping the lights on, then you may be as critically important as the electricity itself, but you’re a commodity which can be replaced with a cheaper option. On the other hand, if you are providing insight which directs the company to profits, or if you are developing features which grow market share, your value is obvious.

So if you’re on the administration side of IT, you’re naturally more vulnerable in the eyes of the company. You make things possible, but you don’t actually do the things. You have to bring something unique to the table so that you can’t be as easily replaced with a service.

Kenneth Fisher says this is more of the same:

Unfortunately as powerful as these machines became they were expensive, aged out quickly, required knowledgeable people to maintain and sometimes our tasks required more computing power than we had on hand. So some smart people got together and created something new. The Cloud. Someone else maintaining the computers, replacing parts as needed, updating software etc. And then renting out storage and computing power. (If at this point you guessed that I’m saying there are some fairly obvious parallels between the old mainframes and the cloud, well, you are correct.)

Andy Galbraith ties this back to April Fools jokes re: SQL on Linux:

I quietly ignored it and went about my life and job, putting off the problem until later.
Time passed and Microsoft released a “public preview”/CTP of what they began calling “SQL Server vNext” for Linux, and it became more real.  Then they released another, and another – as of this writing the current CTP is version 1.4 (download it here).
I recently realized I hadn’t progressed past my original query:
WHAT DO I DO KNOW?

John Morehouse has a bat:

I work for a fairly slow moving financial institution.  This does not me we don’t adopt new technology but the leadership is very careful when deciding to move in a certain direction. Since we service rural America farmers, these decisions could have a huge impact on the ability of our customers to operate.    The cloud, at least from a database perspective, is not something that I think is even on the radar.  I believe that we will get there eventually, but not in the next year or two I would imagine.

Of course, this also means that I don’t get the shiny new cloud toys to play with either.  I have had the ability to work with the cloud some years ago on a side project, but that was very limited.  It was also at a time where Azure was fairly young and not as robust as it is today. Learning new skills around the Cloud is on my to-do list and one of these days I’ll get to it.  I think with the help of MSDN, it’s a lot easier to play around with new technologies.

There are a lot of good posts on this topic this month.

Risk Vs Opportunity With Technical Advancement

Rob Farley on this month’s T-SQL Tuesday topic:

Does Automatic Tuning in Azure mean the end of query tuners? Does Self-Service BI in Excel and Power BI mean the end of BI practitioners? Does PaaS mean the end of DBAs?

I think yes. And no.

Yes, because there are tasks that will disappear. For people that only do one very narrow thing, they probably have reason to fear. But they’ve had reason to fear for a lot longer than Azure has been around. If all you do is check that backups have worked, you should have expected to be replaced by a script a very long time ago. The same has applied in many industries, from production lines in factories to ploughing lines in fields. If your contribution is narrow, you are at risk.

But no, because the opportunity here is to use the tools to become a different kind of expert. The person who drove animals to plough fields learned to drive tractors, but could use their skills in ploughing to offer a better service. The person who painted cars in a factory makes an excellent candidate for retouching dent repair, or custom paint jobs. Their expertise sets them apart from those whose careers didn’t have the same background.

Read the whole thing.  Rob is characteristically thoughtful.

Inline Outsourcing

Shane O’Neill coins a term:

There’s never enough hours in the day for everything I need to do!

How many times have we heard a complaint similar to that? Especially now-a-days when DBAs are tasked to look after more and more servers and instances. I cannot remember the last time I heard of a DBA taking care of servers in the single digits.

The work of the DBA keeps increasing but the amount of time that we have remains the same. How do we combat this? How do we make it so we are not sprinting just to keep up?

The only answer I have to this problem is this.

Don’t try to re-invent the wheel…let someone else do it.

It’s an interesting riff on the T-SQL Tuesday theme this month.

Azure SQL Automation

Arun Sirpal thinks about Azure automation in the context of how the job market is changing:

This ultimately maps to Query ID 297 where if you click the bar you can see the actual code.

Now, a debate occurred. This code was pretty awful, implicit conversions, GUIDs as cluster keys etc. I took the above code and analysed the execution plan and made some recommendations. I was quickly shut down; I was told to bump up the DTU of the database! Talk about masking the issue with hardware.

Check it out.

Linchpins

Bert Wagner on the ongoing “what happens to my tech job?” question:

Seth Godin discusses the concept of a Linchpin in his same-titled book. A Linchpin is someone who is so good at what they do that they become indispensable to their organization. Linchpins are the kind of people who are self-motivated and are able to consistently deliver quality work. They are integral to the operation of a business, even if they don’t get all of the glamour of having VP or Director in their title.

And why are Linchpins always guaranteed jobs? In one scenario, Linchpins will outgrow their role and be promoted or find a better job. They are always learning and growing in addition to delivering, and so this is the natural procession. In the alternate scenario, if the Linchpin has to lose his or her current job (ie. think company buyouts where entire departments close), they will either 1) become promoted to elsewhere in the company because management recognizes their great skills or 2) they will have no problem finding work elsewhere, especially with great recommendations from their former employer.

It’s an interesting read.

T-SQL Tuesday 88 Roundup

Kennie Nybo Pontoppidan has a roundup for this week’s T-SQL Tuesday:

Last duty for me as a T-SQL Tuesday host is to write up a summary of all the posts. Soooo, here we go…

Kennie goes the extra mile and summarizes each story with a moral.

Indexing Woes

Shane O’Neill relates a tale of trying to create an index with a SQL Agent job.  Easy, right?

Now I’m angry too since I count these failures as personal and I don’t like failing, so I get cracking on the investigation.
Straight away, that error message doesn’t help my mood.
I’m not indexing a view!
I’m not including computed columns!
It’s not a filtered index!
The columns are not xml data types, or spatial operations!
And nowhere, nowhere am I using double quotes to justify needing to set QUOTED_IDENTIFIER on!

SO WTF SQL SERVER, WHY ARE YOU GIVING ME THESE ERRORS???

Read the whole thing.

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