SQL Server

Practical SQL Performance Troubleshooting

DBA daily life is always hectic. They receive many issues ranging from network, performance, security, or application. I had collected many scripts and tools since couple of years ago. They are very useful for ad-hoc troubleshooting and diagnose the problem on the spot.

When I mentioned ad-hoc means the ability to locate and diagnose the problem quickly, without collecting data with SQL Profiler or Perfmon. I’m not saying that ad-hoc approach is better, but there are many situations when we just do not have enough time to collect the data while my users are screaming. The DMVs become handy tools for this purpose. It shipped since SQL Server 2005, and has been improved in 2008. I always has those DMVs in my shortcut folder, or in most cases in my thumb drive.

I had the opportunity to do demo on this topic at Singapore SQL User Group meeting last month. The response was fantastic, knowing that we have many free scripts to solve our daily problem. I promised to upload all presentation and sample codes, so here they are:

How to prepare for Exam 70-432

I received this question all over again during my daily jobs teaching SQL Server. I was tempted to create a guide base on my personal experience, but the time really don’t like me. Not until I received invitation to deliver short lecture for NUS student last month.

They were preparing for Exam 70-432: SQL Server  2008 Implementation and Maintenance. It is a foundation exam for SQL DBA. It test our knowledge on daily administration and a bit of development job. I wrapped up couple of important clues and tips, and compile them in PPT slides. You may download it here:

Upgrading to Reporting Services 2008 R2

Well now SQL Server 2008 R2 has been released, now what? I want to take advantage all of cool stuff in Reporting Services 2008 R2. The obvious thing is I have to upgrade the existing report. There are couple of upgrade path supported:

  • From SSRS 2005 to SSRS 2008 R2
  • From SSRS 2008 to SSRS 2008 R2

In either path, there are couple of methods that we can use:

  1. In-place upgrade, easy but I strongly not recommend this.
  2. Side by side by attach and detach the database. This will be my main focus in this post.
  3. Obtain report source code, convert with VS2008 and deploy to new server with R2 enabled.

First method was definitely not my choice because does not provide roll back scenario. The 3rd method is nice but it means I have to reconfigure all security settings I have done. I did the second method which is pretty easy as long as we plan carefully, and retain all report permission intact.

I had SSRS 2005 when decided to upgrade. Make sure that it already upgraded to service pack 2. The reason is SSRS 2008 will upgrade the database schema automatically as long as it’s already SP2.

Step 1
Backup ReportServer and ReportServerTempDb from old server. Actually the first one is the most important, but just take both backup just in case :).



Step 2
Backup encryption key from old machine. It’s needed later when we restoring the configuration on R2 machine. The key is important to prove that we are the legitimate person to perform restoration.


Step 3
Install SSRS 2008, this can be in the same machine with different instance or separate machine. Take note that we can actually run it as a service only and still use SQL Server 2005 as a storage for ReportServerDB. I won’t explain about the installation steps because it’s not the interest of this post. I assume that most DBAs know how to do it, otherwise do your homework in search engine :). Make sure to not configure RS during the installation because we will do it manually later.

Step 4
Restore both databases to a new machine. Actually it’s not necessary to restore it to SQL 2008 R2 storage because RS 2008 R2 supports backward compatibility. There are many cases that company just want to have a new RS R2 but still want to utilize old SQL 2005 storage, which is fine. In my case, I restore them to the same instance of SQL 2005 with SP2 because I could not get SQL 2008 one because of licensing issues. Take note that I restore them as different name for example: ReportServer2008R2 and ReportServer2008R2TempDB. This to avoid overwrite of existing RS 2005 DB. If you have separate machine you do not need to pay attention of those naming anyway.

Step 5
Configure Reporting Service 2008 R2. Open Reporting Service Configuration manager to configure virtual directory, service account, and the most important thing: connect to existing ReportServer2008R2. I won’t explain in detail about the basic configuration here, since most DBA should be familiar with it.

The one that needed attention is to connect to existing database rather than creating a new database. In my case, I connect to ReportServer2008R2 which is the one I restored earlier. And here is the magic: RS 2008 R2 will convert and upgrade all RS 2005 schema to R2 automatically. All reports and security configuration are safe inside.



The last thing is to restore the encryption key. We won’t able to start the service without supplying a valid key.


Step 6
Test your server and report. Navigate to http://yourservername/reportserver to check that the service is alive. Then open http://yourservername/reports and see that all reports has been migrated to R2 :)



Presenting Trend with Reporting Services

I posted KPI report in previous entry, something that really cool in SSRS 2008. There is another method to display a trend without much attention on number and achievements. It’s called sparklines. There are many occasions when decision maker only need to know the trend regardless of actual values. A simple visualizations can help them to grab the fact quickly.

Below is an examples of sparklines:


How to create a sparklines report? It is actually simple. In general, there are 3 steps:

  • Create a chart of your choice. Lines chart is a popular form. Bind it to the data of interest such as sales amount, total cost, etc.
  • Squeeze the chart as small as possible but still maintain its readability. Remove all unnecessary details like X and Y axis, legend, series label, etc.
  • Drag and drop the chart in to data area of your report and tidy up for better presentation.

The good thing about sparklines is its dynamic behaviour. Since it is located inside data area, it follows whatever grouping setup in rows and column. The sparklines adopts to drill down report setup along with its grouping, like the following example:

collap expand

The most important thing of creating sparklines are data binding and removing unnecessary chart properties. In the following picture, the chart is bounded to Sum(SalesAmount). I removed X and Y axis and also its title. This is a straight forward task by right clicking every property and select disable or delete.


The last step is to add additional column in report table for sparklines container. I use “Total Trend” as presented in the first picture, then drag and drop the chart in to column and tidy up for better visualization. What about source code? Download sample .rdl file from here:

As usual, it needs AdventureWorksDW2008 sample database which freely available from codeplex.

KPI Report with Reporting Services 2008

Reporting Services 2008 brought many enhancements for data visualization. The queen is Gauge, which is ideal tool to create scorecard and KPI. Imagine the report popping up in front of manager with colourful and fancy indicators like this:


Gauge is only one among many other things. Charting is more fun than ever, with many 3D effects and customizable areas. I also like new feature such as calculated series that deliver moving average report in minutes. No more complex expression to calculate median or moving average data.

Gauge also comes with many type such as radial type with speedometer style. I can display sales indicator and turn the pointer to red, yellow, or green like this:


I did demo and discussion about this topic in Singapore SQL UG meeting on June 25, 2009. As I promised to upload my slide deck, you can grab it here:

Of course I release the source code too for deeper exploration. Apologize that I don’t have enough passion to tidy up the reports for best appearance. It is available in my skydrive:

All reports need AdventureWorks2008 and AdventureWorks2008DW sample, available to download from CodePlex.

Below are some pictures from the meeting:

SQLUG-25Jun 2009-06-25 006

SQLUG-25Jun 2009-06-25 009

Some Notes on SQL Server 2008 Backup compression

I blogged about backup compression here, and I mentioned that the main advantages are saving space, reduced backup and restore time. After discussion with some fellow MVPs, I have to revise my statement in previous post.

Yes, backup compression saves backup and restore time only if there are enough CPU and IO resources available. This is obvious because IO is the biggest bottleneck when reading/writing backup file. Thanks to Aaron and Andrew for remind me about this fact.

However, IO bottleneck is solvable if we use fast removable storage (eSATA for example) instead of internal hard disk. With this way, we can take full advantage of compression without affecting current machine performance.

The SQL Customer Advisory team did a very comprehensive benchmark on this. Below is some screen shoot I cut and paste from their blog post:



The complete post for benchmark by SQLCAT is here


PPT from CTU 2009: Reporting with Data Mining

Well, traditional reporting is quite common. It connects to relational database, perform calculation and agregation, then display it in a nice and neat report. What is data mining reporting anyway?

It is also a report, but connects to mining model rather than traditional RDBMS. Example: a model to forecast the customer behavior created in SSAS. It predicts whether a customer will favor buy or not buy toward our product. Then we have another dataset of our potensial customers. We want to predict their behavior, will they favor BUY over not buying?

We can use SQL Reporting Services, connect to decision trees mining model inside SSAS, and use potensial customers data as input. The result is predicted behaviour and probability whether Mr.Bob will BUY (90%) and Mr. John not buy (60%). Another cool tool is Excel Data Mining Add-In. It uses Excel 2007 as data mining client tool, very nice and intuitive for end user. There is a very nice overview how does it work, read it here.

I also presented this tool, together with SSRS data mining reporting at Singapore CTU on May 23, 2009. The crowd were very enthusiast about this guy. Nice tool very end user power user, event for IT Pro.
My PPT can be downloaded here:

Installing SQL 2005 (X64) on Windows 7 RC

I was forced to install SQL Server 2005 X64 in my system, because my development DB was X64. Since my machine runs Win 7 X64, I was tempted to install on top of it. Anyway, I don’t have a spare machine, and VPC also does not support X64 OS :).

I was thinking that everything should be fine because I did it on my Vista X64 before. But apparently not, after tweak the setting here and there, I was ended up with the following error screen:


I was sure that all pre-requisites has been installed properly, but it was still failed. My first attempt was checking IIS 7 configuration, but everything was fine. The machine passed IIS requirement checking at the beginning of the steps.

I tried the last resort, just checking my luck. Since I saw that SQL Native Client was failed to install, I tried to download the latest SQLNCLI and voila! It was installed successfully after I updated the native client. Moral of the story: Windows 7 X64 RC does not come with the latest SQLNCLI, and the one bundled in SQL 2005 CD is not compatible with Mr. 7.


To sum up, this is the steps to install SQL 05 X64 on Win 7 x64 RC:

Download and install the latest SQL Native client, it’s bundled under SQL 2005 Feature Pack family. I use the one from February 2007 and worked like a magic.


Second, make sure all pre-requisites are installed such as IIS 7 components (ASP.NET, CGI, IIS6 compatibility, etc). This is the case if we want to configure Reporting Services as well.

Once installation finished, update to SQL Server 2005 SP2. Without update, it won’t work because the security policy kicked out Mr. Administrator from SQL sysadmin role :).

That’s all, happy testing …

Sharepoint – Reporting Services Integration

I did presentation for MaxIT event on May 29, 2009 and one of the interesting discussion was SharePoint integration with Reporting Services. I know that SharePoint is hot here in Singapore. I also did demo on some new features of SSRS 2008 such as tablix and charting. My presentation slide can be downloaded here:

There are several advantages of integrating SSRS with SharePoint:

  • Seamless UI for end user. They do not need to jump from one screen to another to open report and SharePoint dashboard at the same time.
  • All reports are deployed as document library, so it follows all SharePoint library setting. It saves lots of time instead of managing report in separate report manager.
  • All reports are under SharePoint security setting, giving better consolidated administrative from SharePoint perspective
  • Render reports inside web part. It makes building SharePoint dashboard faster and easier.

What do we need to configure this:

  • SharePoint Services 3.0 or MOSS 2007, It’s better if upgraded to SP1 or SP2.
  • SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services with SP2, or Reporting Services 2008.
  • Reporting Services add-in for SharePoint. There are 2 versions of add-in: SSRS 2005 and SSRS 2008.

Configuration can be simple (all in one box) or scale up to separate boxes. Below is the logical architecture if SSRS and SharePoint are installed on separate boxes:


Assuming that SharePoint already installed, below are the explanations to do integration.

Install SSRS 2005 + SP2 in the SharePoint box, or separate machine. Just make sure to select “Install Report Server but do not configure” when doing this. The default configuration is native mode instead of SharePoint integrated, so please take note. Once SSRS installed, upgrade to SP2 (minimum) or directly to SP3.

In the case of SSRS 2008, SharePoint integration feature is already built in. Upgrading to SQL 2008 SP1 is recommended but not compulsory. Another improvement of SSRS 2008 is guided installation wizard. Once the installation CD is plugged in, there will be a menu to install SSRS in SharePoint mode instead of native stand alone.

Configure SSRS to integrate with SharePoint. Open SSRS configuration manager and connect to SSRS instance then create a new virtual directory for ReportServer. This should be the address of existing IIS website where the report server to be configured.


Configuring Windows Service and Web Service identity is straight forward. Use Network Service as identity account if it is a single box installation. In the case of scale up scenario, it needs to provide a dedicated SSRS service account from AD and use it as SSRS identity.


The next step is to create a new database for ReportServerDB and make sure to specify database as SharePoint integrated mode. It has to connect to existing SQL Server database instance.


It is not necessary to configure IIS website for Report Manager because SharePoint is our report manager now. Email and execution account configuration can be ignored in the meantime, specially if we do not use automated report delivery by email.

Another part of configuration is inside SharePoint central admin. Install SharePointRS.msi (SharePointRS_X64.msi for 64 bit) in SharePoint box. This package needs to be installed at every front end web server if SharePoint is configured as web farm. By the way, this file is Reporting Services add-in for SharePoint I mentioned earlier. Once installation finished, do IISRESET and open SharePoint Central Admin. A new Reporting Services configuration menu is available.


SharePoint has to know the address of Report Server which is under IIS virtual directory. Security configuration should be in windows integrated mode. This can be done under “Manage integration setting” link.


SharePoint also has to connect to ReportServerDB that already created earlier. Specify the name of SQL Server instance and click OK and specify windows account to connect to SQL Server.


There is another note for multiple boxes scenario: Reporting Services need to have local access to SharePoint object model in order to communicate with SharePoint. It means SharePoint binary has to be installed in SSRS machine, but left it empty without web application. It just needs to join existing SharePoint farm during installation, it is not necessary to create a site collection.

That’s all configuration needed. Now time to test it. Create a new library in SharePoint with the type of Report Library, for example “Sales Report”. Open existing SSRS source code (with Visual Studio of course) and deploy them to SharePoint. The tricky part is now the deployment location has changed. Remember that SharePoint is our report manager now. Below is the deployment configuration in Visual Studio:


What is the difference? Now it connects to SharePoint site as report server instead of http://myserver/reportserver. Data source and report folder location should point to address of “Sales Report” which is created earlier. The Sales Report library should display all reports after the deployment completed successfully.


Clicking “Product Line Sales” bring up SSRS report under SharePoint, nice :).


I don’t like full screen report, can we render them as web part?

Yes, report can be rendered as web part, and with all SharePoint flexibility, just drag and drop to any zones to display them. This web part is actually part of SharePointRS.msi installed previously. The name is Reporting Services viewer web part.


One page may render multiple web part and display them in a nice dashboard as follow:


Managing the report is easy. Everything can be done under SharePoint. Click one of the report and java script popup tells us what all related reporting services setting can be done.


Nice feature eh? Now we have another more reason to implement BI under SharePoint :).

One more thing, Microsoft does provide a comprehensive guide to achieve this integration here.

New in SQL Server 2008: Backup Compression

Backing up database is a routine DBA job. This easy task become a headache when the machine runs out of disk space. We need to cleanup the disk or attach a new one to do the backup. Fortunately, SQL Server 2008 comes with built in compression feature of backup set. We can do backup and compress at the same time. What does it mean?

  • Save disk space, the compressed size is only around 10% of normal backup.
  • Faster backup time.
  • Faster restore time (surprise)!.

This is very convenience approach instead of doing normal backup and compress it with Winzip. According to benchmark I did, Winzip compression works slower than backup with compress on the fly. Not mention that we also have to unzip the file to restore from backup.

I am also surprise because restoring compressed backup is faster than non compressed. Logically, it needs to decompress and restore so it should be slower than restoring normal one. But my benchmark showed the opposite. I modified the AdventureWorks2008 sample database and insert additional data to make it bigger.

Below is my benchmark results with 900 MB size.

  • Backup with no compress: 115 seconds
  • Backup with compress: 49 seconds
  • Restore from non compressed backup : 123 seconds
  • Restore from compressed backup : 113 seconds

So, are you convinced? Here are the scripts to do compressed backup.

Specify with compression when doing a backup:

BACKUP DATABASE AdventureWorks2008
TO DISK = 'C:backupdbadvworksbackupcompress.bak'


The result is a compressed backup file, it’s smaller size then non compressed:


It’s reduced from 900+ MB to only 118 MB, not bad right?

Restoring from compressed backup is straight forward. No additional option required. Just normal restore syntax from the name of backup set.

RESTORE DATABASE AdventureWorks2008
FROM DISK = 'C:backupdbadvworksbackupcompress.bak'

I use with REPLACE option to override existing AdventureWorks2008 database.