What does RESTORE do?

I was replying to a newsgroup post today, explaining the restore process. I find some confusion in various places about what actually happens during restore, and hopefully below can help a bit:

Fact: All backups contains log records. A log backup contains only of log records (more later on bulk-logged recovery). The different types of database backup contain the log records that was produced while the backup was running – in addition to data pages.
The restore command can perform several things:
  1. Delete the existing database. This happens if you specify the REPLACE option.
  2. Create the existing database. This happens if the database name you specify in the RESTORE command doesn’t exist.
  3. Copy data pages to the same address in each database file as they were when the backup was produced. And of course also copy log records to ldf file. Source for these copy operations is the backup file that you restore from.
  4. REDO. Roll forward transactions based on the log records copied in above step.
  5. UNDO. Rollback all open transaction. Not performed if you specify NORECOVERY (more later on STANDBY option). Database is now accessible, and no further backups can be restored (diff or log backups).
A couple of special cases:
If you are in bulk-logged recovery model, then a log backup performed if you did minimally logged operations since last log backup will contain also data pages (in addition to log records). This type of backup cannot be performed if any of the data files are lost. When you restore from this type of backup, you cannot do point-in-time restore.
The STANDBY option of the RESTORE command does perform UNDO but saves that work to a file you specify. This so that the UNDO work can be undone when you restore a subsequent backup.
I think I managed to compress the topic pretty well, so unless you worked a bit with backup and restore in SQL Server, you might want to read above a couple of times. ūüôā

Does the Resource Governor govern?

Two weeks ago, we did the “SQL¬†2008 Summit” roadshow here in Sweden. We did 4 cities around Sweden in 4 days (http://www.expertzone.se/sql2k8/). It was a bit exhaustive, but even more fun – being able to travel and spend some time with persons wish I could meet more often (Kalen), others I meet regularly but only at workplace (Roger, Patrik, Anna) and yet other persons I just met (George, Per).

One of my presentations was on Resource Governor (RG), and I has this super-simple demo meaning to show CPU throttling. I classified connections to one of two Workload Groups based on login name. One group used a Resource Pool with max CPU at 10% and the other a Resource Pool with max CPU at 90%. Since I have two CPU cores, I started two execution loops for each login. An execution loop uses SQLCMD to login using the appropriate loginID and execute a proc which loops and outputs a counter using RAISERROR and NOWAIT (so we see something happening in the console).

For two of my presentations it worked just as expected. For two¬†presentations it didn’t: the CPU usage looked very very strange – nowhere near what we expected. So, during the final day, I managed to spend some time with Mikael Colliander from MS Sweden. First we couldn’t reproduce the strange behavior, but after several restart, re-boot etc. we could. We now finally got to look at what scheduler each connection was using and there was the answer. One connection (ending up in the pool with max 10% CPU) was alone on one scheduler meaning alone on one CPU! The other three connections (one one on 10% CPU and two on¬†max 90% CPU) was using the other CPU. So for the CPU where we had only one connection (belonging to the pool to be capped at 10% CPU) we just had no contention. So this connection could use everything on that CPU since nobody else was assigned to the CPU.

Now when I understand why this happened, it doesn’t look that strange. But I think we need to be very careful when we monitor resource usage for our connections and are using resource governor. The more CPUs we have the less chance we will see the (perhaps expected) distribution of load.

Preparing for the SQL Summit 2008

I’ve started to produce my presentations for the “SQL Summit 2008”. It is always fun to dive down into the details about some certain feature. For instance one of my presentations is about policy based management, which will also include a few words on configuration servers and also news in general in SSMS. So I took the time to look around in SSMS for new stuff and I found surprisingly much. This is one of the upsides with speaking, you need to take your time to actually study a broader area about a subject, and then dive down into details.

The SQL Summit 2008 will take place from Oct 6 to Oct 10, over 4 cities in Sweden (Ume√•, Malm√∂, G√∂teborg and Stockholm). I’m happy to be in good company among other speakers like Per Westerlund, Roger Cevung, George Th√∂rngren and Patrik L√∂wendahl. And I’m really happy that the keynote (and other presentations) will be delivered by my good friend Kalen Delaney. The slightly sad part is that one my my presentations is scheduled at the same time as one of Kalen’s. But who knows, perhaps my room will be empty <g>?

Check it out at SQL Summit 2008.

Error messages in 2008 Books Online

I just learned from Gail E. at MS that the system error messages are all documented in the SQL Server 2008 Books Online.

For instance, search for 823. See the hits? Now, for instance, select the “Errors 1 – 999” page. Press the “Sync with Table of Contents” button. Look to the left, in the “Contents” section. You now see that the errors messages are divided into sections (1-999, 1000-1999, …). You also see where in BOL to find these sections:

SQL Server 2008 Books Online
Database Engine
Technical Reference
Errors and Events Reference
Database Engine Events and Errors
System Error Messages

Also note that some messages has a hyperlink which takes us to a section where we can read more about this particular error message (823 is such an example).

Rebuild master in SQL Server 2008

You might have read an earlier blog entry about my problems to remove a Data Collector (DC) information in SQL Server 2008. I still haven’t found any info on how to do this, but my questions in the MVP group triggered some activity.

Bob Ward looked into how to rebuild the system databases. This was on my list to try (after removing DC config and if that didn’t work rebuilding msdb). But Books Online had very little information on how to actually do the rebuild. Since there were quite many changes in setup between 2005 and 2008, I didn’t feel like trial and error based on how we did this in 2005.

Bob helped me out with some information on how to do the rebuild and it is very easy! I now have a bat file which does rebuild of three instances – and it only takes 5 minutes. And even better: no installation media is required – and it also remembers the collation for my system databases!

Enough said. Check out Bob’s blog post at: http://blogs.msdn.com/psssql/archive/2008/08/29/how-to-rebuild-system-databases-in-sql-server-2008.aspx

Execution plan re-use, sp_executesql and TSQL variables

Let me start by saying that the contents of this post is not very advanced. If you have read the excellent paper “Batch Compilation, Recompilation, and Plan Caching Issues in SQL Server 2005”,¬†https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc966425.aspx ¬†and understood it, you would already know below, and much more…

I was reading a thread in the open newsgroups today (.tools, posted by Mike), about an advice that the SQL Server 2005 Database Engine Tuning Advisor apparently gave. It advices to replace sp_executesql usage with declaring TSQL variables and using those in the WHERE clause. Translated to the Adventureworks database, it advices that instead of 1) below, we should use 2) below.

EXEC sp_executesql N'SELECT FirstName, LastName, PersonType, Title
FROM Person.Person
WHERE LastName = @P1',
N'@P1 nvarchar(50)', 'Diaz'

SET @P1 = 'Diaz'
SELECT FirstName, LastName, PersonType, Title
FROM Person.Person
WHERE LastName = @P1

Now, I could not reproduce this (make DTA give me the same advice, to replace 1) with 2) ). Perhaps I misunderstood the poster in the group, it is because I’m running SQL Server 2008 DTA and engine, I’m not looking in the right place for that advice, my data isn’t representative, I’m running the DTA with some other settings, etc..¬†But say that DTA does indeed give such an advice, would would it do that? To be honest, I don’t know. It can hardly have enough information to determine whether 1) or 2) is the best choice.

In short: Say we have an index on the LastName column and the name we look for can either be a very common name, like perhaps “Smith”, or a not so common name, like “Karaszi”. For the more common name, a table scan might be the best choice, where for the not-so-common name, an index seek it probably best thing. OK, a very simple example, but serves well for this discussion.

Back to the difference between 1) and 2). There are potentially very important differences between the two:

For 1), SQL Server will determine a plan based on the contents of the parameter when the plan is created. I.e., it can determine selectivity based on that and determine whether it is a good idea to use an index or not. The plan is then cached and can be re-used. But what if we for the first execution pass in something which is very selective, but typically we are not very selective? Or the other way around? I,e, the plan for one case might not be optimal for some other case. This is where we have new optimizer hints in 2005 like OPTIMIZE FOR and the RECOMPILE hints. I will not go into details about these here, since I’m focusing on the differences between 1) and 2). See the white paper I mentioned, and of course Books Online, for more details.

For 2), SQL Server (or rather: the optimizer) has no knowledge of the contents of the variable when the plan is produced. So it cannot use the statistics to determine selectivity. In above case, it instead uses density (stored with the statistics, assuming such exists for the column). Density is basically the 1/ number of unique values for the column(s). This might be a good representation for a typical lastname, but perhaps not too good for a very common or a very uncommon lastname. Now, in 2005, we have hints for these situations as well (RECOMPILE), but again, that is not the point here.

In order for DTA to give the best advice here, it would have to know about the distribution over the data for that column and also have many executions of that query to see if “all” executions are using a typical value (sp_executesql might be better) or if the stored density value is a good representation for “all” queries that are passed from the clients. I very much doubt that DTA has this level of sophistication. Basically, I don’t know why it advices this. There might be other aspects, like “avoid dynamic SQL” (which whether that holds for this case we could argue in another post), but DTA is about performance, not best practices.

Bottom line is that these things are not simple and we should be very cautious with “rules of thumbs”.

Here’s some TSQL code to demonstrate the differences between 1) and 2). As always, only execute after you read and understood the code!

--Create a copy of the person table
--We will have lots of "Diaz" and very few "Gimmi"
FROM Person.Person

CREATE INDEX x ON dbo.p(LastName)

--Create lots of Diaz
SELECT  BusinessEntityID + 30000, PersonType, NameStyle, Title, FirstName, MiddleName, N'Diaz', Suffix, EmailPromotion, AdditionalContactInfo, Demographics, rowguid, ModifiedDate

--Make sure we have up-to-date statistics

--Verify execution plan and I/O cost
--for table scan with low selectivity
--and index seek with high selectivity

SELECT * FROM p WHERE LastName = 'Diaz'
--20183 rows, table scan, 7612 pages

SELECT * FROM p WHERE LastName = 'Gimmi'
--1 row, index seek, 3 pages

--sp_execute alternative

--Table scan will be used for both because of execution plan re-use
EXEC sp_executesql N'SELECT FirstName, LastName, PersonType, Title
WHERE LastName = @P1',
N'@P1 nvarchar(50)', 'Diaz'
--20183 rows, table scan, 7612 pages

EXEC sp_executesql N'SELECT FirstName, LastName, PersonType, Title
WHERE LastName = @P1',
N'@P1 nvarchar(50)', 'Gimmi'
--1 row, table scan, 7612 pages

--Other way around
--Index search will be used for both because of execution plan re-use
EXEC sp_executesql N'SELECT FirstName, LastName, PersonType, Title
WHERE LastName = @P1',
N'@P1 nvarchar(50)', 'Gimmi'
--1 row, index seek, 3 pages

EXEC sp_executesql N'SELECT FirstName, LastName, PersonType, Title
WHERE LastName = @P1',
N'@P1 nvarchar(50)', 'Diaz'
--20183 rows, index seek, 20291 pages

--Alternative using variable
SET @P1 = 'Diaz'
SELECT FirstName, LastName, PersonType, Title
WHERE LastName = @P1
--20183 rows, index seek, 20291 pages

SET @P1 = 'Gimmi'
SELECT FirstName, LastName, PersonType, Title
WHERE LastName = @P1
--1 rows, index seek, 1 pages

--Same plan even though very different selectivity
--and emptying plan cache in between

--Estimated 33 rows for both above.
--See if that is drawn from statistics density?

--Formula for density: 1/#OfUniqueValuesInColumn

--Does that match density in index statistics?

--How many rows in the table?

--So how many rows would we estimate based on density?
SELECT 0.00082918739 * 39944
--Yep, 33 rows.

--I.e, for the variable alternative, SQL Server has no
--knowledge of contents of those variables so it must use density instead.

--Clean up:

Rebuilding msdb on SQL Server 2008

Because of the problems I had removing Data Collector I decided to rebuild msdb. You probably heard about instmsdb.sql, but it was a long time since I actually used it. I asked about rebuilding in the MVP group and Dan Jones (MS) pointed me to a Blog post from Paul Randal on how to do this on SQL Server 2005. Here’s Paul’s blog post:


Since above is for SQL Server 2005 I realized that it might not work smoothly on 2008. And It didn’t. Below are some of the things I discovered (also posted as a comment on Paul’s blog). Read below in light of Paul’s blog. I should also say that nowhere does Paul states that his instructions work on 2008. It was me taking a chance. ūüôā

You need to add startup parameter -s <instancename> if it is a named instance. Now, this I knew, but for the sake of other potential readers…
I initially started the instance from the Windows services applet by adding -T3608. That didn’t allow for detaching msdb. So I started from an OS command prompt and also added -c. This allowed me to detach msdb.
I now ran instmsdb, but that produced a number of errors. Here are a few comments about some of them:
* Complaints on xp_cmdshell. I did try enabling this first and then ran instmsdb again but same result.
* Bunch of errors when creating various Data Collector objects. This wasn’t good, because cleaning up DC was the reason to rebuild msdb in the frist place.
* 3 errors about sp_configure and -1 wasn’t allowed value (two for Agent Xps and one for xp_cmdshell).
Just for the sake of trying, I now tried to connect to the instance using SSMS Object Explorer. But I now got some error regarding Agent Xp’s when connecting. I tried to explicitly enabling Agent XP’s using sp_configure but same error. When connected there’s no node in Objects Explorer for Agent.
I took this as an indication that Agent isn’t healthy. Whether it was me doing something fishy or it isn’t as easy as just running insmsdb.sql for SQL Server 2008 – I don’t know. But I’m in for a rebuild of system databases. This isn’t that bad since it is a just a test machine. But these issues might serve as example why you want to follow Paul’s initial advice: always backup msdb (also on test machines).

We’ve come a long way …

For various reasons I decided that I want virtual machines with older (pre-2008) SQL Server versions available on my various machines. For me, virtualization (in this case VPC) is great:

  • I rarely use these installs, most often I just boot it and check some detail.
  • I don’t have to litter the host OS.
  • I don’t pay anything (performance) in the host OS, except for some disk. The overhead for an extra XP install is some 1.5 GB which nowadays isn’t that bad.

So I did a several copies of my XP VPC folder (I don’t do diff drives for various reasons).

And then started with installing SQL Server 2000 (I already had VPCs with 2005). I do work with 2000 now and then, but I mainly use SSMS to connect to 2000. So it was a bit of flashback to play around with EM again.

Next was 7.0. OK, 7.0 didn’t look that different from 2000…

Installing 6.5 was more fun. I had forgot for instance that SQL Server Agent was called “SQL Executive” back then. Also, Enterprise Manager was a totally different tool compared to 7.0/2000.

I decided to skip 6.0 since the 6.5 BOL is basically 6.0 BOL with added “What’s new” section. So having above 6.5 VPC for me also covers 6.0.

The most interesting part was to 4.21a for NT:

I first realized I made a mistake when copying the files from diskettes to CD – I put all the files in same directory. Setup expects some folder structure like DISK1, DISK2 etc. And since I don’t have the diskettes anymore, how to know what files go in which folder? What I ended up doing was to copy the setup files locally (a whopping 4.4 MB !) and modify SETUP.INF. Interestingly enough I did figure out how to modify the INF file successfully. Imagine doing that today – without knowing anything about the installation…

Anyhow, installation was successful and I checked out what tools we had. Hehe, this is where nostalgia kicked in. I already have a OS/2 VPC with SQL Server 1.1, but I can barely navigate that OS nowadays. And there were no GUI’s at all with SQL Server 1.x. Since I hadn’t seen SQL Server 4.x for many many years now, I think this was more fun than re-living 1.1.

What strikes you are of course the tools. Looking at the engine (using “Books Online”) you mainly see that a lot of todays functionality wasn’t there of course. But using the GUI makes it so much more apparent what was there and what wasn’t. And of course the whole feel of the GUIs were totally different.

The help file start page has some 9 buttons, for various sections like Datatypes, Expressions, LIKE and Wildcards, Transact-SQL Statements etc. No tree-like structure…

The release notes explain for instance that Extended stored procedures are a new thing and with that came SQL Mail.

What we nowadays call SQL Server Agent was called “SQL Monitor”.

The “SQL Administrator Win32” tool had some very rudimentary dialogs for looking at “devices”, “DB”, “Login” etc. There are some dialogs available from the menus like “Database Consistency Check”, “configure SQL Server”. I could not find for instance where to schedule backups with SQL Monitor…

The “SQL Object Manager Win32” tool wasn’t actually that bad. The “Objects” window list one row per object in the database and you can double-click it to “edit” it. Interesting enough I believe this is the first version where we had “Generate Script” functionality in the tools, for instance. Hehe, there’s even a GUI for assisting in creating a SELECT statement with rows allowing you to type text for the WHERE clause, the ORDER BY clause etc.

There’s a separate tool called “SQL Transfer Manager” which functionality over the years have been exposed in various places (EM, DTS, SSIS, DMO, SMO etc).

Back to reality. Firing up SSMS 2008 I realize how much has changed… The engine has so much more functionality. Perhaps only, say, 10-15% of what we have today we also had in, say, 4.x – if even that. Not to mention things like SSAS, SSIS, RS, etc. So, even though it was fun nostalgia to fire up an old version, I really enjoy being where we are today. ūüôā

Missing F8 or ctrl-N in SSMS 2008?

Short story: Turn on 2000 keyboard layout and then back to Standard layout.

Long story:

This topic has been discussed in both the MCT (MS Certified Trainer) as well as MVP groups. Also, see http://sqlblog.com/blogs/andy_leonard/archive/2008/08/08/sql-server-2008-management-studio-function-keys.aspx, including the comments.

The mystery seems to be that in some cases you do have F8 and Ctrl-N in Standard layout, where in other cases you don’t. For instance I did a check on¬†4 installations where one had the desired layout (with F8) and the others didn’t:

  1. VPC. XP. Clean install. No prior SQL Server stuff. No F8 or ctrl-N.
  2. My laptop, XP. I have 2000, 2005 and 2008 tools as well as 2000, 2005 and 2008 instances installed. No F8 or ctrl-N.
  3. My desktop machine, Vista. I have 2005 and also 2008 instances. I have had 2005 SSMS which was uninstalled before I installed 2008 SSMS. Here both ctrl-N and F8 work.
  4. VPC. XP. Had 2005 both tools and instance which were upgraded to 2008. No F8 or ctrl-N.

I was doing training on 2008 last week and I really needed to find my shortcut keys (I couldn’t keep stumbling after menus all the time – too slow). So I switched to what I’m familiar with: the 2000 keyboard layout. I recall thinking for myself that perhaps if I now switch back I will have the desired Standard layout (F8 and Ctrl-N). I forgot all about it until today reading a post in the MVP group from Craig Beere suggesting exactly this. To confirm, I tried this in both a virtual machine (1 above) as well as my laptop (2 above) and it worked indeed.

One thing to watch out for: There doesn’t seem to be a way to go back to Standard layout *without* F8 and Ctrl-N. For instance when you get F8 etc, you also get a different shortcut for comment code (or was it uncomment?). So you might want to think a little bit before setting to 2000 layout and back. I’m sure in the end that somebody finds a setting somewhere to control the behavior – and then we know how to switch between the two Standard alternatives…

Make sure you play with data collector on a virtual machine

I’m in a situation where I have configured the new data collector functionality for three instances. And there’s no way to undo the config performed by the wizard! It cannot be undone by the wizard, and BOL doesn’t have information on how to do this. In fact, I suspect that you in the¬†end need to use some of the undocumented data collector procedures to get rid of this configuration (like sp_syscollector_delete_jobs).

I’m not knocking data collector per se – it seems like a great way to get a baseline going etc. But my tip is that while you are playing with it in order to understand it – do it virtually.

Lara has reported this on connect, btw: https://connect.microsoft.com/SQLServer/feedback/ViewFeedback.aspx?FeedbackID=334180