You’re like the calmest failing job, I need you louder with a DPA alert…

I have an RDS instance that when backups are failing, we have no idea. We use DPA as one of our alerting systems, but with RDS, failing agent jobs are harder to find. I took the built in RDS status stored procedure and adjusted it enough to send me an alert through DPA so I can know that there are problems.

There are a couple of things I have already done, I have set up my RDS instance to talk to DPA, I have granted my DPA user access to run what it needs in RDS and I have set up a user in DPA that can email\call me when there is a problem. I used this post about DPA to help me get the basics done and then I did a lot of trial and error on my code to get the alert working just right.

This is the basic status stored proc that is telling me if my backups are working or not:

exec msdb.dbo.rds_task_status @db_name='MyDatabaseName';

I tried a few things and finally realized I needed to drop it into a temp table so that I could filter it down to only get what I need:

CREATE TABLE #tempAlert 
(task_id	bigint
,task_type	varchar(200)
,database_name	varchar(200)
,[% complete] int
,[duration(mins)] int	
,lifecycle varchar(20)
,task_info	varchar(8000)
,last_updated	datetime2
,created_at	datetime2
,S3_object_arn	varchar(2000)
,overwrite_S3_backup_file	int
,KMS_master_key_arn	varchar(200)
,filepath	varchar(200)
,overwrite_file int);

INSERT INTO #tempAlert
exec msdb.dbo.rds_task_status @db_name='MyDatabaseName';

FROM #TempAlert
WHERE task_type = 'BACKUP_DB_DIFFERENTIAL' AND last_updated > GETDATE()-1 AND lifecycle <> 'SUCCESS';

DROP TABLE #TempAlert;

This code is specifically looking for any diff failures in the last day, if I want fulls, I switch task_type = ‘BACKUP_DB_DIFFERENTIAL’ to task_type = ‘BACKUP_DB’.

In DPA, I go to ALERTS >>Manage Alerts and select “Custom” for my Alert Category and “Customer SQL Alert – Multiple Numeric Return” for my Alert Type then select “Create Alert”.

I gave it a name that was descriptive and changed my Execution Interval to once a day. I don’t want it to be firing all the time against my RDS instance and running up my bill. I could run it more often if I wanted. I added some text to my “Notification Text” box that will be helpful to anyone that gets the alert. I selected my Database instances that I wanted this alert to execute against. In the “SQL Statement” I pasted the bit of code above that creates the temp table, runs the stored procedure and inserts the results into that temp table, then filters the results and finally drops the temp table.

Finally, in the Alert Level and Notifications section, I set the “High” row of “Min” to a value of one and the “Max” I left empty, then added my Notification Group. I tested it to make sure all the connections were working properly and then I saved it. “I am the backup, I am the failure and I am the alert”.

The song for this post is Matt Maeson – Mr. Rattlebone

I’m Gonna Spend My Time Speeding that Query Up, Like It’s Never Enough, Like it’s Born to Run…

Have I mentioned that I like query tuning? One of my favorite tuning tricks is removing Sub-queries from WHERE clauses. Let me give an example:

FROM [dbo].[SuperHero] s 			
WHERE HeroType = 2
		FROM [dbo].[SuperHero] x 								
		WHERE x.HeroID = s.HeroID 
			 AND x.IsHuman = 1 AND x.Weakness = 'Lack of Control')

Notice the “NOT EXISTS *Sub-Query* section. Any time I see this pattern or even a “NOT IN *Sub-Query*” pattern, I know I can fix it like this:

SELECT s.HeroName
		, s.HasCape
		, s.FavoriteColor
		, s.LairId
FROM [dbo].[SuperHero] s 
	LEFT JOIN [dbo].[SuperHero] x ON x.HeroID = s.HeroID 
		 AND x.IsHuman = 1
		 AND x.Weakness = 'Lack of Control'	
WHERE HeroType = 2

In this second example, I have moved the sub-query to be in a LEFT JOIN with the same criteria and then in the WHERE I use one of the columns that should be populated (I favor ID columns here) and look to see if it “IS NULL”. That “IS NULL” works the same way as the “NOT EXISTS” and the “NOT IN”.

This allows me to remove the non-sargable arguments from the where clause and takes my query from non-sargable to sargable. (from Wikipedia- The term is derived from a contraction of Search ARGument ABLE. A query failing to be sargable is known as a non-sargable query and typically has a negative effect on query time, so one of the steps in query optimization is to convert them to be sargable).

With simple queries that have a low number of records, I hardly notice a difference in performance. As the queries become more complex or the row numbers increase, the difference begins to show in the query run time and the IO statistics.

The song for this post is I’m Born to Run by American Authors.

I’m Beggin, Beggin you, to stop using VarChars as IDs

As I was troubleshooting a performance issue, I noticed that there was an implicit conversion (SQL Server automatically converts the data from one data type to another) happening in my join. The join was on a column that was named the same in both tables, but one was datatype INT (integer) and the other was a datatype of VARCHAR(50) (variable character up to 50 places).

While the implicit conversion was happening transparently to our coders and users, it was causing performance impacts to the query. I wanted to change the datatype from VARCHAR(50) to an INT, not only to match the other table, but also because INTs are faster to join on than VARCHARs in the SQL engine.

My first step was to make sure there weren’t any values in the column that would have an issue changing to an int. For this task, I am using TRY_CAST to make my life easier.

SELECT TRY_CAST(SuperHeroId as INT) as Result, SuperHeroId
FROM dbo.Lair

The TRY_CAST above is checking to see if I can CAST the value as an INT. If it can’t, it will return a NULL value. My WHERE clause will help me quickly identify the values that are failing which will allow me to fix the data before I change the data type on the column.

Once my query doesn’t return any rows, I am ready to change my datatype, which will remove that implicit conversion and increase the performance of any queries using that join.

The song for this post is Beggin’ by Maneskin.

These are the ints that never die, we reseeded negative.

Recently we had a system go down because we ran out of integers. (Mental note to create an alert when we are getting near to running out of integers.) If we upped the column to a bigint we were going to have to drop all the indexes. This server doesn’t have the capacity needed to do an operation of that size and it was estimated that it would be down for 8 hours while we dropped indexes, upped the column type and added back the indexes. This was way too long as it was early in the work day (had it been evening, it would have been fine).

There was also a concern about how many stored procedures were expecting an int but would need to be modified to a bigint, along with any code. That was a big undertaking and we were in an emergency down.

We talked about adding an additional table to take over but again, we were going to need to adjust a lot of things. During our discussion, I was reviewing this awesome blog post by Ed Pollack.

We decided that the fastest temporary solution was to reseed starting with the the smallest of negative ints -2147483648. Our table was already counting up with an increment of 1 and so we picked the smallest of numbers. That means we will seed with -2147483648, then go to -2147483647 and up to 0. We will have to watch closely as we approach 0 to not spill over to the positive numbers that have already been used.

This is only a temporary solution because of that spill over. Our real solution is to do the work and change that column to a bigint.

Here is a sample of what our code looked like:

DBCC CHECKIDENT ('dbo.MyTable', RESEED, -2147483648);

Because we chose this option, there was no need to drop indexes or fix code, but we are in the process of getting all of that ready for a production release.

Within seconds of reseeding, we were back online and working. It was absolutely a day I will remember.

The song for this post is Avicci’s The Nights.

I Made That Slow Query Run, Run, Run

I have been tuning queries and one of the first things I noticed was Sub-queries in the SELECT Clause.

			FROM HideOut H1
			WHERE TypeDesc = 'Villain' 
			AND H1.Storyline = S.Storyline) AS VillainHideOut
     , (SELECT H2.FormalName
			FROM HideOut H2
			WHERE TypeDesc = 'Hero' 
			AND H2.Storyline = S.Storyline) AS HeroHideOut
     , S.HeroName AS Hero
     , V.VillainName AS Villain
FROM dbo.SuperHero S
	INNER JOIN [dbo].[Villain] V
		ON S.HeroLink = V.HeroLink
WHERE V.IsActive = 1 AND S.IsActive = 1

Why is this query slow? If this query were to return 50 rows, it would run each query in the SELECT clause 50 times, and since there are two of them, that is 100 query runs. What if I returned 100,000 rows? That would be 200,000 query runs. How could I do this differently?

SELECT H1.FormalName AS VillainHideOut
     , H2.FormalName AS HeroHideOut
     , S.HeroName AS Hero
     , V.VillainName AS Villain
FROM dbo.SuperHero S
	INNER JOIN [dbo].[Villain] V
		ON S.HeroLink = V.HeroLink
	LEFT JOIN HideOut H1 
		ON H1.Storyline = S.Storyline AND H1.TypeDesc = 'Villain'
	LEFT JOIN HideOut H2 
		ON H2.Storyline = S.Storyline AND H2.TypeDesc = 'Hero'
WHERE V.IsActive = 1 AND S.IsActive = 1

I moved the two correlated sub-queries into the JOIN clause and then simplified them to just join to the tables. This means I will only select from each table once, instead of for each row and will drop my query runs significantly. I could have left them as correlated sub-queries in the JOIN clause and it still would have performed better than having them in the SELECT clause.

In the query I was working with, I checked the statistics IO output and saw my logical reads on the HeroHideOut table drop from 24,103,280 logical reads down to 10,064 logical reads by making this one change.

Happy Tuning!

The song for this post is OneRepublic’s Run.

I can query multiple instances, I am King!

In the past, I have talked about CMS (Central Management Servers), but now I don’t have CMS configured and still want to query multiple instances at once. Local Server Groups are my friend.

In SSMS, I start by selecting View>>Registered Servers.

I then right click on “Local Server Groups” and select “New Server Group”.

Next I right click on the group I just created, in this case “Production” and select “New Server Registration”. I then fill in my servername, the type of Authentication, in this case I am using SQL Server Authentication and my login/password. I also am saving my password. This will help in the future. The Registered Server Name can be different. In the real world, my servernames are weird and so the Registered Server Name is the easy to remember name or the nickname I use for the server (all of my servers have nicknames). The description will come up when I hover over the server name once I have it registered.

Then I repeat this process until I have registered all my servers for Production under the Production group.

Now comes the cool part. I right click on my Production Server Group and select “New Query”. Because I saved my password, it connects to all my Production instances in one window. By default, it creates a pink bar at the bottom showing how many instances connected and the name of the Server Group.

Now I can run all my queries at once and the results will have the instance name prepended to each row. Word of warning, I never leave this connection open. I open it when I need it and then close it again so I don’t accidentally run something against all my servers.

The song for this post, King, is by Florence + The Machines.

Hit me with them good vibes, CTfP is set nice. Everything is so fire, little bit of sunshine!

Cost Threshold for Parallelism (CTfP) is one of my favorite server level settings in SQL Server. I remember the first time I heard this setting mentioned by Grant Fritchey. I quickly hopped on my servers and found them all set at the default (5) and adjusted them to 50 for the non SSRS servers and 30 for the SSRS ones. That was many years ago, but I had kept those numbers in my head because I didn’t know a better way.

Peter Shore gave an awesome presentation on Waits to our user group last week and reminded me of how much this setting can impact tuning. He also pointed us to a fantastic blog by Jonathan Kehayias about how to know the correct setting for your CTfP.

Peter explained that as I ran Jonathan’s awesome query, I would start to see a point in the StatementSubTreeCost column to help me identify the best CTfP for my environment.

My first thought after looking at this query, “I am so glad Jonathan wrote it because with that much XML, I wouldn’t know if it were safe to run without that trust.”

Today, I gave it a go. I kicked off the query and held my breath. Then I started to turn blue and realized this would probably take a minute. It took about 15 minutes and I was happy I didn’t panic at the wrong disco. It runs in a read uncommitted state which prevents blocking (thank you so much!) and I ran sp_whoisactive over and over to be safe.

This is Jonathan’s query, but I recommend you read his article too because there was so much good information.

(DEFAULT '')  
     query_plan AS CompleteQueryPlan, 
     n.value('(@StatementText)[1]', 'VARCHAR(4000)') AS StatementText, 
     n.value('(@StatementOptmLevel)[1]', 'VARCHAR(25)') AS StatementOptimizationLevel, 
     n.value('(@StatementSubTreeCost)[1]', 'VARCHAR(128)') AS StatementSubTreeCost, 
     n.query('.') AS ParallelSubTreeXML,  
FROM sys.dm_exec_cached_plans AS ecp 
CROSS APPLY sys.dm_exec_query_plan(plan_handle) AS eqp 
CROSS APPLY query_plan.nodes('/ShowPlanXML/BatchSequence/Batch/Statements/StmtSimple') AS qn(n) 
WHERE  n.query('.').exist('//RelOp[@PhysicalOp="Parallelism"]') = 1 

After running it, I got back 43 records. I felt that was low until I remembered that our CTfP is set higher than my brain standard at 150. After looking over the results, I felt that 150 was about right for this environment. I didn’t stop there.

Jonathan had mentioned how he uses this query to identify what needs to be tuned, and since tuning is my favorite, I started to play with the queries to get them running better.

Huge THANK YOU to the awesome SQL Server Community that is always willing to share and teach! I love being able to find what I need from people that I trust to make my job easier and I couldn’t do it without all of you!

Hugs and please stay safe!

The song for this post is Sunshine by OneRepublic.

I’m going on down to New Orleans and renaming some database things…

This week, I had a co-worker that was stuck. They no longer use SSMS and needed to rename a database. They asked if I had a script and so I wrote one. Here it is:

USE master /*Use the master database when renaming a database*/


SELECT @SQL=COALESCE(@SQL,'')+'Kill '+CAST(spid AS VARCHAR(10))+ '; '
FROM sys.sysprocesses
WHERE DBID=DB_ID('DatabaseName')

EXEC(@SQL) /*This will kill all the connections to the database, which will allow it to be renamed*/

ALTER DATABASE DatabaseName /*This is the start of the rename*/
SET SINGLE_USER /*keep everyone out while we rename*/
ALTER DATABASE DatabaseName MODIFY NAME = NewDatabaseName /*All the magic has been preparing for this moment, the rename*/
ALTER DATABASE NewDatabaseName /*Make sure to use the new name*/
SET MULTI_USER; /*Back to letting others into the newly named database*/

So useful, I had to save it.

The song for this post is Goin’ Down by the Monkees.

Now a story about the song. The Monkees’ TV Show came back on the air when I was little. I was immediately hooked and LOVED their music. I could relate a lot to Micky Dolenz because he was a prankster like me and my family. Goin’ Down was a song I didn’t pay much attention to because I could hardly understand what Micky was singing.

Recently, I read a new story about a time that Micky was doing a concert and there were deaf people in the audience. There was an ASL interpreter that had done a wonderful job with all the songs. Just as Micky was getting ready to sing this one, he looked over at the interpreter and said, “Good Luck”. After the first few lines, she gave up and just clapped along. He ended up standing next to her while singing the rest of the song. How awesome is that?

The story made me want to listen to the song more and it has been one of my favorite fast moving songs the last few weeks.

What for do you yearn? Watch that Replication Burn!

Replication is not my favorite, it is kind of far from my favorite. No further than that. Little further.

When it breaks, it can cause havoc and it always seems to break at the worst time. Recently we noticed that our logfile was massive (like 3 times the size of the database) and that was making many of the other processes painful. We didn’t know how long the log hadn’t been clearing so we got to burn it all (kind of).

The first thing I did was tell replication that we were done with all the transactions that had been committed.

EXEC sp_repldone @xactid = NULL, @xact_segno = NULL, @numtrans = 0,@time = 0, @reset = 1


Had I known when replication had broken, I could have narrowed it down and put more details in this command to only clear out exactly what I needed to remove. Since I didn’t know, I told it to just be done with all of it. I ran a checkpoint trying to get it to clear out. At this point I took a log backup (I just kicked off my agent job).

“Burn, Replication, Burn!”

Then I checked to see how my log was looking and wanted to see if there were files that could be used.

DBCC LOGINFO('MyDatabaseName')

I was looking for status 0 (meaning the logfile could be reused or overwritten). There were still a lot that hadn’t cleared out so I repeated the process a few times and finally it was awesome! I had to do some clean up on my transaction log, but it was soooo much more usable.

We also had to re-initialize replication, but it was totally worth it.

The song for this post is Burn Butcher Burn by Joseph Trapanese and Joey Batey

Oh my my, yeah I’m loving extra tuning time. ‘Cause I’m a sucker for Auto Tuning life.

A few weeks ago, we were talking to a new employee about how much time we spend with Query Store and they asked, “Why aren’t you using the Auto Tuning?”


This awesome, Enterprise-only feature has been a bit of a trial and error for me.

Let’s start with turning it on, the only place I have found to turn it on is by using T-SQL:


Now, there are a couple of cool things that we can check behind the scenes to see what is driving the auto-tuning. Once Auto-Tuning is enabled, it will collect information that can be viewed by running this query:

FROM sys.dm_db_tuning_recommendations

The first column (name) is the QueryID with “PR_” added to it. I like to read through the columns, the “reason” the plan was chosen, the current “state” of the plan. When it was initiated and when it was reverted, all of this is fun for me to dig through and see what plans my system is finding that are better.

I also really like the Microsoft example with the JSON:

SELECT reason, score,
      script = JSON_VALUE(details, '$.implementationDetails.script'),
      estimated_gain = (regressedPlanExecutionCount + recommendedPlanExecutionCount)
                  * (regressedPlanCpuTimeAverage - recommendedPlanCpuTimeAverage)/1000000,
      error_prone = IIF(regressedPlanErrorCount > recommendedPlanErrorCount, 'YES','NO')
FROM sys.dm_db_tuning_recommendations
CROSS APPLY OPENJSON (Details, '$.planForceDetails')
    WITH (  [query_id] int '$.queryId',
            regressedPlanId int '$.regressedPlanId',
            recommendedPlanId int '$.recommendedPlanId',
            regressedPlanErrorCount int,
            recommendedPlanErrorCount int,
            regressedPlanExecutionCount int,
            regressedPlanCpuTimeAverage float,
            recommendedPlanExecutionCount int,
            recommendedPlanCpuTimeAverage float
          ) AS planForceDetails;

Now to the other stuff. It isn’t perfect. Sometimes I have to manually go in and pin plans that are better than what the system is finding. If I manually pin a plan, it will honor it and not unpin or try to find a better plan for that query. It has helped me spend a bunch less time on tuning, but since many of my servers are on Standard Edition I am still using Query Store a lot.

Happy Tuning!

The song for this post is Oh My My by Blue October