Monday, April 28, 2014

A methodical approach to estimation and analysis

Our company is considering using some of SQL Server 2008 R2's features to reduce loading times from the product database to the data warehouse. Specifically, we are looking at Change Tracking (CT) or Change Data Capture (CDC). In a perfect world it would be easy to say CDC is the option. However, we face some hurdles.
  • We have Enterprise Edition in production but our "pre-prod" environment is Standard Edition. Implementing something like CDC is an increase in cost in licensing to upgrade the pre-prods (that's a whole 'nother story)
  • We have limited storage
  • The storage budget has already been allocated for this year
My task: Estimate the amount of additional storage required for CDC.

There aren't many, at least that I've found, websites, blogs or statistics on how much additional storage CDC requires so I needed to perform that analysis and estimates myself.

Since CDC creates a change tracking table for each table I realized I could get the approximate size of a row for each of those tables. Then, all I would need to know were the approximate number of rows changed each day.

Step 1) I enabled CDC for the source tables required for the data warehouse
if (select is_cdc_enabled from sys.databases where name = 'mySaaSDB') = 0

EXEC sys.sp_cdc_enable_db
PRINT 'CDC Already enabled'
EXEC sys.sp_cdc_enable_table

@source_schema = N'dbo'
, @source_name = N'tblTask'
, @role_name = NULL -- N'MyRole'
, @Capture_Instance = 'tblTask_CDC' -- May be omitted
, @filegroup_name = N'Primary'
, @supports_net_changes = 0 -- 0 for all changes, 1 for all changes and net changes

-- , @Captured_Column_List = '' -- NULL or omit for all columns. Not the best practice
, @Captured_Column_List =  'EmployerId,
TaskId, TaskTypeId, TaskStatusId, CriticalScore, TaskPriorityId, StartDate, DueDate, StartedDate, CompletedDate,
CancelledDate, EnteredDate, EnteredBy, ChangedDate, ChangedBy, LeaveId, EmployeeId'
Then, I used the system view to get the columns, data type and size of the base table and the CT table.
select,,, C.max_length
sys.tables T
JOIN sys.columns C
on C.object_id = T.object_id
sys.types ty
on ty.system_type_id = c.system_type_id = 'tblTask'

select,,, C.max_length
sys.tables T
JOIN sys.columns C
on C.object_id = T.object_id
sys.types ty
on ty.system_type_id = c.system_type_id = 'tblTask_CDC_CT'

Since most of the columns collected for CDC are precise data types it's easy to get an estimate for how big each row in the CT table will be and compare that to the base table.

Now, all I need to do is get the number of rows changed each day. For our application, most changes are due from INSERT operations. Typically, just new rows are added (although for some tables, when a new row is added for a task the original row is updated by nulling out an ineffectedDate column).

I had tried using ChangedDate and EnteredDate columns to get an average number of changes per day but I just wasn't getting any warm fuzzy's from that.

While doing my analysis, I had used the sp_spaceused procedure to get number of rows and data size for each table and column and calculating the average size of each row.

Then it dawned on me: sp_spaceused tells me exactly how many rows are in the table.

If I run that each day I can then compare the each day's row count and get a delta.
Rows Changed * CDC CT row table size = size of table

Summing that for all tables I can get an accurate bottom estimate for how much additional storage will be required to enable Change Data Capture. I say bottom estimate because I still don't know how many rows actually changed but it's a start.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The importance of publishing

I presented at the Boulder SQL Server User group recently on "Taking your Skills to the Next Level". In my slides I talk about the importance of reading and staying up-to-date and not stagnating. Particularly with today's IT workforce, it's easy to be overwhelmed with day-to-day operations, fire-storms and "sev-1" outages and get sucked into a "just get it done and we'll refactor it to be more efficient later" mindset. While that may be productive short term, there are longer term stakes involved.

Many times that attitude results in a large amount of technical debt that rarely gets "fixed later" except when something breaks. Additionally, it inhibits growth.

So it is important to know what options are available in order to find an appropriate solution. And part of knowing what those options are involve reading. But, reading is not enough. It's great to know that "there's a new feature we can leverage" but has anyone ever implemented it? Has it ever been tested or validated that, yes, it will work in the company's environment?

Which brings up the second part of the presentation which is writing: create a proof of concept  (POC), write an in-house training for a lunch and learn series, and blog.

The problem with blogging is that, particularly in the SQL Server world, there are many brilliant MVPs who have already beaten us to the punch. Does that mean that us lesser SQL professionals don't have anything to say or dispense? We do. So instead of filling up the Interwebs and Blogosphere with our voice, I recommend starting or using an internal company blog site.

With an internal blog we, the soldiers on the front line, can espouse our views and knowledge to those closest to us while at the same time expanding our own knowledge.

So write my fellow database administrators, developers and architects. Find your voice and refine your audience and, ultimately, expand your own knowledge and grow.