Don’t Forget About DR for Your DR

Here’s a scenario:

Let’s say you’re a small- or medium-sized company with either an on-premises data center in your office/building or in a “regular” co-lo nearby in the same metro area. You’ve got a mission-critical online presence, so in order to handle either a large-scale disaster for your geographic area or one just in your server room, you’ve written, implemented, and tested a disaster-recovery plan. Another co-lo a couple of states over is set up to be able to step in if needed, and this process can even be completed by non-technical resources in a couple of hours.Need a Plan C

This is a fairly-sound plan. However, what’s Step 2 after Something Bad™ happens to the primary data center and everything fails over to the DR site? What if Something Bad™ is long-term? You’re back to square one, with a single data center. Or where do you put the quorum file share for your AG?

Or, another situation: What if something happens to your DR site? Then what?

Almost Been There, Done That

One of our clients–who has a really good DR plan similar to the one described above–had a brush with this scenario earlier in the year. Their DR data center is in the Houston area, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, there were some concerns about the status of the DC. The DC itself was fine, but key support personnel would not have been able to get to the site for a number of days if there were such a need.

This situation did a good job of spurning conversations centered around what to do in this situation and what Plan C might look like.

Now What?

The point of this post is mostly to get you thinking about this scenario. Getting DR in place can be enough of a battle itself (I know), but ensuring that what happens next after a potential disaster is considered and planned for is another important step.

What this plan may look like is likely dependent upon what the “first stage” DR plan looks like. Not everyone can afford an additional site, especially if it’s a smaller company. And, let’s be honest: we could sit here all day and what-if burning data centers, but at some point, the return on this investment will become very questionable.

Although this looks/smells like a shameless plug for cloud/Azure, the public cloud is an excellent option to consider here. Even if your company is 100% on-premises with a classic hardware/virtualization platform, keeping a copy of critical systems’ backups up-to-date and available in the cloud is relatively inexpensive.  This “cold DR” process is a very easy-to-implement step to safeguard against a multi-phase or long-term disaster. In the event that these backups are needed, there’s the option of spinning up a group of VMs in the cloud to restore to. At the very least, this cold backup solution will be more-accessible than your current offsite backups if new on-prem servers are stood up somewhere to get the lights back on.

Seattle for Summit 5×5: No. 5

The final post of my little series of fives for Seattle and PASS Summit finally focuses on the conference itself. This list is for five sessions/events that I think should be on your list to check out this week while at Summit. A couple of these will be difficult to get into, because they will be super-popular. In fact, people have been known to stand in line for the entire previous session in order to get in to one of these presenter’s sessions before. Therefore, like, plan accordingly and stuff.

Dr. Rimma Nehme Keynote

Thursday 8:15 AM
Rimma worked for a while at Microsoft’s Gray Systems lab in a certain midwestern town, with Dr David DeWitt. Back in the day, David–one of the best speakers you’ll ever seen in your life–would give the “tech” keynote at Summit, and everyone would show up to get their brains melted. It was awesome. What’s still awesome is that torch has been passed on to Rimma, and she’s every bit as awesome a speaker as David is. She also got her PhD from Purdue, which makes here more-awesome, obviously. It doesn’t even matter what she’s talking about (it’s here), just go. Thank me later.

Bob Ward: Inside SQL Server 2017 on Linux

Wednesday 3:15 PM
6B
Like the tech keynote, whatever Bob’s talking about at Summit is something to go to if you’re a DBA. This year it is about SQL Server on Linux, one of the most important developments in SQL Server Land in a long time, and definitely one of the most compelling new “features” (obviously not the best word here) in SQL Server 2017. This should be a great presentation for SQL Server DBAs, even if you can barely spell “vi”, and you’ll want to get there early. Bob’s session is where people have stood around for half a day waiting for.

Itzik Ben-Gan: T-SQL Tips and Tricks

Wednesday 10:45 AM
6B
Apparently you should just sit around in 6B all day Wednesday and you’ll have a great day. Itzik is to TSQL as Bob Ward is to the engine, or Rimma is to, well, everything data-related. A “tips and tricks” session may sound ho-hum, but if Itzik is giving it, you’re guaranteed to learn something and get your mind blown by what Itzik will be able to show you with three lines of TSQL. I don’t care how good at TSQL you are, I guarantee you’ll learn something from Itzik in this session.

André Kamman: Azure SQL DW Guidance for ETL Developers

Friday 11:45 AM
6B
Andre gets the “token” BI mention here, and for good reason. Azure SQL DW is a pretty great, scalable, useful service for workloads and data sets that can leverage its enormous capabilities, but along with that capacity and capability come pitfalls to the uninitiated. SQL DW can look like a bit of an odd duck due to its weird load patterns and seemingly missing SQL functions, so content like Andre’s are a definite requirement for ETL architects and developers who are going to be leveraging this service. Even if you don’t utilize it now, learning about the under-the-covers massively parallel processing is useful, I think.

Sunil Agarwal: Maximizing Query Performance with Columnstore Indexes

Wednesday 10:15 AM
615
Alright, so I have a scheduling conflict here. Don’t blame me, I didn’t build the schedule.

Sunil’s going to talk about query performance with Columnstore indexes in SQL Server. Joey and I may-or-may-not have had input into this presentation’s content, so I know it’s going to be good. Kinda like Azure SQL DW, Columnstore Indexes provides some great benefits, but it’s not necessarily something that one can just throw into your existing data model and have your performance go through the roof–there is a little extra work involved to get there. Also, Sunil’s always one of the smartest people in the room, just the type of person I like to listen to talk. I’m thinking I’m not going to be able to make it to this session, unfortunately, although Sunil does have another columnstore session (“Strategies to Speed Up Data Load into Clustered Columnstore Index”) Friday at 11:00 AM.

Seattle for Summit 5×5: No. 4

For the penultimate installment of this little series, I’m going to share locations that are excellent places to meet other SQL nerds/DBAs/what-have-you for this week in Seattle. The list contains a mix of locations at the conference in addition to “outside” venues where SQL Server nerds tend to congregate after hours.

Speaker Idol

http://www.pass.org/summit/2017/About/Activities.aspx
https://www.dcac.co/syndication/pass-summit-speaker-idol-lineup-change-redux
For a few years now, there has been Speaker Idol at the PASS Summit. Speaker Idol is a contest for–wait for it–speakers, competing to win the first speaking slot of the next year’s PASS summit. Comprising 12 contestants delivering 5-minute lightning talks, the contest goes down in three preliminary rounds plus a final, culminating in the winner being crowned by the panel of judges, awarded a guaranteed speaking slot in next year’s Summit, able to speak on whatever topic they choose.

Tap House

1506 Sixth Ave
http://taphousegrill.com/
On Sixth Ave, half a block north of the Sheraton, just south of the convention center, is the Tap House Grill. Likely due to its convenient location, and SURELY not due to the 160 beers on tap, this is a favorite hangout of anyone at PASS Summit anytime during operating hours. It’s downstairs, it tends to be unfortunately hot, the food tends to be decent-to-good, and someone is always there; can’t go wrong.

Community Zone

On the bridge over 6th Ave
Most importantly, PASS Summit is a community event. There’s no better place to connect with that community than the Community Zone. This is an open area on the walkway that spans between the Washington State Convention Center and The Convention Center to the north, where you can find community leaders, peers, and bean bag chairs. It’s a good place to meet and chat with fellow community members during the day, along with a decent place to just sit down and relax for a bit.

CAT lab

I assume still across from the main Vendor Hall entrance, but I haven’t been paying attention.
The Customer Advisory Team are some of the most talented support employees working for Microsoft. If you are at Summit and have any problems at all with SQL Server, these are the folks to ask. Open/Available most of the days, stop by and talk to someone in a light green shirt (OK, their shirts may be a different color this year); they’ll for-sure be able to help you. Also, towards the end of the day, you can even pick up a beer or a glass of wine at CAT Happy Hour!

SQL Karaoke/DCAC/SIOS/SentryOne

Tuesday Night
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sql-karaoke-2017-tickets-37832515071
Also for a few years now, on Tuesday evening, there has been a party thrown by us and SIOS. This year, SentryOne joins the party, as it were. This is primarily a karaoke party with a live band, to boot! I don’t really sing, so don’t count on that, but this is a great place to hang out with SQL folks for entirely too far into Wednesday morning. The open bar tickets are sold out, but you can still come by! Hit the Eventbrite link there to pick up a free ticket, and come by and say hi!

Seattle for Summit 5×5: No. 3

Couple of boats in the Ballard Locks in 2011

In the last post of this series, I talked about things to see/do in Seattle that are close to downtown and/or otherwise fit into the usual conference intraweek schedule. Today, I’ll hit five things that likely will require an extra day (or two) in your trip. It may be too late for extra days this year, seeing as we’re two weeks out, but maybe you can work one of these into your next trip to SEA.

Hiram M. Chittenden (“Ballard”) Locks

http://www.ballardlocks.org/
http://www.nws.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Locks-and-Dams/Chittenden-Locks/
3015 NW 54th Street, Ballard, WA
OK, this one may be a little goofy, I know. North of downtown Nashville, there are a set of locks built between Puget Sound and Salmon Bay, which is connected to Lake Union, and eventually Lake Washington (Lake Washington is the big body of water between Seattle and Redmond/Bellevue). These are part of a full canal connecting the sound with the lake built 100 years ago to aid/assist shipping between the bodies of water. They’re still used today, and even during the time of year when Summit is going on, there can be a fairly steady stream of traffic. For someone from boring landlocked flyover country, this is a fun thing to watch.

There is also a fish ladder, primarily serving migratory salmon heading back upstream into fresh water as part of the complex. There’s a viewing area as part of that, where you can watch the fish swim upstream. The salmon are usually done swimming by the time of year that Summit is going on, though.

Woodinville

http://www.ci.woodinville.wa.us/
https://woodinvillewinecountry.com/
The city of Woodinville is located northeast of Seattle, across Lake Washington and outside of the 405 bypass. The main point of going to Woodinville (at last for us) is for wine and the occasional distillery. There are a lot of tasting rooms and the like in town, and it’s possible to drive (Lyft, whatever) out there and walk to a bunch of places in one morning/afternoon/etc. There are a few “districts” with clumps of tasting rooms/wineries that make this easy. There are also scheduled events that go on, if scheduling works out while you’re in town.

The Museum of Flight

http://www.museumofflight.org/
 9404 E Marginal Way S
Located on-field at Boeing Field/King County International Airport (KBFI) (You know that other airport you drive by between SEATAC and downtown? There.), this is the largest aerospace museum in the world. It is home to a nearly-endless stream of aircraft, related artifacts, and other air-and-space exhibits. There’s something here for anyone with even a passing interest in aviation and possibly even those who don’t–although those folks will probably be more interested in walking around the Aviation Pavilion, the outdoor static display of large aircraft that’s part of the museum, where there are a good chunk of airliners–old, new, fast, and slow.

Boeing Factory Tours

http://www.boeing.com/company/tours/
https://www.futureofflight.org/
8415 Paine Field Blvd, Mukilteo, WA
The Boeing Factory at Snohomish County Airport/Paine Field (KPAE) has the fun distinction of being the largest airport in the world by volume. Boeing lets us go on tours of their production lines here, which includes 777s, 787s, and the Queen of the Skies. There’s also the Future of Aviation center here, which is another museum-type apparatus.

Also on-field at KPAE is Paul Allen’s (yes, that Paul Allen) private collection of 1930s and ’40s aircraft/aviation equipment and WWII hardware. http://www.flyingheritage.com/

Grand Coulee Dam

https://www.usbr.gov/pn/grandcoulee/
http://www.grandcouleedam.com/welcome.html (Brace yourself for 1996)
WA-155, Coulee Dam, WA (this is literally the best I can do for an address)
This is where things get super-nerdy. See, my wife and I have a little bit of a thing about dams, so we make strange trips to, well, see dams. There happens to be a giant one–it’s almost a mile long–about four hours east of Seattle! We’ve still never actually made it out to this, because it’s probably a two-day thing due to the length of the drive. One of these years.

How can I get old SQL Server CUs?

When one maintains SQL Servers/Instances for a living, one of the things we do on a semi-regular basis (or at least should) is install major updates to said instances. But, because usually we aren’t in a position to mash the latest and greatest one out to everything we support, where to find the specific update we’re looking for isn’t immediately obvious. This is because on all of the existing–say–Cumulative Updates pages, all of the download links to a generic “latest CU” page, where that’s all you can get.

But what if I need an older one?

Behold! Via the Microsoft Update Catalog, all updates that have been released for SQL Server, [almost] ever: www.catalog.update.microsoft.com/Search.aspx?q=SQL%20Server

From this site, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for and pull it down. Easy peasy. Use the search box at the top to get a little more focused, keeping in mind that “Service Pack” and “Cumulative Update” are spelled out. If you’re looking for a specific update, it’s probably best to use the KB number to search for it (“KB4024305” for SQL 2016 SP1 CU4, for example).

The main page of the site is pretty awesome in a 1997 sort of way (it even looks like it’s from 1997). When you go to www.catalog.update.microsoft.com, basically all you get is a little welcome message, some feedback and a FAQ link, and a search box. That’s it. It’s great.

This isn’t just for SQL Server, either. Theoretically all updates for all mostly-recent MS products are available–for example, Windows XP SP3 is available for download, were you to need that. If you do, we need to have a talk. It also looks like you can’t get SQL 2000 SPs anymore, but all of SQL Server 2005’s are.

Anyway, this is a good Site/URL to keep handy, especially for times like when you’re just about to download SQL 2016 SP1 CU4, and “ah crap, CU5 just got released an hour ago and all of the download links changed.”