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Enterprise Data Management in SQL Server 2005

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This chapter covers what’s new in enterprise database administration. It doesn’t just look at the product from a feature list, but groups the features according to some tasks common to database administration.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

In the beta history of the SQL Server 2005 release, significant emphasis has been put on the new features for developing applications. Let’s just say that Microsoft loves developers. But what happened to the features for those who get paged in the middle of the night when mission-critical systems hang? This chapter looks at features for the unsung heroes of corporate IT—the database administrator (DBA). For the DBA, SQL Server 2005 will change everything about the way administration is accomplished.

This chapter covers what’s new in enterprise database administration. It doesn’t just look at the product from a feature list, but groups the features according to some tasks common to database administration. This chapter specifically discusses the following:

  • Infrastructure management. How do installation and configuration work?
  • SQL Server monitoring. We’ll divide this into reactive and proactive and see how it gets done.

Then we’ll look at one of the major efforts for the SQL Server 2005 product—the emergence of Very Large Database (VLDB) management—especially in the area of backup and recovery. Along the way, we’ll cover replication, high availability, general data availability, and business intelligence for the database admin.

Before we get to those features, though, we should look at the new tool set, because it is a major shift from Microsoft Management Console–(MMC) based tools to Visual Studio. For the database developer and administrator, user interaction and the tool set have many similarities. Hopefully, in the end, this will lead to greater productivity and better-quality database applications.

  • A new authoring, management, and operations tool suite. Enterprise Manager, Query Analyzer, and more have been replaced with an integrated tool set known as SQL Server Management Studio.
  • New APIs are included for remote management of SQL Server database servers.
  • New technologies are introduced for removing barriers to availability, both general and high availability, via a portfolio of technologies.
  • Routing administrative tasks such as backup and restore have been enhanced to decrease the maintenance and recovery windows, allowing for greater database availability.

The new management tools range from the small, such as creating synonyms for database objects, to the dramatic, such as the introduction of .NET assemblies into the database. What’s more, the tools used by DBAs have been completely redesigned and rewritten.

When we look at SQL Server 2005 from a database administration point of view, we can group the features around certain job functions. For example, what features does SQL Server 2005 have for remote management of servers, including setup? What features will allow a DBA to find and mend a blocking process or a poorly configured stored procedure? One of the big challenges that DBAs face is how to keep database systems available as applications and databases constantly change. What about the mundane but important tasks, such as disaster planning, security maintenance, resource allocation, and modeling of future resource needs? How does SQL Server 2005 address these issues?

Additionally, as database products conform more to standards, and the manufacturers copy each other, the question then becomes, "What’s innovative?" What has Microsoft delivered in features that will solve a problem you will have tomorrow because Microsoft is thinking ahead? When we look at SQL Server 2005, it’s important to separate the features from the marketing message. Sure, Database Snapshot is new and innovative, but is it useful? The release of any product is a combination of reaching for future capabilities—the next big thing—and making the product solve the most common issues, making the product more complete. In the case of Database Snapshot, its usefulness is constrained by its usage scenarios. It’s always interesting to hear from customers how they found a new use for a particular technology. Sometimes, these creative usages are the cause of customers’ issues. Other times they find legitimate new uses that then influence new features in the next release. This chapter looks at the database management features not as a feature list, but from a DBA task orientation perspective. Before we do that, however, we must look at the center of all the change: SQL Server Management Studio.

SQL Server Management Studio

In SQL Server 7 and 2000, the tools suite was based entirely on MMC. The MMC tool is not designed for real scalability. Customers complained that Enterprise Manager took a long time to open extremely large databases with complex schema. The fact is that Microsoft develops products in a "We’ll get there" style. SQL Server Management Studio is one of the few "We’ve gotten there" tools supplied by Microsoft. Compared to other management tools delivered by Microsoft, SQL Server Management Studio is brilliant. In contrast, you can look at replication; it’s still lacking in clear tools strategy. First, know that SQL Server Management Studio is built on the same underpinnings as Visual Studio 2005. Things such as Help and the myriad of panes can really clutter up your screen. On the upside, SQL Server Management Studio includes the following:

  • Full support for management of instances of SQL Server 7.0, SQL Server 2000, SQL Server 2005, and Analysis Services 2005. Management Studio dialogs automatically customize to show only the appropriate choices and features, depending on the version of the database server the user is working with. Nonmodal dialogs allow the user to multitask and do more things at once.
  • A new integrated Query Editor lets you create queries for all the SQL Server technologies. Additionally, the Query Editor has customization capabilities that make it easier to work with large batch files and complex queries.
  • Built-in support for source control. Whether you’re using Microsoft SourceSafe or Visual Studio Team System, SQL Server files can be controlled in the same way as other development pieces. You can use any source-control system that uses the Source Safe Control Interface API.

The SQL Server Management Studio implements the SQL Server Management Objects (SMO), which is a new set of managed classes that replace the SQL Server Data Management Objects (SQL-DMO). This major architectural change brings significant enhancements in performance.

SMO’s first important optimization over SQL-DMO is delayed instantiation. As you run your application, SMO retrieves objects and properties as needed. You’ll notice this right away in the Object Explorer. The key to this optimization is making many small round-trips to the server instead of getting everything up front, as SQL-DMO does and which is overkill in many scenarios. SMO also lets you prefetch entire collections. In addition, you can retrieve objects by using a set of predefined properties. The bottom line is that the programmer has control over SMO behavior, which lets you build an application that suits your needs.

The SMO object model is also cached, meaning that it doesn’t propagate object changes to the server immediately. Instead, it caches them until you decide to apply (or discard) the changes. This caching yields fewer round-trips to the server because all changes are sent as one set of batches.

SMO provides advanced scripting functionality as part of the new Scripter object. This object lets you discover database-object dependencies, which results in an object tree. You can create an ordered object list from that tree and then generate a script from the list and optionally specify scripting options (a superset of SQL-DMO’s scripting options). This architecture gives you maximum control over each scripting phase, letting you build specialized, customized scripting solutions.

Additionally, SMO includes a script-capture mode that lets you capture the Transact-SQL code that SMO generates when your application performs an operation on an object. For example, a Visual Basic guru can use SMO to grab the Transact-SQL that his or her application generates.

Now that you understand the architectural structure of the how the Management Studio works, let’s look at the tools in more detail.

A Connected or Disconnected State

Before you get started with SQL Server Management Studio, you’ll notice something radical. The old Enterprise Manager user interface is gone. Moreover, you now have a new connection dialog to work with. The connection dialog allows users to provide both logon credentials and specific connection properties. The connection dialog can connect directly to SQL Server Engine, Analysis Services, Reporting Services, Integration Services, and SQL Server Mobile Edition. The Mobile Edition connection is interesting because the mobile database is often found on a Pocket PC device.

Besides being able to connect to previous versions—meaning SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 7.0—the connection dialog allows you to decide which database, network method (TCP/IP), named pipes, and shared memory is used to connect. Additionally, you can choose to encrypt your connection and provide specifics such as database, connection time-out, and network packet size.

As soon as you are connected to a database server, you immediately notice the new layout of the windows. As with previous versions, you can view registered servers. You can review the database objects found under the registered server via the new Object Explorer window. It’s important to note that you see only objects you have security permissions for.

Object Explorer

At the highest level, the database, not the server, is the central container for all the objects found therein. This is a significant departure that makes good sense. First, it’s more secure, because the metadata security found in SQL Server 2005 allows for least privileges—all the way down to the database. On another level, having the database as the central axis for all the objects related to the database makes administration easier. When you click the plus symbol next to a database, only those objects directly related are sent back. In previous versions, you had to write queries to get back all the objects related to a database. In large database deployments such as SAP, this new organizational model is a time-saver.

Microsoft strives to not do any take-backs on features between releases. The new SQL Server Management Studio is no exception. I recommend taking the time to get to know the features found in SQL Server 2000 that are renamed and moved in SQL Server 2005. You can still do the following:

  • Create a database diagram
  • Create database tables via the Visual Database Tools (VDT)
  • Create security objects
  • Create replication objects such as publications
  • Monitor replication

To create a database diagram, you will find a new folder called Database Diagrams under the specific database objects found in the Object Explorer. In Figure 3-1, notice how the database is now the new container for all the subordinate objects. This is a big improvement over previous versions.

Figure 3.1

Figure 3-1 Object Explorer.

Creating a Database

There are multiple ways to create a database in SQL Server 2005. My favorite is to right-click the Databases folder in the Object Explorer and select New Database. This pulls up the friendly new Create Database dialog. This nonmodal dialog is an easy-to-use tool for getting all your database settings worked out. It has three tabs. The first, General, supplies the needed naming text boxes. The second tab, Options, contains more specific settings such as auto-shrink and auto-close. You can also specify the cursor behavior, several miscellaneous settings (as Microsoft calls them), and recovery and state values. The third tab, Filegroups, is where you build file group allocations.

The Create Database dialog gives you the option of scripting all the settings to a Query Editor window, a file, the Clipboard, or a job. I find this new feature quite handy. I usually script my new databases, save the files in SourceSafe, and then start to build the objects. If your company has a standard database format, the scripting feature will not be lost on you.

Creating Tables

With your database in place, you can start creating tables. If you are designing a table structure from scratch, you can use the VDT and create the database via a database diagram, or you can right-click the table folder and select New Table. I prefer to work with the database diagram, because I like to build relationships between tables visually. Whenever you save the database diagram, the tables are created. This makes iteration very easy. Generally, I try to create all my tables, right-click the database icon, and select Generate Scripts to capture all the changes to the database structure. The script is again checked into source control to allow for rolling back if there’s an issue.

If you aren’t a visual person, you might want to use the built-in templates. You can find them in the new Template Explorer box; select View, Templates. With your database and tables in place, let’s look at the new Query Editor.

Query Editor

SQL Server Management Studio contains a host of new features. One of the first tools you’ll use is the new Query Editor (QE), which replaces Query Analyzer. QE is much more than a simple query text writing application. QE provides the following:

  • Disconnected editing to allow access to the Query Editor without establishing a connection to an instance of SQL Server.
  • Color coding of Transact-SQL syntax to improve the readability of complex statements.
  • Automatic statement formatting, including automatic indenting.
  • Templates that can be used to speed development of Transact-SQL statements for creating SQL Server objects. Templates are files that include the basic structure of the Transact-SQL statements needed to create objects in a database.
  • Editing of execute and parse queries with Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) SQL keywords.
  • Support for query editing on multiple versions of SQL Server, including SQL Server 7.0, SQL Server 2000, and SQL Server 2005.
  • Results presented in either a grid or a free-form text window.
  • A graphical diagram of the showplan information showing the logical steps built into the execution plan of a Transact-SQL statement.
  • The ability to organize work items into solutions, projects, and files using a specialized folder structure.

Nonmodal Dialogs

One of the more interesting and useful changes to how DBAs and developers will use SQL Server Management Studio is found in the new user interface dialog boxes. In previous versions of SQL Server, an administrator would use the Backup Database Wizard and execute a backup job. The dialog for accomplishing this was modal, meaning that you had to wait until the job finished. In very large or slow operations, this wastes considerable time. SQL Server 2005 changes this with nonmodal dialogs. The new dialog box style provides more of the information you need to accomplish a certain task, but the walk-through wizard is gone.

Let’s say a DBA needs to perform several tasks, including creating a backup job, writing a Transact-SQL script to create a database, and adding a user account. The administrator launches SQL Server Management Studio and creates and executes the backup job. The backup job takes some time to complete, but the administrator can perform the other tasks because the backup dialog is no longer modal. The new dialog style offers the following features:

  • Scripting from any dialog box. Administrators and developers can create a script from any dialog box so that you can read, modify, store, and reuse the scripts. Scripts can be written directly to a Query Editor window, to a file, or to the clipboard.
  • Scheduling or immediate execution of management actions. Every management action can be scheduled in the SQL Server Agent or run immediately.

As you can see in Figure 3-2, the nonmodal dialog is both more complex and more flexible. Managers shouldn’t hear database administrators say they are waiting on an action to complete before doing the next task.

Figure 3.2

Figure 3-2 Nonmodal dialog box.

Now that you understand the basics of SQL Server Management Studio, we can look at how SQL Server 2005 changes how day-to-day tasks are accomplished. One last thing to remember about SQL Server Management Studio is that you can only see and act on items at the level of security authorization for the login used to connect to SQL Server.

Customizing the SQL Server Management Studio

After you get over the shock of the new layout, you’ll want to start changing it to meet your work style. You have several ways to customize the look and feel of the "shell." You can use the Views menu to add and remove toolbars. If you are familiar with Visual Studio, these are easy to understand. Additionally, you can change the look and feel of the free-form Query Editor by using line numbering. When you use the Go verb, you can collapse and expand large blocks of text.

One of the more useful changes you can make is changing the keyboard scheme to reflect SQL Server 2000. By default, the F5 key doesn’t execute the current window queries. Figure 3-3 shows the Options window, with the keyboard scheme set to SQL Server 2000. You can customize any of the keys, which can save typing and possible headaches.

Figure 3.3

Figure 3-3 The Options screen, found under the Tools menu in SQL Management Studio.

Projects and Solutions Using SQL Server Management Studio

When Microsoft decided to bring together the database management and development tool set, one of the key attractions was the ability to use a source control system to manage database projects. SQL Server Management Studio can take advantage of any source control system. More importantly, SQL projects can now be organized via a project hierarchy. To use a project, simply select File, New Project in Management Studio. Figure 3-4 shows a typical SQL Server project.

It’s a little confusing how Microsoft has set up this system. When you go to the File menu to create a new project, you see the solution name included in the dialog. The folders are organized with one automatically created project. The project contains folders for connections, queries, and miscellaneous items. If you right-click the solution name, which is the highest-level folder, you can add and remove projects and even import other projects. This method of organization allows for easier working. I find projects useful, because you can have a single solution with projects that contain items for each phase of development. Combining this methodology with source control means that I have an organized and efficient approach to working with database objects.

Figure 3.4

Figure 3-4 Project folder hierarchy.

The ability to define a connection, or a connected use for each object in my project, has some usefulness. Let’s say that you’re developing an application that has several users. Each user has a specific set of privileges, and those privileges affect query execution. You could create a separate connection for each user. With this connection and associated query, you could test the query under the user’s security roles, which helps expose issues with the batches and security settings.

Getting Help

Although it doesn’t need an entire chapter, the new SQL Server Books Online contains some new functionality worth mentioning. Books Online now includes not only local search capability, but also configurable automatic/simultaneous searching on the Internet. The Books Online Internet search gives you results from MSDN, CodeZone Communities, and more. You can customize the search results. Open Books Online by clicking the F1 button, and select Tools, Options. Figure 3-5 shows the options available for searching.

Figure 3.5

Figure 3-5 Help online search options.

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