The default trace functionality introduced in SQL Server 2005 is still a much under appreciated feature of the product. This is somewhat like a black box trace which is analogous to a airline black box can help you in certain post-mortem analysis as a DBA. I am sure a lot of you have a host of in-house scripts that you have in-place or some monitoring/auditing tool that reports some inadvertent/unscrupulous activity on the databases that you administer. Nonetheless, it is always a good idea to be aware of the out-of-the-box features that are available that can make your job a wee bit easier.
Deepak Rangarajan (Blog), a Microsoft MVP, had blogged about the set of events which are captured by this default trace. So, I shall not attempt to duplicate his efforts here but collate a set of issues that CSS has been able to resolve using Default Traces in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
Dude: Where’s my database?
Not really a question that you want to be pondering on if you do not have any monitoring/auditing tools in place. And nor do you want to BING that search term. (Ok, if you prefer even Google it!) The default trace captures the following events: Object:Created, Object:Altered and Object:Deleted which will help you track down inadvertent deletion of databases. SQL Server Management Studio has a standard report called “Schema Changes History” report which can help you track such changes on a SQL instance in the form of a report.
Memory pressure: Where, When?
Ideally this can be tracked by Perfmon data collection and most of the SQL monitoring tools available in the market today track the Target and Total Server Memory counters for SQL instances. When you monitor the delta changes for these counters, you can track the amount of fluctuations that are occurring. The default trace tracks these changes using the Server Memory Change profiler event which will help you decide if there is a large fluctuation in Max Server Memory configuration for the SQL instance. This event gets raised when SQL Server memory usage has increased or decreased by either 1 megabyte (MB) or 5 percent of the maximum server memory (Buffer Pool only), whichever is greater. This is quite useful when tracking memory pressure being experienced for a SQL instance due to factors external to the SQL instance.
Mirrored Database: When did your state change?
All database mirroring state changes for all your mirrored databases are also monitored using the Default Trace using the event: Database mirroring status change. This helps track all database mirroring state changes without having to parse the SQL Errorlogs for the same.
OMG: Someone’s mucking around with my database security?
We have handled multiple issues in the past where we needed to identify various security related audit activity on a SQL instance like new Logins/Users being added, mostly for post-mortem analysis. The default trace “Security Audit” event classes show their usefulness by letting you trace such kind of activity using the default trace.
Full-Text: What are you upto?
The default traces also help trace Full-Text crawl activity which at times have been known to cause performance degradation when very large FT catalogs are involved.
Database: Did you just grow or shrink?
SQL Server databases enabled for Autogrow help prevent the database from going down if the file becomes full but at the same time Autogrow events can cause performance issues like blocking. Additionally, database auto shrink (both log and data files) operations can severely impact database performance. With the help of the default traces, you can can all Auto Grow/Shrink operations for your databases on the instance.
SQL Performance: Now how can I use the default trace for this?
Well the answer is not a definitive one but the default trace can give you an indication if you have a baseline established. The default trace traces the following events: Hash Warning, Missing Column Statistics, Missing Join Predicate and Sort Warning. These events can be used to find out if there is an excessive amount of sorting or hashing that is occurring on your SQL instance (without a baseline, this data is moot point though). You can also identify if a number of your queries are suffering from missing statistics and missing join predicates.
One thing to note here is that the default traces rollover which means that if the default traces are not copied over to an alternate location, they will be overwritten and valuable information required for post-mortem information will be lost.