SQL on Azure VM BPCheck

After a long hiatus, I am back on the blogosphere and have decided to dedicate a series to running Best Practices checks using PowerShell on Azure virtual machines running in the new deployment model: ARM (Azure Resource Manager). If you have worked on the classic deployment model, then you will need to unlearn a few things and re-learn a little more. However, the learning curve ain’t that great. Think of Azure Resource Manager as a container for all the cloud components that make up your solution. If you had a SQL Server instance running on an Azure virtual machine, then you would be using compute, networking, storage components in Azure which would together be encapsulated in a Resource Manager group.

I had previously done a series of posts around running best practices checks on Azure Virtual Machines running SQL Server. Some of those checks are still valid today as they only dealt with the SQL Server instance. You will see components of those scripts reused. Some of the checks are way easier due to the way ARM deployments are managed in Azure and the endpoints that the Azure PowerShell 1.0 exposes.

The PowerShell scripts available on the GitHub repository are mentioned below. I will run a post on each of these scripts to explain what each of these do and what to expect as the output of each of these scripts.

  • Get-AllocationUnitCheck.ps1 – Checks if the allocation unit size for the disks attached to the VM is 64K
  • Get-DBProperties.ps1 – Checks if any database has AUTO CLOSE or AUTO SHRINK enabled
  • Get-FilesOnTemp.ps1 – Checks to see if any database files are hosted on the temporary drive
  • Get-IFI.ps1 – Checks to see if the SQL Server service account has instant file initialization security privileges
  • Get-LPIM.ps1 – Checks to see if Lock Pages in Memory privilege is granted to the SQL Server service account
  • Get-OSFilesDB.ps1 – Checks to see if database files are hosted on the OS drive
  • Get-StorageAccountBP.ps1 – Checks to see if the storage account has replication enabled
  • Get-VMSize.ps1 – Checks if the right virtual machine tier is being used
  • Temporary Drive.ps1 – Finds out the temporary drive on the virtual machine
  • Get-Backups.ps1 – Finds out if any backups are being taken to local disk

The PowerShell scripts are available on GitHub repository SqlOnAzureVM. Since these scripts are now on GitHub, please feel free to pull them and enhance them as per your needs.

24HOP Session: How to be a Ninja – Troubleshooting SQL PERF on Azure VMs

I have been a bit quiet on this blog but that is partly due to the fact that I have moved into a new role and a new country. I am now a part of the SQL Server Product Group [b|t] and based out of Redmond.

I am actually really excited about this. Sourabh Agarwal [b|t] and I are going to be presenting a preview to our SQL PASS Summit 2015 pre-con session "How to be a Ninja: Troubleshooting SQL performance on Azure Virtual Machines". Yes, we are starting the initiation program of becoming a SQL performance troubleshooting NINJA on SQL Server!

Troubleshooting is an art but the tricks of the trade changed with the advent of Azure Virtual Machines. Performance troubleshooting is different and at the same time very similar to what you have been used to for SQL Server. SQL Server performance on Azure VMs can be a sore point for many as the host troubleshooting entry points are limited and the knowledge of the internal workings scarce.

In this session, we will show you what best practices should be known for SQL Server instances running on Azure Virtual Machines! We will talk about tips on automating the implementation of all these best practices during deployment making this a single one-click deployment. This session will be a pre-cursor to our pre-con where we will go the whole nine yards and detail how to automate deployments from scratch, implement best practices automatically and analyze performance issues magically!

We hope you can join us for this session online and we do hope to see you during our pre-con! The 24Hop sessions are full of great sessions from great speakers in the SQL Family. See the full list here. I would recommend looking through the list and signing up for the ones that you are interested in. This will also give you a preview of what you can expect in the SQL PASS Summit this year.

This 24 Hours of PASS: Summit 2015 Preview event takes place over 24 hours, beginning September 17, 2015, 12:00 UTC. Featuring 24 webcasts delivered over 24 hours, this event provides a glimpse into the unparalleled content on offer at PASS Summit 2015, October 27-30, in Seattle, WA.

WHEN: September 17th at 8AM PST (3PM GMT)
WHERE: ONLINE
Facebook Event for our session: https://www.facebook.com/events/938656286172663/
Registration link for the event: http://www.sqlpass.org/24hours/2015/summitpreview/Registration.aspx

[UPDATE] September 29th, 2015

Thank you for the feedback that you shared after the session. It is always great to know what people liked in the session and even better to know where we need to improve. This helps ensure that our next iteration has the necessary tweaks. We received an overall 90% positive feedback and we thank everyone who attended for that!

The replies to the questions from the session are available below.

Q. Regarding the performance fixes as best practices(hotfixes/CU), do we have separate hotfixes(.msi/msp) for azure environment when compared to on premises environment?
A. The SQL Server installation bits that you would run on Azure VMs and on virtualized/physical on-premises environment are the same. So there aren’t any different set of fixes that need to run on Azure VMs.

Q. Are these Cheat Sheets available online?
A. The cheat sheets are available in the presentation PDF on the 24HOP site.

Q. Is using "Lock Pages in Memory" lead to that total allocated memory amount of SQL Server process is not seen in Windows Task Manager?
A. Task manager is not a good place to look for allocated memory when you want to find out allocations made after enabling Lock Pages in Memory privilege for the SQL Server service account. You could either look at Total Server Memory perfmon counter or the memory DMVs to track SQL Server memory usage. Additional reference: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms176018.aspx 

Q. Why are you disabling caching on the log file drive?
A. This is due to the IO patterns that the SQL Server transaction log file receives and how Azure storage is structured. We have seen in tests that the performance for SQL Server transaction log is best when write caching is disabled for disks which hosts transaction log files. We will talk about this in detail during our pre-con session.

Q. For Datawarehousing workloads, do you recommend lock pages in memory setting on on-premise/azure VM hosting SQL Server?
A. For on-premise workloads, we recommend you test and ascertain the needs before enabling Lock Pages in Memory (LPIM) privilege. For Azure VM workloads, the first important task is to pick the machine with the right SKU. We recommend enabling LPIM to prevent paging to the local disk on the rack which can negatively affect performance.

Q. Why are there different storage options based on Windows version? Is there any dependency on SQL versions?
A. There aren’t different storage options based on Windows version. The different storage options are based on the performance tier that you want to be on. It is Windows and SQL version and release agnostic.

Q. Can you let me know the resources on Azure Storage?
A. The Azure storage documentation is a good place to start for this. We will talk about this in detail in the IaaS introduction part of our pre-con.

If we have missed any question, please leave your question in the comment section of this post and we will answer it.

Lastly, we loved the notes that Matt Penny [t] took during our session. A screenshot of that is shown below. Thank you Matt! J The 24HOP session presentation is attached on the session page.

Notes

SQL Server 2016 Public Preview (CTP2) – Deploying to Azure VM

I had written a post earlier on deploying a SQL Server instance on a Azure Virtual Machine. Now that SQL Server 2016 CTP2 is out, let’s see how that looks on Azure. The wizard is the same as before but a new gallery option exists for deploying SQL Server 2016 CTP2. The catch is that any virtual machine created with this gallery image will expire on June 30th, 2016. The locations where this image can be deployed are East Asia, Southeast Asia, North Europe, West Europe, Central US, East US, East US 2 and South Central US. The gallery image gets provisioned with a single disk.

image

After the deployment is complete, you will need to enable connectivity for your SQL Server database engine as outlined in an earlier post of mine. What you get is the default instance of Database Engine, Analysis Services, Integration Services and Reporting Services. The deployment will not have the “PolyBase Query Service for External Data”. So if you are planning to test the PolyBase options in SQL Server 2016, then you will need to run the installation from the C:\SQLServer_13.0_Full folder. The other feature that is not available is the Distributed Replay. So, if you are planning to play around with these two features, then you would need to run the installer again.

Another feature which the gallery image does not use is the tempdb multiple file option setup parmater, “SQLTEMPDBFILECOUNT“. This is left at 1 so you will end up with the default tempdb configuration which you saw in the older releases. I would recommend using a virtual machine instance which has a SSD drive as the temporary drive so that you can use a SSD for testing out any intensive workload which requires either high tempdb usage or a local disk which supports high IOPs.

So now you have any option to play around with SQL Server 2016 CTP2 without having to hunt down a separate virtual machine or physical box in your environment.

Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 7

One of the recommendations of running SQL Server instances on Azure virtual machines is to ensure that default paths and directory setup is changed once the gallery image has been deployed. If you are performing a custom install of your SQL Server instance and not using an Azure Gallery Image, then you would want to instruct the setup program to install the system databases and the log directory in a separate folder other than the operating system drive or the temporary drive.

If you have used a virtual machine gallery image, then you will have a default instance of SQL Server with the binaries and system database  files on the C: drive. I had earlier blogged about how to find out the startup parameters using a WMI class and VBScript. I just use PowerShell to make the WMI query. Yes, even I have learnt a few new tricks over the years! Winking smile

The PowerShell script below would let you check if the startup parameters which contains the location of the SQL Server Errorlog, the master data file and the master log file are placed on the OS drive. If yes, then it will report that you are doing something that we do not recommend! Time to change the files and the ERRORLOG to a data disk.


# Find out the boot drive on the virtual machine
$BootDrive = gwmi -Class Win32_Volume -Filter "BootVolume = 'True'" | Select-Object DriveLetter

# Get the startup parameters using the service name
# Depending on the version of SQL Server installed, the WMI Management namespace would vary
# The code block below checks the relevant WMI namespace
$Service = gwmi -Class Win32_Service -Filter "Name = 'MSSQLServer'" | Select-Object Name, PathName
if ($Service.PathName.ToString().Contains("MSSQL12"))
{
$Params = gwmi -Namespace root\Microsoft\SqlServer\ComputerManagement12 -Class SqlServiceAdvancedProperty  -Filter "SqlServiceType = 1 and PropertyName = 'STARTUPPARAMETERS' and ServiceName = 'MSSQLSERVER"
$Values = $Params.PropertyStrValue.Split(";")

}
elseif ($Service.PathName.ToString().Contains("MSSQL11"))
{
$Params = gwmi -Namespace root\Microsoft\SqlServer\ComputerManagement11 -Class SqlServiceAdvancedProperty -Filter "SqlServiceType = 1 and PropertyName = 'STARTUPPARAMETERS' and ServiceName ='MSSQLSERVER'"
$Values = $Params.PropertyStrValue.Split(";")

}
elseif ($Service.PathName.ToString().Contains("MSSQL10"))
{
$Params = gwmi -Namespace root\Microsoft\SqlServer\ComputerManagement10 -Class SqlServiceAdvancedProperty -Filter "SqlServiceType = 1 and PropertyName = 'STARTUPPARAMETERS' and ServiceName ='MSSQLSERVER'"
$Values = $Params.PropertyStrValue.Split(";")

}
else
{
Write-Host "Issue: No instances found running SQL Server 2008 or above" -ForegroundColor Red
}

# Run a foreach loop to check if the boot drive is present in the startup parameters. If yes, report the same.
foreach ($StartupParam in $Values)
{

if ($StartupParam.Contains($BootDrive.DriveLetter))
{
Write-Host "Boot drive used in" $StartupParam -ForegroundColor Red
}
}

 

image

Previous post in the series

Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 1
https://troubleshootingsql.com/2014/11/10/azure-storage-for-sql-server/
Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 2
https://troubleshootingsql.com/2014/11/11/azure-storage-and-sql-server-part-2
Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 3
https://troubleshootingsql.com/2014/11/12/azure-storage-and-sql-server-part-3
Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 4
https://troubleshootingsql.com/2014/11/13/azure-storage-and-sql-server-part-4/
Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 5
https://troubleshootingsql.com/2014/11/18/azure-storage-and-sql-server-part-5
Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 6
https://troubleshootingsql.com/2014/11/19/azure-storage-and-sql-server-part-6

References

Azure Storage
http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/storage/
Azure Subscription and Service Limits, Quotas, and Constraints
http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/azure-subscription-service-limits/#storagelimits

* This blog post has been written based on the service details available on 23rd November, 2014.

Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 6

In the last post of this series, I had described how to determine if any database files were hosted on the temporary drive on the Azure virtual machine. In this post, I shall check if any of the drives hosting the SQL Server database files have block sizes other than 64KB. As per best practice recommendations for SQL Server workloads running on Azure virtual machines, it is recommended that you use a 64-KB allocation unit size for data and log files as well as tempdb.

Determining the block size

In the first part, I will be talking about how to determine if the block size for the drives hosting the database files is 64KB or not. The first thing that needs to be done is to retrieve the volume details using the Win32_Volume class and use the BlockSize value to determine the block size of the volume. To avoid false positives, you will also need the disks on which the SQL Server database files are hosted on. This can be retrieved using the sys.master_files system catalog. Using both the sets of information, you can determine if any volume that is hosting a SQL Server database file has a block size other than 64KB.

The PowerShell script that I had used is available below. This script also makes use of PowerShell snippet that I had used to identify the temporary drive which I had blogged about last week.


# Script for discovering temporary drive is available in Part 4 of this series

# Hence, not re-writing the script here

$TempDrive = "D:\"

# Fetching the disks on which the SQL database files reside on

$sqldisks = Invoke-Sqlcmd -ServerInstance "." -Database "master" -Query "select distinct substring(physical_name,0,4) as disk from sys.master_files" | Select-Object disk

# Getting the block size for each volume

$volumes = gwmi -Class Win32_Volume -Filter "DriveType = 3" | select-object BlockSize, Name

# Foreach loop to determine if block size for SQL disk drives vary from 64K

foreach ($volumne in $volumes)

{

if ($volumne.BlockSize -ne "65536" -and $volumne.Name.ToString() -In $sqldisks.disk)

{

if ($volumne.Name.ToString() -ne $TempDrive)

{

Write-Host "WARNING:" $volumne.Name "has a block size =" $volumne.BlockSize "bytes" -ForegroundColor Red

}

else

{

Write-Host "INFO:" $volumne.Name "has a block size =" $volumne.BlockSize "bytes. This is the temporary drive and should only host the tempdb files" -ForegroundColor Green

}

}

}

You might want to also read the following articles about disk partition alignment for SQL Server:
Disk Partition Alignment Best Practices for SQL Server
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd758814(v=SQL.100).aspx

Disk Partition Alignment: It Still Matters–DPA for Windows Server 2012, SQL Server 2012, and SQL Server 2014
http://blogs.msdn.com/b/jimmymay/archive/2014/03/14/disk-partition-alignment-for-windows-server-2012-sql-server-2012-and-sql-server-2014.aspx

Data and log files on the same drive

This is quite a common recommendation and has been taught to DBAs when they were in DBA elementary school! But sometimes, these recommendations are not followed for various reasons… some known and some unknown. So I decided that while I was at it, I would write up a quick PowerShell script to determine if the data and log files are present in the same drive using information retrieved from the sys.master_files catalog view.

The PowerShell script is give below along with a screenshot of the output.


$sqldisks = Invoke-Sqlcmd -ServerInstance "." -Database "master" -Query "select distinct substring(physical_name,0,4) as disk, type_desc from sys.master_files"

$datafiles = $sqldisks | Where-Object {$_.type_desc -eq "ROWS" }

$logfiles = $sqldisks | Where-Object {$_.type_desc -eq "LOG" }

if ($datafiles.disk -contains $logfiles.disk)

{

Write-Host "ISSUE: Data and log files found on the same drive" -ForegroundColor Red

foreach($drive in $datafiles)

{

if ($drive.disk -contains $logfiles.disk)

{

Write-Host "ISSUE: Drive" $drive.disk "hosts data and log files" -ForegroundColor Red

}

}

}

image

Previous post in the series

Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 1
https://troubleshootingsql.com/2014/11/10/azure-storage-for-sql-server/
Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 2
https://troubleshootingsql.com/2014/11/11/azure-storage-and-sql-server-part-2
Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 3
https://troubleshootingsql.com/2014/11/12/azure-storage-and-sql-server-part-3
Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 4
https://troubleshootingsql.com/2014/11/13/azure-storage-and-sql-server-part-4/
Azure Storage and SQL Server – Part 5
https://troubleshootingsql.com/2014/11/18/azure-storage-and-sql-server-part-5

References

Azure Storage
http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/storage/
Azure Subscription and Service Limits, Quotas, and Constraints
http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/azure-subscription-service-limits/#storagelimits

* This blog post has been written based on the service details available on 16th November, 2014.