Category Archives: Rant

One Great Day And Mixed Feelings

If it happens two times then you know the first time wasn’t a fluke.

Today was my anniversary date for the SQL Server MVP award. I wasn’t expecting to be renewed. I was though. Three of my friends weren’t added to the MVP roster. All three of them have put in the time and work. If this was as simple of do X and Y get MVP it would be easy to say you didn’t do X enough or Y enough. That’s not the nature of an award.

a·ward verb (used with object)
1. To give as due or merited; assign or bestow: to award prizes.
dictionary.com

An award is given. Let me say that one more time. An award is GIVEN. You may have done enough to earn an award. That doesn’t guarantee you will be given it.

I deserved it!

I dare say many have deserved it and not been granted MVP status. I thought I was one of those people. In 2004 I did a ton of crazy traveling and promotion for SQL Server 2005. I was a user group coordinator for two user groups almost 2 hours apart from each other. I sacrificed a lot. I felt I was entitled to the MVP award. I had been passed over before but this time I deserved it. I didn’t get it. Was I mad? Did I feel a bit betrayed? You bet I did. Why should someone that hangs out in a user forum all day be more worthy than me? I had a hard time accepting that I was passed over, AGAIN. It changed me. It changed my outlook on things. I sat back and evaluated why I was giving so much of my time supporting a product, made by one of the wealthiest software companies in the world, FOR FREE? Eventually, I realized it wasn’t the product or the company. I was supporting my career,  my desire to learn more and the people around me who also just wanted to learn as much as I did. So, for the most part I got over it. I quit flinching every time I was introduced as an MVP or former MVP. I stopped getting angry every time someone would say “I was sure you were an MVP!” I stopped letting my world revolve around achieving MVP status. Even though many of my friends and colleagues were current or former MVP’s. I just put it aside. I said if all the work I did in 2004 wasn’t enough then I can’t imagine how much more I could do, what else I could give up to prove I was MVP material. I just kept doing what I loved to do, working with a product I was passionate about teaching what I knew and learning from others whenever I could.

Being happy for others.

Eventually, I just got really zen about it. I watched others get the MVP and I was always happy for them. My favorite was when Jen McCown (@midnightdba) got her award. I watched it live on DBAs@Midnight. I was so happy for her I cried. I cheered at the screen and realized just how awesome Sean can be sometimes. I had several conversations about how Jen “came out of nowhere” and was awarded “early” in her efforts. Had Jen been community driven as long as I had? No. Did she take a sabbatical to have a family? Yes. Did she F**KING CRUSH IT when she got back in the swing of things? Oh hell yeah. She started blogging, recording videos and speaking in 2008. In January of 2011 she was awarded. She didn’t write a few blog posts. she wrote HUNDREDS. She didn’t record a few vids she (and Sean) started a live show on fridays. She was just everywhere, for TWO YEARS SOLID. To say just just popped fully into her MVP in 2011 is a great injustice to the amount of work she put in. Did others work harder during that time than Jen? Maybe, but I couldn’t name them.

I Finally made it.

When I was awarded last year I was unbelievably fortunate to be surrounded by my friends and the community I support. I was, and am, extremely humbled to be an awardee. Today, when I hadn’t received my nod, I was ready to pull the MVP logo from my intro slide and give the best presentation I possibly could. MVP or no MVP I love what I do. I love teaching. I love community. If I don’t get renewed next year it won’t change a thing. I will still travel on my dime, give my time and do my best. If you think that is “lip service” then I am sad for you. If not being an MVP keeps you from doing the things you love then maybe you really aren’t doing what you love.

We are all human.

 

It’s not wrong to want the MVP award. Its not wrong to work towards that goal. If you think you earned it and didn’t get it, thats your fault. You aren’t alone in the “I should be an MVP” club. As a former member I know just how bitter it can make you sometimes. If you want to earn something, go get your Microsoft Certified Master. It shows you are technically one of the best with SQL Server. You don’t have to speak, blog, record videos or hang out on the technet forums for years hoping to be recognised. If you work your ass off for it and you earn it Microsoft hands your certification right over.

For those of you who haven’t been awarded yet, please don’t stop trying. More importantly, don’t stop giving to the community who appreciates it more than Microsoft ever will. Realize you change lives when you teach others. Your and theirs.

So, now that I’ve ranted and rambled about the MVP what is it? Again, Jen wrote it up well.

News Flash! PASS Board Makes Unpopular Decision!

Meh.

(n.) A multi-purpose response, primarily used to imply a degree of indifference. Tone of voice and circumstance often implies a meaning. Can be used when you don’t want to answer an awkward or embarrassing question, or if you just plain have nothing else to say, and you want the other person to interpret the “meh” however he/she chooses. As in: Q: “What do you think of my new dress?” A: “Meh.” or Q: “What do you want to do tonight?” A: “Meh.”

Source: unwords.com

You heard me. I think this whole situation is getting way out of hand. People are making personal attacks, making false statements on the behalf of others and generally being pin heads about the whole thing.

It’s Not The Process, It’s The People

The amount of personal attacks going on is just crazy. Andy wants to change the process, I’m fine with that. You want more transparency, I’m down. What I’m really upset about is community leaders making subtle and not so subtle attacks on the entire board. If you have a beef with a particular board member then call them out. If you have a problem with the WHOLE BOARD maybe, just maybe, its you.

JJ Abrams Runs The Board

Yep, I’m Lost(tm) too. I love a conspiracy theory, I don’t think there is an invisible monster eating people at PASS HQ though. I believe the majority of the board are trying very hard to make the best possible choices for PASS and it’s future. I don’t agree with every choice made, and I despise politics in general, but I don’t think there are 12 odd people colluding to keep out the good guys and run PASS into the ground. Were James and Kendal the last two pieces in a much larger puzzle to control the fate of PASS and SQL Server? We are about to find out….

I’m Gonna Let You Finish, But Sri Was The Best Candidate For The Board!

For a guy that said he was done with PASS politics Brent has a lot to say. I get it, you don’t like the way the bylaws are written. Run for the board and get them changed. You know and I know you would win by a landslide. You also clearly understand that the bylaws are written and approved by the board. You know who I feel bad for? It’s not Sri. He is an awesome guy, this won’t stop him at all. I fully expect him to run again. It isn’t James Rowland-Jones, he has had great success with SQLBits and will make a solid board member with PASS. It is squarely Kendal Van Dyke. Also an awesome community leader and will make a great board member. The problem is he will always have to work harder and have this stigma of being second in the votes but chosen by the board to serve over the next candidate. Who wants that following them around? Would we be having this raging hemorrhoid of a debate if Sri was picked up and Kendal was passed over for James? Kendal was gracious in defeat and would have made a mistake if he had turned down this appointment.

You aren’t going far enough

Andy Warren started the petition. I don’t thing it goes far enough. We need to strip the PASS board of the ability to appoint anyone to the board at all. If it isn’t voted on by the membership there shouldn’t be an appointment to the board PERIOD. I’m serious. All our issues stem from the fact that a few people, that we have voted onto the board, have the ability to appoint more people without the consent of the governed. While we are at it, get rid of the board, all of them. We live in an age where people can vote on topics in real time, a pure democracy, where the governors are the governed. As long as we have a representative form of democracy governing PASS there will always be a group of people to lash out at and a group of people happy to do so.

Fin.

At the end of the day people are ignoring the fact this is a one year appointment. Both James and Kendal will have to face another election if they want to stay on the board for a second full term. PASS has been making changes to the bylaws, not at the speed I would like but they are changing. No matter what, you can’t make everyone happy.

Changing Directions

I See Dead Tech….

Knowing when a technology is dying is always a good skill to have. Like most of my generation we weren’t the first on the computer scene but lived through several of it’s more painful transitions. As a college student I was forced to learn antiquated technologies and languages. I had to take a semester of COBOL. I also had to take two years of assembler for the IBM 390 mainframe and another year of assembler for the x86 focused on the i386 when the Pentium was already on the market. Again and again I’ve been forced to invest time in dying technologies. Well not any more!

Hard drives are dead LONG LIVE SOLID STATE!

I set the data on a delicate rinse cycle

I’m done with spinning disks. Since IBM invented them in nineteen and fifty seven they haven’t improved much over the years. They got smaller and faster yes but they never got sexier than the original. I mean, my mom was born in the fifties, I don’t want to be associated with something that old and way uncool. Wouldn’t you much rather have something at least invented in the modern age in your state of the art server?

Don’t you want the new hotness?

I mean seriously, isn’t this much cooler? I’m not building any new servers or desktop systems unless they are sporting flash drives. But don’t think this will last. You must stay vigilant, NAND flash won’t age like a fine wine ether. There will be something new in a few years and you must be willing to spend whatever it takes to deploy the “solid state killer” when it comes out.

Tell Gandpa Relational is Soooo last century

The relational model was developed by Dr. EF Codd while at IBM in 1970, two years before I was born. Using some fancy math called tuple calculus he proved that the relational model was better at seeking data on these new “hard drives” that IBM had laying around. That later tuned into relational algebra that is used today. Holy cow! I hated algebra AND calculus in high school why would I want to work with that crap now?

NoSQL Is The Future!

PhD’s, all neck ties and crazy gray hair.

Internet Scale, web 2.0 has a much better haircut.

In this new fast paced world of web 2.0 and databases that have to go all the way to Internet scale, the old crusty relational databases just can’t hang. Enter, NoSQL! I know that NoSQL covers a lot of different technologies, but some of the core things they do very well is scale up to millions of users and I need to scale that high. They do this by side stepping things like relationships, transactions and verified writes to disk. This makes them blazingly fast! Plus, I don’t have to learn any SQL languages, I can stay with what I love best javascript and JSON. Personally, I think MongoDB is the best of the bunch they don’t have a ton of fancy PhD’s, they are getting it done in the real world! Hey, they have a Success Engineer for crying out loud!!! Plus if you are using Ruby, Python, Erlang or any other real Web 2.0 language it just works out of the box. Don’t flame me about your NoSQL solution and why it is better, I just don’t care. I’m gearing up to hit all the major NoSQL conferences this year and canceling all my SQL Server related stuff. So long PASS Summit, no more hanging out with people obsessed with outdated skills.

Head in the CLOUD

Racks and Racks of Spaghetti photo by: Andrew McKaskill

Do you want this to manage?

Or this?

With all that said, I probably won’t be building to many more servers anyway. There is a new way of getting your data and servers without the hassle of buying hardware and securing it, THE CLOUD!

“Cloud computing is computation, software, data access, and storage services that do not require end-user knowledge of the physical location and configuration of the system that delivers the services. Parallels to this concept can be drawn with the electricity grid where end-users consume power resources without any necessary understanding of the component devices in the grid required to provide the service.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

Now that’s what I’m talking about! I just plug in my code and out comes money. I don’t need to know how it all works on the back end. I’m all about convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources. You know, kind of like when I was at college and sent my program to a sysadmin to get a time slice on the mainframe. I don’t need to know the details just run my program. Heck, I can even have a private cloud connected to other public and private clouds to make up The Intercloud(tm). Now that is sexy!

To my new ends I will be closing this blog and starting up NoSQLServerNoIOTheCloud.com to document my new jersey, I’ll only be posting once a year though, on April 1st.

See you next year!

How do you change something that can’t be changed?

As many of you know, Steve Jones was cut by the Nomination Committee and won’t be on the ballot this year. He made the announcement in a short blog post.

In the comments Andy Warren said “I’m disappointed as well. I think the NomCom tried hard to apply the process we gave them, so the fault – in my personal view – is with the process, just not rich enough. I’ll write more when I’ve had a chance to reflect some.

I would be disappointed – again, speaking just as me – if anyone elects to walk away from PASS because of this. Don’t agree with PASS on this or any other issue? Fight the fight to change it!”

I agree, if you walk away just because of this issue that would be a mistake. If this is last in a long list of mistakes that is a different matter all together.

From the Bylaws:
”These Bylaws may be altered, amended, or repealed, and new bylaws may be adopted by a two‐thirds vote of the Board of Directors, provided that at least thirty (30) days’ written notice is given of intention to alter, amend, or repeal these Bylaws and to adopt new Bylaws prior to the specified date of the vote.”

Thirty days, that’s all it takes to make a fundamental change to how PASS operates. Oh, and a two-thirds vote from the BoD. So, my question is how do I change something about PASS without running for the BoD? Did you know the qualifications for the BoD haven’t changed once since 1999? You have to be more qualified to run for the BoD than you do the President Of The United States. People govern our society with less qualifications and more success.

Not wanting to walk away from an organization I have been involved with for several years I choose to fight for change. My first little fight was attend meetings at the Summit voice my opinion and push for change. Next, to vote for people like Andy Warren and Tom LaRock. I think both are agents for change. Andy has been very vocal and has been as transparent as possible during his tenor on the BoD. I can’t say that for everyone else. The anemic amount of information coming from PASS and the BoD in general is just embarrassing. You don’t see much unless there is a firestorm going on. I also got evolved in the program committee this year. Again, I was a little surprised by how little information is fed back to submitters and the general lack of transparency in choosing speakers. I couldn’t run for the BoD this year but I was planning to run next year and getting my ducks in a row for that. Lastly, I talk a lot. I talk to leaders in the community, people involved in PASS and folks on the board.

I’ve also spent a lot of my time at the local level running the Austin, TX UG for several years and starting the San Antonio, TX UG. I speak regularly at my UG and more recently, at SQL Saturday events. Local community building is a passion for me. When Andy, Steve and Brian got SQL Saturday going I was just in awe how quickly it took off and how well local chapters handled these events. The thing that blew me away was the cost to the attendees. The quality of the training is on par with the Summit in most cases. In some cases it can be a little better as Baton Rouge showed me that you can include the .net folks as well and still have an awesome SQL Server event. We are also in the planning stages for our own SQL Saturday in Austin. Have I put in as much work as say Patrick LeBlanc? Maybe not yet but I have put in more than your “average” PASS member.

With all of that said, I can can tell you honestly, I don’t know most of the BoD very well at all. When people run for the BoD there is a good chance I probably haven’t heard of some them and have to dig to find out who they are. The BoD is elected by “Members in good standing”, a group that probably doesn’t know them ether. If you say there are around 200 chapters* and at least one chapter leader per group, some have committees and such but we are keeping this simple, that gives us 200~ or so “Leaders in the community” I bet most of them don’t know the whole BoD. 51%* of UG leaders knew who their regional mentor was, you know the person designated to liaison between chapters and the parent organization. Almost half of the UG’s have no real interaction with PASS. So how do these folks get voted in? They may be a known speaker or did some campaigning to raise awareness, honestly I think it comes down to the limited number of “qualified” candidates and the number of slots available. A coin toss in most cases. The few people that may be truly informed, say around 100, may have some influence as well. That is out of the roughly 40,000 possible PASS membership (if each UG averages 200 members). Fundamentally, 15 people decide what PASS is, not the 40,000 they represent.

Lets be honest, PASS isn’t a community organization, it is the Summit.  Everything that PASS does is to get people to go to the Summit. I don’t see much in the way of UG support, other than the “comp” to the Summit. PASS is a marketing machine period. They use the UG to funnel people to the summit and “give back” by giving the UG leadership one summit pass, and they are looking to restrict that*. Douglas McDowell said* “There is always some misunderstanding that this is not an easy or free benefit for PASS to offer, the actual cost for a Summit comp is high since all the event facilities and food and beverage are all charged per-attendee plus incremental consumption – it adds up quick and requires a lot of allocated budget.” It is a marketing expense, and a fair one at that. How many people do the UG’s reach out to? I spend quite a bit of time cheerleading trying to get people to go to the Summit. It takes a lot of money to do the Summit. At the end of the day it touches around 3,000 people. Less than one tenth of the voting PASS membership. What has PASS done to reach out to the other 37,000? We got SQL Saturday! Oh, that was built by people outside PASS, then handed to PASS. How many people has SQL Saturday help train? With 40+ events done if each event had 200 people show that is 8,800 people, since 2007 no less. We got the UG’s! Again, local people do all the leg work they find their own funding, speakers and meeting space. The 24 hours of PASS is the only thing of true value outside the Summit that has come from inside PASS. PASS, as a parent organization isn’t relevant to 90% of my UG membership, we could be a chapter of the local funeral directors association for all they care. After 6 years I’ve all I have received are slide decks, comps and enough money to run the UG for about 6 months. In return I spend 11 months out of the year getting as many people as I can to attend the Summit.

Is the BoD all setting around like Snidely Whiplash and twirling their collective mustaches? I don’t think so. Did the NomCom receive secret orders to stand in the way of people like Tim, Steve and Brent? Nope, I’m sure they didn’t. Instead they have built up a system that feeds itself. The machine is self sustaining and there aren’t enough people at this point to make the changes at the top that need to happen. The focus is so tight on the Summit that everything else is just sparklers and window dressing. I say kill the Summit, focus on the local and regional events. You won’t need a three million dollar budget to reach out to the vast majority of the membership. The community will benefit as a whole. Have open elections, not just for the BoD but other key jobs inside the organization. Open it up, all the way. I have worked with other non-profits before, everything was open to the public, there were no closed BoD sessions or hiding from the community we supported, and I tell you that community needed a hell of a lot more than training, we were effecting peoples lives.

I’m begging you, the BoD, to fix this. Not just the duly elected members but the members from Microsoft and CA as well. As for my fellow chapter leaders, speakers and event organizers SPEAK UP! We are still a small group inside the electorate but we represent a much wider range of it than the BoD. Lastly, you the person who comes to the UG’s, attends the Summit or goes to a SQL Saturday let as many people know that you would like to see change, you are providing something in exchange for the education whether you pay the 1,500 bucks for the Summit or show up for free to the other events. You have the ultimate power as a consumer, the all mighty dollar. Demand more for your investment.

My issues with PASS as an organization didn’t start today. It has finally come to a boil though. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do in the future with PASS. I plan on staying involved with SQL Saturday events and building local community as much as possible. As for my ability to fight for change, I think I’ve reached the end of that road. There were UG’s before PASS and there will be UG’s after PASS has faded away. I for one look forward to joining ASSP, the Association of SQL Server Professionals, if they understand what caused PASS to loose the backing of the SQL Server community in the first place.

*(taken from http://www.sqlpass.org/Community/PASSBlog/entryid/156/Q2-Chapter-Survey-Shows-Strong-Community-Reach.aspx)

Why does change control for SQL Server have to be so hard?

I’ve been dealing with change control and source code repositories for most of my professional career. While I’ve seen change control and integration advance steadily for writing programs it feels like the database part of things is just stuck in the stone age. For months now I’ve been researching solutions for source control, change management, and deployment of database objects. The conclusion I’ve come to is there is no solution. Well, no easy solution. I was very happy in the early days of SQL Server 2005 when they announced source control integration into management studio. It was a great pain for me personally to have Visual Studio, and the solution architecture it offered and not have that on the database side of things. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. What they meant buy source control was using the previous generation of integration and then crippling it.

Really?

image

This doesn’t look like much of a solution to me.

I know what most of you are thinking. If you have Visual Studio use it. That works for me but not the people on my team that only have access to SSMS. It also means I have to jump between two tools to do one thing, work with SQL Server. I have been told that Microsoft is basically pushing you to Visual Studio for all of your development needs. Leaving SSMS as a management tool only. If Visual Studio did everything SSMS did it wouldn’t be that big a deal for me personally.

 

Options Available

SQL Server Management Studio Hacks

I tried several things to work around the limitations SSMS has. I found you could manually edit the solution file to get extra folders. The only problem with that is they all show up as ether Queries or Miscellaneous. Other than that one and the old fix for sorting files by name there aren’t any other hacks I can find.

Toad for SQL Server

Toad1

Generally has a nice look and feel.It has all the development and management features to be a true replacement for management studio. I tried all the normal things that I do in SSMS in Toad and several things were better. The debugger was nice and the statement optimizer is also a nice addition. It does fall down flat in some basic key areas. I never could get it to display an execution plan. As a T-SQL guy the plan is a must. I know it is a bug somewhere. Having something this fundamental during and evaluation is a big red light though.

The only down side is it doesn’t support Sourcegear Vault/Fortress which is a real shame. Lots of SMB’s use Vault for source control since it is miles better than visual source safe and much cheaper than team system.

ApexSQL Edit

apexsql1

That left only one other contender in this fight. ApexSQL Edit has been around quite a while as well. Initially, it has a similar look and feel to Toad. I know there isn’t a lot that you can do to since both look like Office. I is also missing the management features but I can live with that. The goal is to get the developers a tool they can develop in and use our code repository easily. ApexSQL Edit did include support for Vault and it worked as expected. Again, I started using it daily like I would SSMS. Everything I tried worked, for the most part. 95% of the time it would generate an execution plan. Not as clean as SSMS but it had more options on how to display the plan, which I liked. I did have a few crashes, but this was a beta build and I will let that go until I test the full release. Since this was a beta I did provide feedback and initially the folks at ApexSQL were very responsive. Eventually though everything just went quiet accept for the sales guys asking me how things were going. Right now they are a no go until the stability issues are addressed and the RTM is out so I can do a full evaluation again.

 

Final Thoughts

What I hoped would be a pretty easy exercise turned out to be a real work out. For all of SSMS’s problems it is stable and familiar. I was really hoping that ether Toad or ApexSQL Edit would solve my problems. I haven’t given up on ApexSQL Edit yet, we will just have to play the waiting game and keep using an inadequate solution until someone comes up with something better.

When Technical Support Fails You – UPDATE and Answers!

As promised and update on what has happened so far. A correction needs to be made. the P800 is a PCIe 1.0 card so the bandwidth is cut in half from 4GB/sec to 2GB/sec.

My CDW rep did get me in contact with an HP technical rep who actually knew something about the hardware in question and its capabilities. It was one of those good news, bad news situations. We will start with the bad news. The performance isn’t off. My worst fears were confirmed.

The Hard Disks

The HP Guy (changing the names to protect the innocent) told me their rule of thumb for the performance of the 2.5” 73GB 15K drives is 10MB/Sec. I know what you are thinking, NO WAY! But, I’m not surprised at all. What I was told is the drives ship with the on board write cache disabled. They do this for data integrity reasons. Since the cache on the drive isn’t battery backed if there was any kind of failure the potential for data loss is there. There are three measurements of hard disk throughput, disk to cache, cache to system and disk to system. Disk to cache is how fast data can be transferred from the internal data cache to the disk usually sequentially. On our 15k drive this should be on average 80MB/sec. Disk to system, also referred to burst speed, is almost always as fast as our connection type. Since we are using SAS that will be close to 250MB/sec. Disk to system is no caching at all. Without the cache several IO reordering schemes aren’t used, there is no buffer between you and the system, so you are effectively limited by the Areal Density and the rotational speed of the disk. This gets us down to 10 to 15 megabytes a second. Write caching has a huge impact on performance. I hear you saying the controller has a battery backed cache on it, and you would be right.

The Disk Controller

The P800 controller was the top of the line that HP had for quite a while. It is showing its age now though. The most cache you can get at the moment is 512MB. It is battery backed so if there is a sudden loss of power the data in cache will stay there for as long as the battery holds out. When the system comes back on the controller will attempt a flush to disk. The problem with this scheme is two fold. The cache is effectively shared across all your drives since I have 50 drives total attached to the system that is around 10.5 megabytes per drive. Comparable drives ship with 16 to 32 megabytes of cache on them normally. The second problem is the controller can’t offload the IO sorting algorithms to the disk drive effectively limiting it’s throughput. It does support native command queuing and elevator sorting but applied at the controller level just isn’t as fast as at the disk level.If I had configured this array as a RAID 6 stripe the loss of performance from that would have masked the other bottlenecks in the controller. Since I’ve got this in a RAID 10 the bottleneck is hit much sooner with fewer drives. On the P800 this limit appears to be between 16 and 32 disks. I won’t know until I do some additional testing.

Its All My Fault

If you have been following my blog or coming to the CACTUSS meetings you know I tell you to test before you go into production. With the lack of documentation I went with a set of assumptions that weren’t valid in this situation. At that point I should have stopped and done the testing my self. In a perfect world I would have setup the system in a test lab run a series of controlled IO workloads and come up with the optimal configuration. I didn’t do as much testing as normal and now I’m paying the price for that. I will have to bring a system out of production as I run benchmarks to find the performance bottlenecks.

The Good News

I have two P800’s in the system and will try moving one of the MSA70’s to the other controller. This will also allow me to test overall system performance across multiple PCIe busses. I have another system that is an exact duplicate of this one and originally had the storage configured in this way but ran into some odd issues with performance as well.

HP has a faster external only controller out right now the P411. This controller supports the new SASII 6G protocols, has faster cache memory and is PCIe 2.0 complainant. I am told it also has a faster IO processor as well. We will be testing these newer controllers out soon. Also, there is a replacement for the P800 coming out next year as well. Since we are only using external chassis with this card the P411 may be a better fit.

We are also exploring a Fusion-io option for our tempdb space. We have an odd workload and tempdb accounts for half of our write operations on disk. Speeding up this aspect of the system and moving tempdb completely away from the data we should see a marked improvement over all.

Lessons Learned or Relearned

Faced with the lack of documentation, don’t make assumptions based on past experiences. Test your setup thoroughly. If you aren’t getting the information you need, try different avenues early. Don’t assume your hardware vendor has all the information. In my case, HP doesn’t tell you that the disks come with the write cache disabled. They also don’t give you the full performance specifications for their disk controllers. Not even my HP Guy had that information. We talked about how there was much more detailed information on the EVA SAN than there was on the P800.

Now What?

Again, I can’t tell you how awesome CDW was in this case. My rep, Dustin Wood, went above and beyond to get me as much help as he could, and in the end was a great help. It saddens me I couldn’t get this level of support directly from HP technical support. You can rest assured I will be giving HP feedback to that effect. By not giving the customer and even their own people all the information sets everyone up for failure.

I’m not done yet. There is a lot of work ahead of me, but at least I have some answers.You can bet I’ll be over at booth #414 next week at PASS asking HP some hard questions!

When Technical Support Fails You

I have had the pleasure of being a vendor, and technical support for both hardware and software products. I know it isn’t easy. I know it isn’t always possible to fix everything. The level of support I’ve received from HP on my current issue is just unacceptable. This is made more frustrating by the lack of documentation. The technical documents show capacity. How many drives in an array, Maximum volume size but nothing on throughput.Every benchmark they have seems to be relative to another product with no hard numbers. For example, the P800 is 30% faster than the previous generation.

I’m not working with a complicated system. It’s a DL380 G5 with a P800 and two MSA70’s fully populated with 15k 73GB hard drives. 46 of them are in a RAID 10 array with 128k stripe. Formatted it NTFS with a 64k block size and sector aligned the partition. Read/Write cache is set at 25%/75%. This server originally just had one MSA70. We added the second for capacity expansion and expected to see a boost in performance as well. As you can probably guess, there wasn’t any increase in performance at all.

Here is what I have as far as numbers. Some of these are guesses based on similar products.

P800 using two external miniSAS 4x connectors maximum throughput of 2400 MB/sec (2400Mbit per link x 4 per connector x 2 connectors).
The P800 uses a PCIe x8 connection to the system at 4,000 MB/Sec (PCIe 2.0 2.5GHz 4GB/sec each direction).
Attached to the controller are 15k 73GB 2.5” hard drives 46 of them for a raw speed 3680 MB/Sec of sequential read or write speed (23x80MB/sec write sequential 2 MSA70’s RAID 10 46 Drives total based on Seagate 2.5 73GB SAS 15.1k)

Expected write speed should be around 1200 megabytes a second.

We get around 320 MB/Sec sequential write speed and 750MB/sec in reads.

Ouch.

Did I mention I also have a MSA60 with 8 7.2k 500GB SATA drives that burst to 600MB/sec and sustain 160MB/Sec writes in a RAID 10 array? Yeah, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

With no other options before me I picked up the phone and called.

I go through HP’s automated phone system, which isn’t that painful at all, to get to storage support. Hold times in queue were very acceptable. A level one technician picked up the call and started the normal run of questions. It only took about 2 minutes to realize the L1 didn’t understand my issue and quickly told me that they don’t fix performance issues period. He told me to update the driver, firmware, and reboot. Of course none of that had worked the first time but what the heck, I’ll give it the old college try. Since this is a production system I am limited on when I can just do these kinds of things. This imposed lag makes it very difficult to keep an L1 just sitting on the phone for five or so hours on hold while they wait for me to complete the assigned tasks. I let him go with the initial action plan in place with an agreement that he would follow up.Twice I got automated emails that the L1 had tried to call and left voicemails for me. Twice, there were no voicemails. I sent him my numbers again just to be on the safe side. Next, I was told to run the standard Array Diagnostic Utility and a separate utility that they send you to gather all the system information and logs, think a PSSDiag or SQLDiag. After reviewing the logs he didn’t se anything wrong and had me update the array configuration utility. I was then told they would do a deeper examination of the logs I had sent and get back to me. Three days later I got another email saying the L1 had tried to call and left me a message. Again there was no voicemail on my cell or my desk phone. I sent a note back to the automated system only to find the case had been closed!

I called back in to the queue and gave the L1 who answered my case number, he of course told me it was closed. He read the case notes to me, the previous L1 had logged it as a network issue and closed the case. If I had been copying files over the network and not to another local array I can see why it had been logged that way. I asked to open a new case and to speak to a manager. I was then told the manager was in a meeting. No problem, I’ll stay on the line. After 45 minutes I was disconnected. Not one to be deterred, I called back again. The L1 that answered was professional and understanding. Again, I was put on hold while I waited for the manager to come out of his meeting. About 10 minutes later I was talking to him. He apologized and told me my issues would be addressed.

I now had a new case number and a new L1. Again, we dumped the diagnostic logs and started from the beginning. This time he saw things that weren’t right. There was a new firmware for the hard drives, a new driver for the P800, and a drive that was showing some errors. Finally, I felt like I was getting somewhere! At this point it has been ten days since I opened the previous case. We did another round of updates. A new drive was dispatched and installed. The L1 did call back and actually managed to ether talk to me or leave a message. When nothing had made any improvement he went silent. I added another note to the case requesting escalation.

That was eight days ago. At this point I have sent seven sets of diagnostic logs. Spent several hours on the phone. And worked after hours for several days. The last time I talked to my L1, the L2’s were refusing to accept the escalation. It was clearly a performance problem and they don’t cover that. The problem is, I agree. Through this whole process I have begged for additional documentation on configuration and setup options, something that would help me configure the array for maximum performance.

They do offer a higher level of support that covers performance issues, for a fee of course. This isn’t a cluster or a SAN. It is a basic setup in every way. The GUI walks you through the setup, click, click, click, monster RAID 10 array done. What would this next level of paid support tell me?

My last hope is CDW will be able to come through with documentation or someone I can talk to. They have been very understanding and responsive through this whole ordeal.

Thirty one days later, I’ve still got the same issue. I now have ordered enough drives to fill up the MSA60. The plan is to transfer enough data to free up one of the MSA70’s. Through trial and error, I will figure out what the optimum configuration is. Once I do I’ll post up my findings here.

If any of you out there in internet-land have any suggestions I’m all ears.

The Price of Convenience is Non-Ownership and Loss of Privacy.

This is as far as I ever plan to stray from writing purely technical posts. It just strikes so close to home. I am completely conflicted on this subject. As a user of all of these things I rail against limits imposed on me by the greedy companies and the governments that serve them. As a business man and developer, I really want to get paid and get upset when people assume that using my work has value to them but not in a way worth paying for. Most of us don’t remember not having a phone. We were connected, to our neighbors, friends and for the right price, the world. Some of us in rural areas had to make compromises and shared our phone line with others, the ever favorite “Party Line”. It was a line but not much of a party. What you could rely on though is at some point you listened in on your neighbor and they in turn listened in on you. We gave up some privacy for the awesome ability to call someone whenever we felt like it. Things have come a long way. Now, you are expected to be accessible via cell phone pretty much 24×7 and with that comes all the wonderful data services so people also expect you to be reachable via email, chat or whatever you like. More and more we have a tether to each over like never before in our history. If I can’t reach out and touch you, something must be wrong! My mom didn’t panic if she called the house and I didn’t answer. I was out side running around and knew to check in every so often.Now, If I get an email, don’t answer it within minutes I also get a text message checking up on me. If that goes unheeded the phone rings, that may escalate to all my friends or co-workers phones ringing assuming one of them is near by me. If that all comes up a draw the worst is assumed. Long gone is the pleasure of just dropping out for a few days, or even hours without someone noticing your absence. We are on the cusp of a permanently connected society, for those lucky enough to afford it in the beginning, and later mandated for those that need watching. The second effect of all this technology is more and more things becoming non-physical in nature. With this loss also goes the traditional methods of controlling them, and by that extension creating scarcity and demand for those items. It also means that the physical thing has less value compared to the idea behind it. From the beginning of software, and digital only creations, had to balance the desire to protect them and extract value from them. This has been at odds with peoples desire to share those items freely like they would anything else.

So we tried to restrict the digital goods. To me Software As A Service has been around since day one, just not your ability to enforce the concept completely. This idea is now being transferred to every thing we “use”. I once owned books, now I have a right under the license to read it but not share it, I can’t resell it or even give it away. Fair use is going to go away, because in a world where anything can be duplicated for free the item has no value, listening to the song has value, reading the book has value so whenever you “loan” that book or song to someone it has inherently lost its value. Mainly because the notion of “loaning” something by duplicating it strips away scarcity all together. Everyone had to put in a key to unlock something that you have already purchased. The physical item has zero value, the use and ideas behind them are the commodity. But, this fell well short when we became “mostly on”. The amount of people now hammering away at the old key system meant it fell in hours or minutes compared to the days or months before.

This gave rise to our favorite worst solution, Digital Rights Management. This misguided concept was an attempt to make the digital artifact, music, books and other entertainment, act just like the old physical things, but with more restrictions of course. Tighter control equals more profit.But, this very quickly showed a flaw, if the company in question went under or simply wished to stop supporting it you lost the use of it. All digital equated to non-ownership.This was just a stop gap until a better solution, total control, came along. Total control isn’t really possible unless everyone is “always on”. Once that is archived you have a since of freedom again, I can loan someone a book or a song control is transferred to them I loose the use of it but retain “ownership” of it.

Or do I?

Ever since we started keying software the concept of licensing use, not actual ownership of a thing became real, even though that license may be a perpetual one ownership is never implied. I don’t own a copy of Windows, I have the right to use it under terms that I have been dictated to by the owner of the work in question. If I violate these one sided terms I loose the privilege, and my money by the way, to use the software. Just as if I had purchased a pirated copy, my money would be forfeit unless I could get it back from the scoundrels that sold the software to me. These concepts aren’t new, again they just weren’t really enforceable at the single person level. The companies and governments would target larger organizations who were making illegal copies for the sole purpose of making money for next to nothing. The closer we get to always on we in essence become the organization of thieves, not selling to other people, just simply denying the owner of the work to make any money off of the item. Always on can now give us the illusion of scarcity and bring back the things we use to do with physical only items. These two things, persistent personal connection and a purely digital object has come together in the perfect storm. The buzz this week has been the news that Amazon has total control of items you purchased via their store and whisper net to transfer to your Kindle. The thing that to me has really struck home all the ideas of license, ownership and your rights to a thing come into clear focus. Amazon shouldn’t have sold you the ability to read a digital representation of an artists ideas, you know a book.Is that a problem? Nope, they simply reach into your Kindle, remove the offending material, refund your money for the loss of the privilege to use this item and poof, things are all better. People weren’t happy with this at all, this wasn’t like they broke the terms of service, or even that Amazon went out of business and the DRM they use is now off line. Amazon simply made some mistakes, they sold you the use of something they had bought the right to use but the person who sold them the rights didn’t have it to sell. Amazon won’t do it again though, honest.

Wow, this isn’t going to get any clearer or easer as time marches on. What will we do when we can manufacture things directly in our home, the physical things we need like chairs, TV’s or computers. If someone screwed up could they reach in and dissolve that item, refunding your money? Another little blurb that has been making the rounds is Starcraft2 not having a “LAN” mode you can only play it through their service called battle.net. It’s just like an MMO without the massively part. But people are up in arms about it. I think it will blow over.

Lastly, the RIAA as stated DRM is not the way. No joke, the enforcers on the music side of things who whole heartedly embraced DRM have now turned their back on it. Oh, they aren’t suing people anymore well, not most people. Why bother with law suits and DRM when you can just reach in and take it back. Eventually, if everything plays out, there simply won’t be a way to get an illegal copy of anything. Always on, also means always accessible. I’m not saying it will happen tomorrow but it will happen. Some people will say that loosing revenue of those who want to enjoy something “off line” will keep this from happening. Hog wash, the gain of revenue by the act of control greatly offsets that loss.

This is the future, and it is now.

As long as a society, we become more and more connected the concept of ownership will slip farther and farther away and be reserved for those things that have true rarity. Just to be a total geek about it, I think Star Trek:TNG has it right. When you can manufacture anything at the push of a button and energy is fundamentally free the need for money really looses its value. The world moves back into a much more pure state of barter for those things that have real value. Do I think this will be the ultimate outcome? Nope, to pull from another great thinker service equals citizenship. At any point in our past when a culture has more consumers than producers and services have as much or more value than goods, it collapses. I don’t think that will happen this time. We have the missing ingredients, the always on connection and the ability to give up privacy, and ultimately, freedom to those that control the use of an item, or enforces the ability to use it. So, until Star Trek zips in and I don’t need money anymore I guess I’ll just have to try and find the balance.

I, for one, welcome our new digital overlords. They tell me we have always been at war with Eastasia.