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Database management

Top Challenges When Managing SQL Server Databases

Data and databases have been extremely critical for enterprise success. There are all kinds of databases available today each with its own set of distinct advantages and features. With databases, the number of database management systems continues to grow too. The growing use of social media and eCommerce have escalated the demand for competent database management systems. 

Modern applications are more complex and users expect better capabilities. The database management systems you choose therefore must address all your needs perfectly.

The right one will enable developers to organize, update, and control large databases while allowing consumers to access information through applications. 

DB-Engines recently ranked 371 systems where SQL Server clearly stood tall in popularity. Highly sought after as the third-largest DBMS and used by developers worldwide, enterprises continue to migrate to SQL Server with some of the top companies such as Accenture, Alibaba Travels, Microsoft, and Stack Overflow already using it. SQL Server databases have been preferred around the world for their robustness, stability, and maturity. 

Database administrators or DBAs often find themselves grappling with some unique challenges while managing SQL Server databases. The  2020 State of Database Monitoring report throws light on some of the many challenges that continue to plague enterprises worldwide. 

As per a Statistica report, 41% of software developers work with the SQL Server since it is ideal for large volumes of data and web applications. SQL Server database administrators (DBAs) have a lot on their plate as they continue to manage SQL Server databases for increasing workloads and growing data volumes. 

We’ve iterated some of the top challenges that may crop up affecting database performance. Read on.

1. You are running a read-heavy application with insufficient indexes

If you are dealing with a large table with a zillion records and you find your system paralyzed every time you run a particular query, it can be extremely frustrating. Especially since you will have to run this query over and over again throughout the day. Oftentimes, this problem occurs due to insufficient indexes. 

While it may seem a tad overwhelming with the risk of increasing the disk space and the possibility of performance degradation, you need to understand that adding a few milliseconds to ‘Insert’, ‘Delete’, and ‘Update’ won’t matter much for an already paralyzed system. However, letting a query run without proper indexes certainly will considering the size of the table. Just add the missing index and see the difference immediately.

2. You are dealing with overcommitted VM hosts

Sometimes, your VM cluster ends up becoming the dump yard for all your workloads. This can hugely affect its performance. Overcommitted virtual resources are never going to virtualize well nor will any resource-intensive application if it’s expected to run on overcommitted resources. The solution is to ensure that you do not overcommit memory on the VM host. 

Make sure that the entire VM’s memory adds up to less than its total RAM, not more. Even a CPU should be spared from this load by ensuring that you do not end up overcommitting it by 20-25%. If you have dedicated admins to manage VM and storage, make sure that the storage admin is aware of your virtualization goals so that the VM admin ensures that the IO limits are never crossed.

3. You run the risk of running a lot of reporting directly on the operational copy

 

It’s a myth that running OLTP queries and reporting queries on one system will help you save significantly. Nothing can be further from the truth because by doing so neither OLTP nor reporting will work as expected. By their very nature, reporting queries are such that they will often end up touching several records and when they do so in the same machine they can lock records and hinder OLTP-style queries. They may also end up triggering NOLOCK hints that will affect the quality of reporting. While doing so, you also activate the snapshot isolation that can crash your IO system unprepared to take on such a heavy tempdb load. 

You may consider availability groups, log shipping, or good old replication to fix this problem through the right solution will depend on your budget and reporting goals.

4. You are facing difficulty in optimizing large queries

 

Writing query optimizers is a huge responsibility. Unless they are written well, they will not perform well and will fail to serve their purpose. The truth is even the best SQL Server optimizers sometimes need help. But poor practices such as endless nested views or single massive SQL statements can put a dampener on database performance. Rather than throwing in over-ambitious queries that want to achieve too much, it makes sense in writing individual SQL statements for different branches of the procedure with statement-level compilation.

5. You are dealing with slow IO

 

This can be a huge bottleneck unless you know how to take care of it. If the latency on reading or write is consistently over 15 to 20 ms, then you are dealing with a rather slow IO that can sometimes go unnoticed even on the SAN. Rather than trying to squeeze the most out of the CPUs, you might want to create a performance monitor collection. This will allow you to baseline your average seconds per reading and write.

6. You are using way more data

Sometimes the problem lies in the way applications are built. For instance, how would it help in bringing thousands of records into an application when we all know no one’s going to go beyond the first few pages of search results? Even failing to implement caching at the server level or on a dedicated caching server to stop catalog-style data from constantly going back and forth can cause this problem. There could be queries that are run to get to the top N based on some specific criteria but the fact remains that they have to go through countless records to find the top N mainly due to the absence of proper filtering criteria.

7. Your maintenance regime is not up to the mark

 

Most of the SQL Server database management problems can be solved if you have the right maintenance solutions to ensure top health at different fragmentation levels. Updating statistics or maintaining indexes are all important activities that can impact your database performance to a great extent. Rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel and try something on your own when you have several important tasks to manage, having a good solutions provider by your side can be of immense help.

In closing

DBAs are always going to be busy planning the perfect strategy to secure their environment or determine whether cloud migration is the right thing to do. Managing large estates with 50 or more SQL Servers is always going to be a huge responsibility. Large organizations can have more than 1,000 servers and the onus is always on you to ensure that you manage them well despite the size and complexity. 

You will need solutions that are designed for a variety of performance metrics and come with customizable alerts and information about baselines and trends. The rationale is to get plenty of insights and get a grip on the growing estate while staying on top of multiple database systems and workloads.

Manage SQL Server databases with MiCORE

MiCORE has the right technology and solutions to roll your business plans into action and help you optimize the performance and availability of your SQL server infrastructure. Our years of experience in managing SQL server databases can help you make your business environment efficient and agile. Allow our technology experts to assess your needs. 

Call us today to book a consultation and get a SQL Server health check right away.

About Author

Kent Kofman

He is a Principal & Leader at MiCORE Solutions Inc, having 12+ years of extensive experience in Database managed solutions, Proprietary and open-source database implementations and migrations, Cloud migration and management, Multi-cloud, hybrid cloud expertise, Cloud integration services and Specialists in Oracle licensing. He is fortunate to lead a purpose-built organization full of strong, passionate, committed associates to enable Business solutions for organizations by providing managed services and consulting services to help our customers make better business decisions.

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