Invalid Quorum Configuration Warnings when failing over SQL Server Availability Group

At a client site today and they asked me about a warning that they got every time they manually failed over their SQL Server availability group.

It said: “The current WSFC cluster quorum vote configuration is not recommended for the availability group.” They were puzzled by this as they had a valid quorum configuration. In their case, they had a two node cluster using MNS (majority node set) and a fileshare witness.

The problem with that message is that it is returned when the node voting weight is not visible.

Windows Server 2008 failover clustering introduced node-based voting but later an option was provided to adjust the voting weight for each node. If the cluster is based on Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2, and KB2494036 has not been applied, even though each node has a vote, the utilities that check voting weight are not supplied a weight value. You can see this by querying:

SELECT * FROM sys.dm_hadr_cluster_members;

This will return a row for each cluster member but will have a missing vote weight.

Applying the KB hotfix will make this DMV return the correct values, and will make this invalid warning disappear.

Online certification exams are now available in Australia

I’ve been hoping this would happen for a while and now it’s here (in beta).

Whenever I take a certification exam, I find it removes my ability to work for most of a day, so I tend to schedule myself for two or three exams in a day, to avoid the overhead. It also means that I tend to limit the number of exams that I would take.

Online proctoring of exams changes all that for me. If I can just schedule an exam for lunch time or night, or weekend from my own office, I’ll be much more inclined to take more certification exams.

There are some rules:

  • You’ll be recorded—both video and audio—for the duration of the exam.
  • You can’t take notes during the exam.
  • You can’t eat, drink, or chew gum while you take the exam.
  • You can’t take a break—for any reason.

They seem reasonable to me and if you don’t like them, you can always attend an in-person exam. Better make sure you get to the rest room beforehand though Smile It’s not available in all countries yet but fortunately Australia is one of the countries in the list. I’m not sure how the countries are chosen because I notice that our Kiwi buddies aren’t in the list yet. I’m sure that will change over time.

Regardless, this is a really good initiative. Well done Microsoft Learning.

You’ll find more information here: https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/online-proctored-exams.aspx

Telerik Dineissimo Sample App–Interesting Marketing Approach

I’ve liked the Telerik tools for a long time. I see many of my clients using either their controls for Webforms, and many using KendoUI for newer MVC development. I suppose it’s a challenge for such vendors to work out how to best market their products, but also a challenge to show developers how to best use them.

With KendoUI, I particularly liked the Kendo Dojo idea, where you could just interactively learn to use the framework directly from inside your own browser without having to install anything locally.

Today, I’ve noticed they released a sample application called Dineissimo but what caught my eye was the marketing approach. Basically, you need to visit: https://www.telerik.com/campaigns/platform/run-hybrid-app and download the app. You then need to find a particular part of the code, then run the program and use a QR (quick response) code to get things going. Finally, in the app, they get you to edit your profile and add a selfie or other image before sending off the details. And for a bunch of early takers, they’ll send an Amazon gift card. There’s a walk-through here: https://www.telerik.com/campaigns/platform/run-hybrid-app

I like the fact that they are releasing a bunch of source code to show how to use their product but it’s the marketing approach that interests me. It combines getting genuine interest in the product, making sure it’s actually seen, then getting the user further involved.

Nice job Telerik.

Determining your session’s transaction isolation level

A question came up from a developer yesterday. He could see how to set a transaction isolation level but didn’t know how to determine the current transaction isolation level. That detail is available in the sys.dm_exec_sessions DMV.

Here’s an example:

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And if you are running SQL Server 2012, you could always use CHOOSE instead:

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Should there be code differences between Azure SQL Database editions?

I spend a lot of time working with software houses, helping them to make their applications work well with SQL Server. One thing that I’ve heard loud and clear over the years is that most software houses won’t write a single line of code that will only run on the enterprise edition of SQL Server, because they are not prepared to limit their potential pool of customers to those running enterprise edition.

This is completely at odds with the discussions that I’ve had with the SQL Server marketing team members who think that having feature differences will cause people to purchase enterprise edition instead. I’m sure that’s true for customers who write their own applications in-house and is also why at promotional events, the customers that you see mentioned are often those types of customers. However, most SQL Server customers run 3rd party applications written by other companies. The customers will often ask the software houses what software is required to run their applications and they then purchase what they need, unless they have some other pre-existing form of relationship with Microsoft.

So this means that having a difference in features can actually cost Microsoft money as the customers will often purchase standard edition because that’s all the software that they will be running requires.

Worse, when software houses are comparing SQL Server to other database engines, they compare SQL Server standard edition to the other engines, not the enterprise edition. This makes SQL Server compare badly for marketing reasons instead of technical reasons. For example, I saw a software house the other day comparing SQL Server with PostgreSQL. Their contention was that PostgreSQL (a free database engine) had a good high availability story and that SQL Server did not. Their logic was that SQL Server only had mirroring (and log shipping) and Microsoft had announced the deprecation of mirroring. So their contention was that SQL Server did not have a good availability story. The fact that enterprise edition had a really good story was irrelevant as they don’t consider anything in that version.

A further issue appears with coding. There is no developer edition of SQL Server that is limited to standard edition features. Software houses want to write code once and have it work across all target editions.

Another core issue is that this focus on enterprise edition has removed the upgrade reasons for standard edition customers. I think that every edition should have a compelling upgrade story, for every version. As an example, in SQL Server 2014, the reasons to upgrade for standard edition customers are the ability to use 128GB of memory and to have backup encryption. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide if that’s a strong story. I don’t think it is.

The final issue with the existing situation is that the product is moving into areas that need support from software houses. SQL Server 2014 introduced a range of in-memory options. For any customer that can’t change the code (ie: most customers), this is irrelevant. Again you’ll see the same large customers who write their own apps being mentioned in the launch events. I this case, I think the marketing team really have made a mistake. While new HA features, etc. can be retrofitted by a DBA to an existing database, the new in-memory options really need to be architected into the design of the applications. And that’s where it’s a real problem that it’s in enterprise edition only. The software houses are unlikely to use it, and yet they are exactly the same people that we need to embrace it.

So what does this have to do with Azure?

Bob Beauchemin wrote a great blog post today about how Azure SQL Database is moving to a SQL Server 2014 code base. That’s a great thing but one aspect that caught my eye was the mention that this is the first version of Azure SQL Database where features like columnstore indexes, etc. will only appear in the premium editions of Azure SQL Database.

While I’ve had concerns about how the licensing has been handled in the on-premises versions of SQL Server, in Azure SQL Database this concerns me even more. I really think that Azure SQL Database should offer the same code surface no matter which edition you are using. It makes sense to have performance and availability (including HA) options differ between Basic, Standard, and Premium but I really don’t like the idea of coding/feature differences. First up, it will again see software houses ignoring useful features. But worse, in the Azure SQL Database arena, customers are much more likely to use a mix of database editions than they currently do on-premises.

For example, if I am offering an application as a service, I want to be able to have different databases for different tenant customers. I really want to be able to choose the performance, reliability, availability options, etc. on a tenant by tenant basis, not across all tenants that are using my application. Having coding differences across the editions would make this a mess, or at least I think so.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Office 365 coming to Australian Data Centres

We’ve been so excited having local data centres for Microsoft Azure.

The one disappointment has been that Office 365/Power BI has still been based out of Singapore data centres. That has an effect on people that worry about data sovereignty and it also means that we’ve had higher latency on the connections.

But no more! I was really pleased to read an article in the newspaper yesterday that mentioned that Microsoft is moving Office 365 to the Australian data centres. The article claims this is happening in April next year. I can only hope it’s true as this will be a really good outcome thanks Microsoft!

Here’s the article: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/latest/microsoft-to-deliver-office-365-from-australian-data-centres/story-e6frg90f-1227149621552?nk=41c535e280e2d2c90d15e82eefcb763c

DAX Studio 2.0 is out the door

Learning to write DAX queries is important in the new world of tabular data models. DAX Studio is the best environment right now for learning to write and test DAX queries.

Today Darren Gosbell announced on his blog that version 2.0 of DAX Studio is out the door. This is a superb effort and one that you should both applaud and use.

The biggest improvements seem to be around the UI. It looks very impressive but there is much more to it than just the UI.

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DAX Studio can be run standalone (as an exe) or as a ribbon within Excel. Nice!

If you need to develop and/or run DAX queries, this is now a far superior option than creating them in SQL Server Management Studio.

Go and download it now from here: http://daxstudio.codeplex.com/

And also go back to Darren’s blog and leave a note thanking him for the early Christmas present !

Microsoft Action Figures–SQL Server and Heroes

I’ve ended up with a number of Microsoft figurines over the years. It all started with Nine Guy, then went on to the whole Source Force team:

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It’s been interesting to see how they’ve evolved over the years. Here are the SQL Server ones:

SQL Server 2005 had a demure little lady that was all Red. She morphed into an orange version by SQL Server 2008 (shown here with me at TechEd USA) in 2008. Later she took on a Neo look from the Matrix, and now there’s a guy, the Query Controller.

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I love the way that the tradition continues. Microsoft Virtual Academy recent had a Heroes program where you got sent a figurine if you completed one of a specific set of app dev and server courses. (Each course had a number of sub-courses). Here’s the full set:

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