Monitoring SQL Server – in praise of MOM!

We’re currently building an SQL 2008 server cluster which will use resilient SAN-attached storage. This will provide the University with a leading edge hosted SQL service on which to safely manage its databases as well as making available a whole host of new SQL 2008 Business Intelligence services. More news about that to follow in future blogs…

In order to decide upon the best RAID configuration for the new service (i.e. whether to configure the disks to get biggest capacity or best performance) I’ve had to gather some stats about the transactions per second (TPS) on the current (SQL 2000/2005) servers. To this end, I started monitoring with SQL Profiler in conjunction with Performance Monitor. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, but let me tell you, it is something of a black art and unless I’m very much mistaken, it does come under the category of Rocket Science if only because it makes you want to hurl your computer at the moon! Fortunately, all was not lost – to my rescue came MOM: Microsoft Operations Manager. You can Google for MOM and get all sorts of info but, for a quick overview of what it is, this covers it really: (and yes they changed the name from MOM to SCOM but we all still call it MOM out of habit…)

So, how did MOM help in this case? The MOM servers run by the Windows Infrastructure Team have (amongst a lot of other things!) a MOM SQL Management Pack installed which means that when they connect to SQL servers, they are able gather SQL specific data in addition to the other more generic monitoring of disks, memory, network connectivity, etc. So, MOM has been quietly monitoring TPS and storing the data into MOM reports for some time. All I had to do was request the report and hey presto! Here’s a couple of examples:-

This image shows a top-level report which gives a broad view of various SQL-specific data over the last quarter of 2008 for a range of performance data on one of the SQL servers:-

SQL report details

And then… you can drill into, for example, the Transactions per Second data and obtain a more detailed view….

SQL report details

A lot prettier (in so many ways!) than Perfmon and Profiler. These are just 2 basic reports but there is a wealth of other information that can be got from MOM, and not just for SQL – and not just in retrospect. MOM carries out service-specific monitoring for Exchange, IIS, Terminal Services, ISA… in fact all of the Windows Server services run by our team, keeping an eye on services – 24/7 – and alerting us to any problems or errors as soon as they arise.

Outlook Deleted Items Folder

Whilst recently migrating users to the new Exchange mail servers, a trend has become very apparent amongst our user community.

The mailbox move process creates a new mailbox on the new server then proceeds to copy every message individually before closing the connection and transferring which mailbox the user account points to. It’s a tedious, long-winded process, but unfortunately that is what we have to work with.

During this process the GUI/Powershell gives an indication of progress and which Outlook folder that is currently being processed. It is difficult not to notice the process trundling along and very difficult not to notice the prevalence of users with massive Deleted Items folders.

Deleted Items Move

The above example is actually pretty tame. Some users have Deleted Items folders with excess of 8000 items.


Here is an example of 8000+:
Deleted Items Move2

My main questions are:

  • Are users aware that their Deleted Items folders are so large and takes up part of their quota?
  • Are users aware that they can easily empty it or even automate the process? 2003, 2007
  • Do users use e-mail in a way that necessitates having this massive log of deleted items; is it an urge to have an empty inbox, but refer to the deleted items frequently?

Of course, the reason for this blog post is purely selfish, as the mailbox moves take much longer and the mailbox databases grow much larger, however it does emphasise that folk may use e-mail in a plethora of differing ways.

This post is also a chance to refer to the post I made last year which talks about the inbuilt ‘Recover Deleted Items’ functionality of Exchange.

Developer Event: Parallel programming in .NET (VS2010)

[UPDATE 2] This event has now been rearranged for Tuesday 24th February. Sign up at:–Parallel-programming-in-NET-VS2010-with-Eric-Nels.aspx

[UPDATE: Due to flight cancellations caused by the weather, this event has been cancelled and will be rearranged for a later date.]

This is a slight departure from our normal topics, but some of you may be interested in attending this event, which the University is hosting for VBUG Newcastle…

Date: Tuesday 3 February 2009 from 6:30 PM to 09:30 PM

Topic: VBUG NEWCASTLE: Parallel programming in .NET (VS2010) with Eric Nelson

The next version of the .NET Framework will come with new classes that start to remove the difficulties in building multi-threaded applications that are able to take advantage of the modern multi-core processor architectures and the future many-core architectures that are coming over the next few years. In this session, we will look at why we will all need to start thinking about parallelism and drill into what is available in the current previews for managed code development.

Location: Room 118, Claremont Tower, Newcastle University

For more information, and to book a place, go to:

10 Reasons to upgrade to Windows Vista Part 2

6. We’ve been testing it for years and it works!

The Windows Infrastructure Team and some others within ISS have been testing Windows Vista since it’s Beta stages over 2 years ago and now use it day to day as their main operating system. More importantly it works with all of the core software including Microsoft Office, SAP, Adobe Products, Apple Products and VMWare to name but a few. Vista was designed to be compatible with applications written for XP. Thats said, if you have applications that you know do not work with Vista then now is the time to start working with ISS ASSD and the developers to find solutions.

7. Built-in Undelete

Have you ever accidentally saved over a file you were working on? Accidental file deletion or modification is a common cause of data loss. Windows Vista has Shadow Copy enabled by default so you will be able to access ‘previous versions’ on your local machine as well as the network.

8. New and hugely improved administration and deployment tools.

  • Better, quicker and more manageable deployment using WDS (no more multiple RIS builds)
  • 800 new GPO settings allow for central management of just about any part of the OS.
  • Automatic background disk defrag. Vista will automatically begin defragging the hard disks when required.
  • Performance and Reliability Monitoring combines the functionality of previous stand-alone tools including Performance Logs and Alerts, Server Performance Advisor, and System Monitor. It provides a graphical interface for customizing Data Collector Sets and Event Trace Sessions.
  • You can use Snipping Tool to capture a screen shot, or snip, of any object on your screen, and then annotate, save, or share the image.

9. It looks great and is very pleasing to use!

Whatever else you say about Vista no one can argue that it does not look great! Moving between applications is a far better experience using Windows Flip and Flip 3D. Windows Sidebar is a pane on the side of the desktop where you can keep your gadgets. Gadgets are mini applications with a variety of possible uses. They can connect to web services to deliver business data, weather information, news updates, traffic maps, RSS feeds, provide search boxes, Internet radio and more.

10. If you still need More Reasons…

Offline file support * Increased x64 Bit Support * Photo Gallery * Movie Maker 6 * Media Center Extender * DVD Maker * Fast Sleep and Resume * SideShow * Dynamic Security Protection * Fast Sleep and Resume * Fax Support * Better Wireless Networking * Sync Center * DirectX 10 * Games Explorer * WMP 11 * New Movie Maker * New Windows Update Interface * Up-to-date driver base and better driver handling on installation * Better file navigation * Windows Vista Compatibility Centre * File and registry virtualization * IPv6 * GP Software & Hardware restrictions * Media Sharing * Network and Sharing Centre * Self healing filesyfeature * Network Projector *

10 Reasons to upgrade to Windows Vista Part 1

1. Power Saving

Power saving is becoming an increasing important aspect of computing. Recent efforts to switch off equipment when not in use could save the University over 4500 pounds per year in ISS alone.

With Windows Vista power savings can be increased further.

Windows Vista is Microsoft’s most energy-efficient operating system to date. With features including Immediate responsiveness to Sleep or Resume, per machine settings, Hybrid Sleep and management by group policy.

For a full guide to Windows Vista Energy Conservation follow see this white paper.

2. It’s here, it works and it’s the future!

As of 6 months ago Microsoft had sold 180 million licenses for Windows Vista with more than 10 million a month being sold since then. The OS has now been released for 18 months and is now the standard for all new machines.

Staff and Students who have purchased machines in this period and those who buy in the future will be using Vista as their service providers and support staff we must be able to support it.

The recent beta of Windows 7 shows that the next version of Windows will be the same as Windows Vista in every way which matters (see my earlier post).

3. Security.

  • UAC: User Account Control allows Administrators to quickly elevate their privileges in order to make system changes so no need to logoff and login again with your admin account.
  • ASLR and NX support. Stops attackers predicting hardware memory addresses.
  • Heap buffer over-run detection. Protection from this favourite area of exploits.
  • Windows Service hardening reduces the chance of exploits such as blaster, slammer, sasser…
  • Windows Defender gives built-in spyware, malware detection. No need for third party products.
  • Windows Firewall now has inbound and outbound protection plus many other advances over XP.
  • CompletePC backup backs up everything on a PC, including the Operating System and applications.
  • BitLocker is a new drive encryption technology introduced with the Vista operating system. With BitLocker enabled, all files on PC or laptop hard disk drives are automatically encrypted helping to prevent information from being read by others if a computer is lost, stolen or sold.
  • A new Kernel supports many security and performance improvements.
  • Internet Explorer runs with lower privileges than a standard user (not possible in Windows XP).

4. Search

A new tool in Windows Vista called Instant Search helps ensure that you’re never more than a few keystrokes from whatever you’re looking for. Search boxes are available almost everywhere in Windows Vista. Just type a file name, a property, or even text contained within a file, and Instant Search will return pinpointed results and when used with Outlook 2007 this can include your emails.

5. Accessibility

The new Ease of Access Centre in Windows Vista centralised place to locate accessibility settings and programs including On-screen Keyboard, Magnifier, Narrator, Keyboard shortcuts, Visual Notifications and Captions and one of the more powerful speech recognition systems available.

Windows Live Essentials released

As well as the Beta of Windows 7 (and it’s companion, Windows Server 2008 R2), Microsoft has also used the CES to announce the final availability of its Windows Live Essentials suite.

These are products that have been around in Beta and Release Candidate forms for a while. The announcement that they’re now final, should actually read that they were ready a little while ago – the final version is the same as the recent release candidate!

The suite includes the latest version of Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Photo Gallery (which is a great improvement over the Photo Gallery built in to Vista, includes Flickr support and works on XP), Windows Live Mail (also better than the version that ships in Vista) and the fantastic Windows Live Writer, which is the best blogging software available (sadly this blog’s host doesn’t support it, which is partly why I don’t post as much as I might!).

You can get the suite from

Get ready for Windows 7… Install Vista

This morning saw the release of the Windows 7 Beta to MSDN and TechNet subscribers. It will be available for limited (2.5 million) download to the public on the Windows 7 web site on the 9th.

So is there no point in installing Windows Vista?

I don’t agree with this point of view and putting aside the fact that Windows XP will be over 10 years old by the time Windows 7 is released here are my main reasons.

Windows 7 features updates to the UI for example the Office ‘ribbon’ will now be on Paint and other built in applications. The taskbar and other menus will be reorganised and I expect that there will be other features added but at the core.

  • Drivers and software which work on Vista are going to work just the same on Windows 7.
  • Memory management, service hardening, the networking experience and the other core features in Windows Vista will be present in Windows 7 including user Account Control.

In short, Windows 7 is be the same as Windows Vista in every way which matters.

Those choosing to wait (perhaps 18 months or more) for Windows 7 to become available on CAMPUS will only find themselves in exactly the same position but without having taken of the massive benefits that Vista as to offer and facing an even bigger jump in terms of functionality.

I’ll be posting some of these benefits later today.

Finally I’ll leave you with a screenshot of the new Windows 7 Start menu. Look familiar?

Windows 7