Ghosts – an eXtrasensory Experience

ghostrip_fireThis is the last article in a mini-series diving into the existence of ghosts and how to find them within your database.

So far this has been a fun and rewarding dive into Elysium to see and chat with these entities.  We have unearthed some means to be able to see these things manifesting themselves in the previous articles.  You can take a look at the previous articles here.

For this article, I had planned to discuss another undocumented method to look into the ghost records and their existence based on what was said on an msdn blog.  But after a lot of research, testing and finally reaching out to Paul Randal, I determined that won’t work.  So that idea was flushed all the way to Tartarus.

Let it be made very clear that DBTABLE does not offer a means to see the ghosts.  Paul and I agree that the other article that mentioned DBTABLE really should have been referring to DBCC Page instead.

Despite flushing the idea to Tartarus, it was not a fruitless dive.  It just was meaningless for the purpose of showing ghosts via that DBCC command.  I still gained value from the dive!!

All of that said, the remainder of the plan still applies and it should be fun.

Really, at this point what is there that hasn’t been done about the ghosts?  Well, if you are well tuned to these apparitions, you may have received the urge to explore them with Extended Events – sometimes called XE for short.

As has been done in the past, before we board Charon’s boat to cross the River Styx to Hades to find these ghosts in Elysium, one really needs to run the setup outlined here.

With the framework in place, you are now ready to explore with XE.

Look at that! There are several possible events that could help us track these ghosts.  Or at the least we could get to know how these ghosts are handled deep down in the confines of Hades, err I mean the database engine.

Ghost_XE

 

From these possible events, I opted to work with ghost_cleanup and ghost_cleanup_task_process_pages_for_db_packet.  The sessions I defined to trap our ghost tracks are as follows.

You can see there are two sessions defined for this trip down the Styx.  Each session aptly named for our journey.  The first (GhostHunt) is defined to trap ghost_cleanup and sends that information to a histogram target.  The second (SoulSearch) is defined to use the other event, and is configured to send to the ring_buffer.  Since the second event has a “count” field defined as a part of the event, it will work fine to just send it to the ring buffer for later evaluation.

Once I have the traps, I mean event sessions defined, I can now resume the test harness from the delete step as was previously done in previous articles.  The following Delete is what I will use.

Prior to running that delete though, I checked the Event Session data to confirm a starting baseline.  Prior to the delete, I had the following in my histogram target.

 

predelete_count

 

After running the delete, and checking my histogram again, I see the following results.

post_count

 

You can see from this that in addition to the 25 pre-existing ghosts, we had another 672 ghosts (666 of which were from the delete).

This is how I was able to investigate the GhostHunt Extended Event Histogram.

But what about looking at the other event session?

Let’s look at how we can go and investigate that session first and then look at some of the output data.

ghostclean

 

Cool!  Querying the SoulSearch session has produced some information for various ghosts in the database.  Unlike the histogram session that shows how many ghosts have been cleaned, this session shows us some page ids that could contain some ghosts – in the present.  I can take page 1030111 for instance and examine the page with DBCC PAGE as follows.

 

 

pagealtLook at that page and result!! We have found yet another poltergeist.

RIP

Once again we have been able to journey to the depths of the Database engine and explore the ghosts that might be there.  This just happens to illustrate a possible means to investigate those ghosts.  That said, I would not necessarily run these types of event sessions on a persistent basis.  I would only run these sessions if there seems to be an issue with the Ghost cleanup or if you have a strong penchant to learn (on a sandbox server).

Some good information can be learned.  It can also give a little insight into how much data is being deleted on a routine basis from your database.  As a stretch, you could even possibly use something like this to get a handle on knowing the data you support.  Just be cautious with the configuration of the XE and understand that there could be a negative impact on a very busy server.  And certainly proceed at your own risk.

5 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. Wayne says:

    Awesome mini-series. Thanks!

  2. […] you have ghosts in your database. Take a look at this article from Jason Brimhall to learn some techniques for finding these scary issues in your database […]

  3. […] Ghosts – an eXtrasensory Experience […]

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