Mass Backup All Sessions

Migrating Extended Event Sessions from one server to another should be a simple task. So simple, one would think there was no need to give it a second thought, right?

Well, I have previously written about this topic, you are welcome to read it here. The article discusses quite a bit about scripting out your XE Sessions. One thing lacking in that article is the ability to script out every session on a server.

If you are still not using Extended Events, I recommend checking out this library of articles that will cover just about all of the basics concerning Extended Events.

New and Improved

What about scripting out all of the sessions in SSMS? Surely there is an easy way to do that, right? Well, you might think that. Let me step through the problem that I have seen in SSMS (and unfortunately it is not consistent).

First, from Object Explorer Details (or F5), let’s try to script a single session.

 

When scripting a single session from the “Object Explorer Details”, I have several sub-menus that allow me to script the session to a “New Query Editor Window”. Now, let’s see what happens when trying to script multiple sessions.

 

 

With several sessions selected, I try yet again to script the sessions and I get an unwanted result. Notice that the “Script Session as” option is grayed out and unusable. However, if I try it again (several times or maybe just once, your mileage may vary and it seems to not be relevant to version of SSMS), I may see something like this.

Tada! Luck was with me and it finally worked that time. So, what should I do to be able to consistently script all of sessions? Well, that comes with an enhancement to the script I presented in the prior article here.

Lets just dive straight into the new script.

This is a rather lengthy script, so I won’t explain the entire thing. That said, this script will produce the exact XE Session as it was written when you deployed it to the server. In addition, the script will ensure the destination directory for the event_file target is created as a part of the script.

I can definitely hear the gears of thought churning as you ponder about this whole scenario. Surely, you have all of your XE Sessions stored in source control so there is no need whatsoever for this little script. Then again, that would be in an ideal environment. Sadly, source control is seldom considered for XE Sessions. Thus, it is always good to have a backup plan.

Why

Sadly, I had the very need of migrating a ton of sessions from one server to another recently and the methods in SSMS just wouldn’t work. There was no source control in the environment. Building out this little script saved me tons of time in migrating all of the sessions for this server and also provided me with a good script to place in source control.

Conclusion

In the article today, I have provided an excellent tool for backing up all of your XE sessions on the server. This script will help create the necessary scripts for all of your XE Sessions (or even just a single session if you like) in order to migrate the sessions to a new server or place them in source control.

To read more about Extended Events, I recommend this series of articles.

Event Log File Paths

How does one consistently find the correct path to the Extended Event Log file (XEL file)?

This is a topic that I ventured into some time ago. The previous article can be read here. In that article I covered some of the various trouble spots with capturing the file path for various XE log files. One of the main problems being that there is frequently an inconsistency in where XE logs may actually be stored.

Using what was shown in that previous article, I have some improvements and minor tweaks to fill some gaps I hadn’t completed in the previous script.

If you are still not using Extended Events, I recommend checking out this library of articles that will cover just about all of the basics concerning Extended Events.

New and Improved

First, lets just dive straight into the new script.

One of the things I wanted to accomplish with this update was to find the correct path for all of the sessions on the server. As mentioned in the previous article, sometimes there are complications with that. Due to the way log files can be specified for an XE session, behaviors can be a bit funky sometimes when trying to parse the correct paths. Due to those problems, I couldn’t quite short-cut the logic in the previous script and had to do the less desirable thing and create a cursor.

In addition to the cursor, I threw in a fix for when a full path is not declared for the session (at the time of creation) and the session was subsequently never started. In these odd cases, the script had been returning an empty result set and thus was not working properly. Now, it is fixed and here is an example of the output.

The third column in this result set is purely for informational purposes so I could determine at which point the file path was being derived. For the 30+ sessions running on my test instance, most paths are resolved via the first select. In the image, that is denoted by the label “Phase1” and circled in red. The system_health session happened to be running, but did not have a full path declared so it fell into the “Phase2” resolution group and is circled in blue. The last group includes those cases where a path could not be resolved for any number of reasons so they fall to the “FailSafe” grouping and an example is circled in green in the image.

Why

Truth be told, there is a method to short cut this script and get the results faster but I felt it would be less accurate. I could obviously just default to the “FailSafe” group automatically if a full path is not defined in the session creation. Would that be accurate though? Most of the time it would be accurate, but then there are the edge cases where occasionally we forget that something has changed. One such case of this is if after the session is created, you decide the SQL Server log files needs to be moved from the default path (this is where the XEL files default to if no path is defined)?

I have run across multiple scenarios where the logs were required (both technical as well as political) to be moved from the default location. Ideally, this move occurs prior to server startup. When the log file path is changed, the logs are not moved automatically to the new location. This, for me, is a case where it is best to be thorough rather than snake bit. I also like to document these things so I can compare them later if necessary.

Alternatively, here is the just good enough to pass muster version of that script.

 

Conclusion

In the article today, I have shown some of the internals to retrieving file paths for Extended Event Sessions. I dove into metadata to pull out the path for the session and discussed some concerns for some of these methods. In the end, you have a few viable options to help retrieve the file path in a more consistent fashion.

To read more about Extended Events, I recommend this series of articles.

Puzzles and Daily Trivia

TSQL2sDay150x150TSQL Tuesday

The second Tuesday of the month comes to us a little early this month. That means it is time again for another group blog party called TSQLTuesday. This party that was started by Adam Machanic has now been going for long enough that changes have happened (such as Steve Jones (b | t) managing it now). For a nice long read, you can find a nice roundup of all TSQLTuesdays over here.

The Why?

This month, Matthew Mcgiffen (b | t) invites us to come to a little puzzle party for our TSQL Tuesday party. Bring your favorite brain teaser, puzzle, questions, or interesting and complex TSQL problems/solutions.

This ties pretty nicely into the topic from last month (well at least for me). If you recall, last month Todd asked all of us to share some of our uses for databases in our personal lives. I submitted my article here, but forgot about one of my favorite uses for a database in my personal life – a daily trivia set about SQL Server.

So, why not elaborate on that database a bit today. Almost like a two for one. However, there is one little quick departure I want to make. My first puzzle solved with TSQL was written about many moons ago and can be found here.

TSQL Challenges

A long time ago, Jacob Sebastian ran regular challenges involving TSQL to get you to think about ways to solve problems using TSQL. The site is no longer available, but challenge #97 was about solving Sudoku puzzles. Here is my solution to that particular challenge. A little TSQL and a bit of the black arts and there is a nifty little solution. Even though I have this little trick in the bag, I still solve the Sudoku puzzles the hard way.

What a nice little stroll down memory lane there. That solution alone could satisfy the request for this TSQL Tuesday. Alas, we won’t stop there!

QOTD

Several years ago, I put together a little database to help with daily trivia questions. The database is a simple design and had a primary function to help teach SQL Server facts and internals to those with varying levels of DBA experience as well as helpdesk members. That said, the topic of questions doesn’t have to be SQL specific – it was my primary use.

With just a few tables and a few procs, I have a database that I can use to create questions, track responses from participants, and email questions and answers to participants on a daily basis – automatically. If I run out of questions, I just add more to the table. Nothing super complex there.

What this offers me is a mechanism to mentor multiple people without the burnout and while also gauging their true interest level in improving their SQL skill set.

Wrapping it Up

One of my favorite database automations is to send trivia style questions daily. This helps me to mentor and assess other dba talent within an organization without being too aggressive. Not only can a database be used for automation but it can also be used for numerous other automations. Beyond being highly useful for automation and training, there is also the possibility of using TSQL to solve puzzles like Sudoku puzzles.

 

Database Offline – Redux

I have written a couple articles showing how to audit database offline events via the default trace as well as via Extended Events. These are great for a more proactive approach. Sometimes the proactive approach is just not plausible for the given circumstances. A good example of this is when you inherit servers (e.g. new client, new project, new job) and there are databases on the server that were taken offline prior to your inheritance.

In a situation like this, you need to find out when the databases were taken offline, but your somewhat limited in data available to you for your research purposes. The default trace has rolled beyond the retention point for your server for events that were trapped. Setting up an Extended Events session would be less than helpful given the databases are already offline. So we must find an alternative to finding approximately when the databases were taken offline.

Alternatives

If your predecessor leaves you with a database that has been taken offline and no documentation about it, there is an alternative to find the approximate time it was taken offline – using TSQL. Granted, you could explore the file system and make the same sort of guess based on the file modified date. Data people generally prefer some sort of script and a script that is native to their language (tsql).

So, let’s take a look at a viable option for figuring out the mystery behind your database that has been set offline with no good info surrounding it.

Running this query, I see the following on my test server:

Note that this query uses GETUTCDATE. The differential_base_time column in sys.master_files is in UTC time. Thus, in order to compare properly, we need to ensure we use a UTC datestamp for comparison. Also, of note, this query doesn’t work if there is no full database backup for the database in question. Who doesn’t backup their databases though, right? No seriously, you really should.

Since this is my test server and I am well prepared, I just so happen to have an XEvent session running that tracks the offline events that I can use to compare the results.

Yes, there is a bit of variance in the actual database offline event and the differential_base_time column. This variance is due to timing of the backup and the actual offline event. Again, this is about finding an approximate time of when the database was taken offline as a viable alternative when other data is not really available.

 

Conclusion

We all aspire to having a perfect database environment where nothing surprising or unexpected happens. Unfortunately, that is the desire of dreams and fairy tales. The unexpected will happen. A database can be offline at the time that you take over responsibility of the database. You will be asked when it was taken offline. This script will help you get a reasonable deduction for that offline event in the absence of better data.

Extended Events is a powerful tool to help in troubleshooting and tuning your environment. I recommend investing a little time in reading the 60 day series about Extended Events. This is not a short series but is designed to provide an array of topics to help learn the tool over time. Don’t forget to go back and read the companion article showing how to audit these events via the default trace.

Database Recovery Monitoring with XE

On of the greatest benefits of Extended Events (xe) is how the tool simplifies some of the otherwise more difficult tasks.

Recently, I wrote a rewrite of my database recovery progress report script. That script touches on both the error log and some DMVs along with some fuzzy logic to join the data sets together. That script may not be the most complex script out there, but it is more more complex than using the power of XE.

Database recovery (crash recovery) is a nerve wrenching situation under the wrong conditions. It can be as bad as a root canal and just as necessary to endure that pain at times. When the business is waiting on you waiting on the server to finish crash recovery, you feel nervous at best. If you can be of some use and provide some information back to the business, that anxiety dissipates and the business becomes more calm as well. While the previous script can help you get that information easily enough, I want to introduce the easiest method to capture that information currently available.

If you are interested in a history lesson first, here are the first couple of versions of the aforementioned script (here and here).

Discovery First

As always, I like to explore the event repository to see if there is an event that may be applicable to my situation. This can be done via TSQL script or from the XE Gui. I will almost always break out my scripts to figure out if an event is there or not.

This query will yield any events that match my description. In this case, I am looking for events related to “database_recovery”. This search will yield four relevant events we can use to track our database recovery progress. Those events are shown in the following image (with the event names being circled in green).

If I explore the events a little more, I will eventually come across an attribute in the database_recovery_progress_report event that leads to a map. This map is called recovery_phase. For me, that is an interesting attribute/map and makes me want to look at it further.

Things are coming together a little bit now. We all know (or should know) that there are the analysis, redo and undo phases to crash recovery. This aligns with that knowledge and throws in a couple more phases of the recovery process.

So, now we know there are four relevant events for us to use and that one of the events will tell us specifically which phase of recovery is currently processing. We have enough information that an event session can now be built.

You may notice that I have thrown a lot of actions including the kitchen sink at this event session. Some of that is for consistency across sessions and some of it is simply for exploratory wants (and not needs). Feel free to add/remove actions form this list as you explore the use of this session in your environment.

Here is what that session produces on my test server with a simple stop/start of the SQL Server instance.

In the preceding image, I have the different events circled in red. I have also added the event_sequence action so I can see the relationship between these events as the progress from one to the next. If you note the items circled in green (and connected by green arrow), you will see a couple of different things such as the trace message, the database name, the database id, and the recovery time remaining). Circled in blue are the “destress” items that let us know that the recovery is 100% complete.

Wrap

SQL Server recovery is a safeguard to protect the data in the event of an unexpected failure. The recovery process is necessary and has several phases to roll through in order to bring the database back online.

Just because you need to have patience during the crash recovery process does not mean you have to work hard to get a status of the process or that you need to stress throughout the process. This XE event session will take a lot of work and stress out of the process. I would recommend having this lightweight session running on the server with the startup state set to enabled. This will make your job easier and definitely can make you look like a rockstar DBA.

This article has demonstrated the power of Extended Events, for a lot more reading on the topic, here is a list of over 100 articles.

Making Databases Personal

TSQL2sDay150x150TSQL Tuesday

The second Tuesday of the month comes to us a little early this month. That means it is time again for another group blog party called TSQLTuesday. This party that was started by Adam Machanic has now been going for long enough that changes have happened (such as Steve Jones (b | t) managing it now). For a nice long read, you can find a nice roundup of all TSQLTuesdays over here.

The Why?

This month, Todd Kleinhans (b | t) invites us to share something personal about ourselves. Well sort of. The invitation to each of us is to share a little about databases that we use in our personal lives or that we have created in our personal lives to help us in some fashion or another.

I think this is a really cool idea. Data and databases are very integrated into my life. The integration is enough that it would be difficult to un-blur the line where personal life and professional life begins when talking about data and databases.

Take a moment and reflect on the importance of data and databases within your life. At a minimum, you have taken the approach that data is your profession of choice and hopefully it is a career for you and not just a job.

If you have taken it down the career path, then you probably study your craft in your personal time to try and make yourself better at your trade-craft. Often times, if you are like me, these studies lead to trial and error, experiments, and possibly rabbit holes. If data is just a J-O-B, it is quite likely none of this will apply to you. Those are the types that fall into a category Steve Jones wrote about recently, and I would urge you to change that sooner rather than later. (Side note, I read that article as if it applied to me directly because I really do need to learn and practice more about my craft too!)

Personal Databases

Over the years, I have had sooo many personal databases that I have created for one reason or another. Some still need to be finished. Here are some examples of what I use a database for in my personal life.

Finances: A simple little database to track (sort of like a checkbook yes) credits and debits. More importantly, it tracked bills and due dates with dollar amounts for each bill. This is useful both for reminders for bills but also to see if there are any noteworthy trends with spending or increased costs. Now, many banking (and credit card) sites offer the same types of services – so long as the spending is done with their card.

Exercise: Back in the day, I tracked all of my activities in a database. I would track the duration, activity type, effort level and various biometric measures after each activity. Once again, this is something that is now tracked by so many different apps and databases that it seems counter productive to maintain my own system in favor of something that works more easily on a wearable device.

I have also previously done databases to inventory books, movies, track personal studies and link thoughts about studies from day to day, or even track routine chores (calendar reminders don’t offer much for tracking details). The short of it is, a database can be created to manage so many things as a part of everyday personal life.

 

Wrapping it Up

If you can use a database to create automation routines to help sustain your work life, you can certainly do the same to sustain your personal life. Databases are an essential piece of both my personal and professional life. Not only do I use them to create automation (such as this or this) for things, but I stand databases up to test numerous things from corruption to recovery to performance tuning to help improve my personal abilities and craft in the realm of data.

 

Database In Recovery Redux

Categories: News, Professional, Scripts, SSC
Comments: No Comments
Published on: April 8, 2019

One of the more gut-wrenching experiences of a DBA is to have a database get stuck in recovery. This typically happens when the server was rebooted unexpectedly and typically coincides with a rather large transaction.

The reboot and sudden stop of the transaction requires the transaction to be replayed or to experience an undo. This could take hours or days depending on worst case scenarios. Sitting there and waiting for it to complete just makes you sweat.

This happens to have happened to a client recently so I dusted off an old script (which you can find if you click this link), and started investigating and monitoring the server. While waiting and investigating, I decided to take on my challenge (quoted hereafter) from the first time I posted this query (here).

Unfortunately, this query does not demonstrate the time remaining for the rollback nor the percent complete without needing to query the error log.  Those would be awesome additions if you know how to do it (and let me know), other than via the error log.

I did not remove the dependency on the error log, rather I leveraged that dependency to allow me to get more information from the DMVs and link it to the error log messages to give a bigger more complete picture of the recovery process from a simple query.

This script is now enhanced from the 2014 version and works through 2017.

Wrap

SQL Server recovery is a safeguard to protect the data in the event of an unexpected failure. The recovery process is necessary and has several phases to roll through in order to bring the database back online. It will require patience and this script can help achieve that patience.

Indexed Views – Performance Panacea or Plight

Indexed View(s)

An indexed view is a view where the result set from the query (the view definition) becomes materialized in lieu of the virtual table result set of a standard (non-indexed) view. Many times we see that an indexed view would be created to help improve performance. Far too often, an indexed view is created without consideration for the costs of the indexed view. In this article, I hope to cover some of the more important costs that are frequently overlooked when considering an indexed view as a performance panacea.

The Setup

To demonstrate the overlooked costs of indexed views, I have decided to use the AdventureWorks2014 database (if you don’t have this sample database, you can get your copy here). I will create a view in that database and then I will add a few indexes to that view. Prior to sharing the entire setup, and like all good DBAs, I need to first grab a baseline. For this baseline, I am doing nothing terribly complex. I will just grab table sizes and storage information for the entire database.

Here are my results for the size of the objects within the AdventureWorks2014 database:

These results show that the largest object in the database happens to be the Person.Person table at just about 30MB. Not terribly large, but the database is not terribly large as a whole. Let’s see what happens when I add a materialized view, based on the Person.Person table, to the mix. Here is the definition of that view along with the indexes that I will add to help the performance of some essential production related queries.

After executing all of that code to create this new view with its indexes, I have the following size results:

The creation of this view has chewed up a bunch of storage. It has jumped right up to the number two spot on the biggest objects list within this database. You can see that differences by comparing the highlighted rows to the previous image. The vPerson view is highlighted in red in this second image to help point it out quickly.

Surely this must be a contrived example and people don’t really do this in the real world, right? The answer to that is simply: NO! It DOES happen. I see situations like this all too often. Far too often, large text fields are added to an indexed view to make retrieval faster. I have mimicked that by adding in two XML columns from the Person.Person table. This is definitely overkill because a simple join back to the table based on the BusinessEntityID would get me those two columns. All I have effectively done is duplicated data being stored and I have achieved that at the low low cost of increased storage of 25% for this small database. If you are curious, the column count between the Person.Person table and this new view is 13 columns each.

I call the 25% increase storage cost a significant increase. An increase of 25% in storage for a single materialized view is not an uncommon occurrence. I have seen multi-terabyte databases with 25% of the total data storage being caused by a single view. If you are tight on storage, any unexpected data volume increase can cause a non-linear growth in data requirements to occur just because of the presence of indexed views. Take that into consideration when presented with an option to either performance tune the code or to take a short-cut and create an indexed view.

Band-aid Performance

I alluded to the use of indexed views as a cog to help improve performance. This is done by taking the query that sucks and turning it into a view. The thought is that it will run faster because an index is created specifically for that data set. Generally the performance gains from using an indexed view, to camouflage the bad query, are seen when the query is complex. Unfortunately, the query I provided for this article is not terribly complex. Due to the simplicity of the first example, let’s look first at the execution plan for another query that runs terribly slow but is also not terribly complex:

There are a few table spools and index scans. The most costly operator of the bunch appears to be a merge join with a many-to-many join operation. The indexed view in this case does give me a very significant improvement on this query (look at that estimated cost and then the estimated number of rows). What if I could tune the query a little and avoid the all of storage cost? Let’s see!

Consider the base query for this new view:

Looking at the query, you may be asking yourself why use so many trim functions on each of the joins? This is an extreme that can be easily fixed. None of the fields in the joins should need to be trimmed since they are all numeric in this case. Starting there and removing all of the function use in the joins should provide significant improvements in query speed and without the use of a view. Testing it out would yield similar performance results to the first view in this article. This small change would cause the query to complete in 1 second compared to about 90 seconds. That is a huge gain, and without the added cost of increased storage use.

Do I really see stuff like this in the field? Yes! Spending a little time to fix the root of the problem rather than looking for a quick fix and performance can be spectacular. There are times, though, that an indexed view may be an absolute requirement. That would be perfectly fine. There are times when it is warranted and there is no way around it. If an indexed view is an absolute must, then there are a couple more considerations to be taken into account.

Disappearing Act

I showed previously that the indexed view requires storage space and showed that the new view created quickly claimed its place as the second largest object within the database. Now, to stage the next segment, I will show once again that the indexes are present and consuming disk space. This can be shown via the following query:

And the results of that query should look something like the following (quick reminder that I created a new indexed view for the second demo and these results will be based on that second view):

Now that we know the index is present and consuming space, time to make a change to the view and see what happens. I am proceeding under the premise that I have determined that including the two XML columns in the view are completely unnecessary and are the cause of too much space consumption. I can reap the benefits of the view at a fraction of the cost if I ALTER the view and remove those columns. So I will proceed by issuing the following ALTER statement:

Take note of how long this ALTER command takes to complete – nearly instantaneous.  That rocks! Right? Let’s look at the indexes to make sure they are still in working order and don’t require a defrag. Based on that, I will re-run that query to check the indexes and sizes – for giggles.

This time when the query completes, I get a nice little surprise: I no longer have any indexes on that view. Changing the view definition instantly drops any indexes that were built on that view. If this is done in a production system, imagine the implications and problems that could arise.

Conclusion

In this article, I have covered indexed views and three different considerations that are often overlooked when looking to implement a materialized view. The three considerations for indexed views, as discussed, are: storage, changes to the view, and the band-aid effect. Overlooking the cost of storage can have serious repercussions on the production environment. Implementing an indexed view without attempting to tune the code first could lead to overlooking the storage cost and could end up just being a waste of resources. The last tidbit is that any change to an indexed view will drop the indexes. That is an easily overlooked feature of indexed views. If you forget to recreate the indexes on the view after making changes, you could be looking at a production outage.

There are a couple more critical considerations for indexed views that are often overlooked as well. These additional considerations are blocking, deadlocking, and maintenance. These considerations will be discussed further in a future article.

For more reading enjoyment try the Back to Basics or Xevents series.

Connect To SQL Server – Back to Basics

The first critical task any data professional should ever learn how to do is how to connect to SQL Server. Without a connection to SQL Server, there is barely anything one could do to be productive in the data professional world (for SQL Server).

Yet, despite the commonality of this requirement and ease of the task, I find that there is frequent need to retrain professionals on how to connect to SQL Server. This connection could be attempted from any of the current options but for some reason it still perplexes many.

Let’s look at just how easy it is (should be) to connect to SQL Server (using both SQL Auth and Windows Auth).

Simplicity

First let’s take a look at the dialog box we would see when we try to connect to a server in SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).

Circled in red we can see the two types of authentication I would like to focus on: “Windows Authentication” and “SQL Server Authentication”. These are both available from the dropdown box called Authentication. The default value here is “Windows Authentication”.

If I choose the default value for authentication or “Windows Authentication”, I only need to click on the connect button at the bottom of that same window. Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the fields “User name:” and “Password:” are disabled and cannot be edited when this default value is selected. This is illustrated in the next image.

Notice that the fields circled in red are greyed out along with their corresponding text boxes. This is normal and is a GOOD thing. Simply click the connect button circled in green and then you will be connected if you have permissions to the specific server in the connection dialog.

Complicating things a touch is the “SQL Server Authentication”. This is where many people get confused. I see many people trying to enter windows credentials in this authentication type. Sure, we are authenticating to SQL Server, but the login used in this method is not a windows account. The account to be used for this type of authentication is strictly the type that is created explicitly inside of SQL Server. This is a type of login where the principal name and the password are both managed by SQL Server.

Let’s take a look at an example here.

Notice here that the text boxes are no longer greyed out and I can type a login and password into the respective boxes. Once done, I then click the “Connect” button and I will be connected (again, presuming I have been granted access and I typed the user name and password correctly).

What if I attempt to type a windows username and password into these boxes?

If I click connect on the preceding image, I will see the following error.

This is by design and to be expected. The authentication methods are different. We should never be able to authenticate to SQL Server when selecting the “SQL Server Authentication” and then providing windows credentials. Windows credentials must be used with the “Windows Authentication” option. If you must run SSMS as a different windows user, then I recommend reading this article.

The Wrap

Sometimes what may be ridiculously easy for some of us may be mind-blowing to others. Sometimes we may use what we think are common terms only to see eyes start to glaze over and roll to the backs of peoples heads. This just so happens to be one of those cases where launching an app as a different principal may be entirely new to the intended audience. In that vein, it is worthwhile to take a step back and “document” how the task can be accomplished.

Connecting to SQL Server is ridiculously easy. Despite the ease, I find myself helping “Senior” level development and/or database staff.

If you feel the need to read more connection related articles, here is an article and another on the topic.

This has been another post in the back to basics series. Other topics in the series include (but are not limited to): Backups, backup history and user logins.

An Experiment with Deadlocks

Everything can be fixed with a query hint (*cough* directive), right? If a certain process is consistently causing deadlocks, a simple ROWLOCK hint can be added to prevent it, right?

Well, for whatever reason, there seems to be a myth out there that when deadlocks come a-knocking, then just throw this little directive at it and all will be well. Today, we get to test that and show what will continue to happen.

First, lets look at what the ROWLOCK actually means:

Specifies that row locks are taken when page or table locks are ordinarily taken.

This seems like a fabulous idea if the deadlocks are occurring against a table involving a massive update. Let’s take a look at a small update scenario involving just a handful of records. For the setup, we will use the same setup used in a previous article by Wayne.

Looking at the code, we can see there are only five rows in each of the tables. In addition, an update will be performed to both col1 and col2 in each table for one specific row. So we are keeping this to a singleton type of update, and we are able to force a deadlock by using this setup. Not only do we see that a deadlock will occur consistently, we would see the following in the sys.dm_tran_locks DMV as well as in the deadlock graphs.

In my environment, I used session 51 and 54 consistently for the deadlock repro. In each of the tests, each spid did obtain page locks as well as RID locks (row locks) that were waiting on each other in order to perform an Update. This is what we saw when I ran the setup without the ROWLOCK directive. What if I used the ROWLOCK directive (are you guessing already that there would be no change because the deadlock occurs on the lock held for the update that is waiting on the other update to complete?)? Let’s take a look at that too!

The only change to this setup is that the ROWLOCK directive has been added to the update statements. Examining the sys.dm_tran_locks DMV reveals the same locks being held as was seen without the directive. This shouldn’t be too big of a surprise since the updates are against a single row.

In addition to the same locks being held, we continue to experience the same deadlock problem. Using an Extended Events session to trap deadlock information (similar to the article previously discussed), we can pull out some pretty good info. Let’s examine some of the deadlock data trapped by an XE session.

The results from this query will show us the deadlock graph, the event data, as well as several other pieces of data already parsed from the session data for you. And looking at the session data, one can see that the sql_text from each of the queries will demonstrate both the ROWLOCK directive and the directive-free versions of the query. In this query you can also see that I did a little black magic to match up the two event types from the event session (lock_deadlock and xml_deadlock_report). Then I was able to join the two together to produce one row per deadlock event and to see the sql_text with the deadlock graph on one row. Otherwise, the sql_text does not produce with the deadlock_report event. I leave the rest of the query to the reader to discover and question.

From the EventDeadlockGraph column, we could click the cell and take a close look at the XML generated for the deadlock event. Further, if I choose to save the xml as an XDL file and then reopen it in SSMS, I can see the deadlock graphical report as shown in the following.

We see that row locks are still in effect for the update coming from both sides. This further supports that the directive really is just a waste of time in trying to combat this type of deadlock. This is one of those cases where the best option would be to optimize the code and work things out without trying to take a shortcut.

Wrapping Up

Look to optimize the code instead of trying to take a shortcut. In addition, take a look at the deadlocks, the locks held, and the code to get a better understanding of what is truly happening.

This article demonstrates briefly the power of Extended Events while diving into deadlocks. For more on using Extended Events, start reading here! This article may also be of interest.

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