Musings of an Accidental DBA

SQL Server Developer

Are you up and running?

I was re-reading some old blog posts by Steve Jones (the voice of the DBA), and stumbled across a few that really struck a cord for some reason.  It is really interesting how you can read something at a point in your life, and you won’t get near as much out of it as the day you read it that you are ‘ready’ to read it.  (but thats a post for another time)

Steve states that the availability of our applications should be like a utility.  Our users should be able to expect our application to be on all the time, the same as being able to turn on a light switch or get water from the sink.  There may be down times, or little glitches in availability, but are your users noticing it?

When I took over as application administrator 5 years ago (has it been that long already?), we had five different business units using their own stand alone production control application.  Within two years, we brought them all up on a single multi-company application centralized out of our Dallas office.  It is a SQL based application developed by a 3rd-party vendor, which has its own quirks, but for the most part is a pretty stable product.

Which brings me back to my topic…  Are you up and running?  When I first got here, my boss had taken over the project of getting everybody running on the same platform.  Things were a mess.  No common standards across BUs, and very little commonality in general.  We took the time to painstakingly map out everything.  It seemed like such a pain at the time, but looking back it has really helped us run efficiently, as well as make it easier for us to manage.

We’ve had to overcome the fact that the company as a whole expects our software to run slow, as well as have glitches in it.  The vendor has done a wonderful job of minimizing the glitches, and due to our architecture (beyond my control?) we still have our moments as far as not being the fastest application on the desktop, but lets look at my competition.

The two most utilized apps are Microsoft Outlook and Excel/ Word.  I have to hand it to Microsoft in the fact that their apps are on (99% of the time).  You aren’t going to get a lot of complaints that your inbox is behaving badly, or Excel is running slow.  Again, even my SQL server, another MS product is available ‘All the Time’!  I can remember only a handful of times where we had to reboot the server.

But it is interesting, especially recently, that I’ve found a bunch of little tweaks to make things run better.  We don’t have a certified DBA on staff, so I’ve been expanding my knowledge base in leaps and bounds.  The availability of more memory for the SQL Server engine to utilize, as well as regular maintenance on the index statistics has made some significant improvements in speed in the system.  It may not be that noticable to the user, but I’ve got stats to prove it.  Over time, half a second can really add up.

Tim Ford mentioned on a blogpost recently that there is ‘no such thing as a good DBA’.  What he was saying is, if you are good at what you do, the users shouldn’t know you exist.  Are you making changes that are causing downtime?  Do they even know you are making changes that are affecting them?  Nine times out of ten, they won’t notice the improvements you make.  But I guarantee that if you screw up, they’ll let you know about it.

So I ask you again, are you up and running?

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