Book Review: SQL Server Hardware

Overview

imageFirst off, I really enjoyed this book. I have been following Glenn Berry’s posts for a few years now and when I heard that he was finally going to write up his musings on the aspects of hardware as it relates to SQL Server I was excited. The book is a great introduction to the subject and consolidates a lot of the information I have been receiving piecemeal from Glenn’s blogs for the past several years. I would highly recommend this to a junior or mid level DBA who is looking to enhance their knowledge of hardware and how the choices when you are building out your server can effect your SQL Instance.

Chapter 01: Processors and Associated Hardware

The beginning chapter goes into detail on how you might evaluate processors by looking at the cache sizes, clock speeds, hyper threading, sockets, cores, logical cores, etc. We get some experience talking about the various generations of both intel and AMD processors as well as a look at evaluating motherboards. Although the main theme of the book seemed to be bigger better faster, this chapter went out of the way to explain that a newer two socket machine can easily outperform an older four socket or larger machine for drastically cheaper licensing costs.

Chapter 02: The Storage Subsystem

This chapter goes over the other major component of your server: the disk subsystem. Here we look at various types of disks, how these are attached or communicated with by the server, and how they might be arranged in RAID arrays. The chapter does a decent job of tying it all together and relaying the correct information to help out the junior or mid-level DBA who has not had to learn this information in the past.

Chapter 03: Benchmarking Tools

This chapter introduces us to a lot of really good tools for understanding how it is that your hardware is performing. We first look a little at some of the standard application benchmarks with the TPC-C, TPC-E and TPC-H benchmarks. After that we investigate other tools like SPEC, Geekbench, HDTune, CrystalDiskMark, SQLIO, SQLStress and SQLSim. These give us some general metrics where we can compare the CPU, Memory, Disk subsystem and overall application scores. None of the tools are investigated in great depth, but it is a really good place to look to discover tools which might greatly help you out.

Chapter 04: Hardware Discovery

We take a brief look at some other tools – CPU-Z, MSINFO32, The Task Manager, and the properties dialog – which are used to investigate the type of hardware on which you are currently running.

Chapter 05: Operating System Selection and Configuration

The chapter investigated the differences between Windows 2003, 2003 R2, 2008 and 2008 R2. There is some discourse on support, power savings modes, configurations, and service packs. All in all interesting material, that boils down to wanting the latest and greatest.

Chapter 06: SQL Server Version and Edition Selection

The chapter goes through versions of SQL Server from 2005 to 2008 R2 (with a few hints of what is to come in Denali (a.k.a. SQL 2012)) along with what the improvements and differences there were between versions and editions. I thought it did a really good job of walking through these differences as well as crafting a relatively good argument for why you want the latest and greatest.

Chapter 07: SQL Server Installation and Configuration

This chapter was quick to read as it included a tutorial with lots of good screenshots for walking through an installation which is probably a pretty good start for those users without much experience installing SQL Server. It also included a pre-installation checklist and some hints on settings you might want to change post installation which are good for users of all levels of experience.

Appendix A: Intel and AMD Processors and Chipsets

I really enjoyed this appendix. Not so much that it is all that terribly helpful, but rather that it is interesting to see the walk down memory lane of somewhat recent processors and how it is that they have evolved along with approximate dates of release. I’m not sure how terribly helpful this would be for helping to determine what processor and chipset it is that you would want to purchase, but I don’t think that this was the idea of the appendix anyway.

Appendix B: Installing a SQL Server 2008 R2 Cumulative Update

An appendix which walks through the steps you would need to find, download and install a CU. This is relatively verbose and probably very good instructions for a beginner.

Appendix C: Abbreviations

Two or three pages listing out some abbreviations used in the industry. Might be helpful for a beginner who is trying to learn the alphabet soup.

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