SqlDependency based caching of LINQ Queries

August 4th, 2010

Query Notifications is the SQL Server feature that allows a client to subscribe to notifications that are sent when data in the database changes irrelevant of how that change occurs. I have talked before about how Query Notifications works in the article The Mysterious Notification. This feature was designed specifically for client side cache invalidation: the applications runs a query, gets back the result and stores it in the cache. Whenever the result is changed because data was updated, the application will be notified and it can invalidate the cached result.

Leveraging Query Notifications from the managed clients is very easy due to the dedicated SqlDependency class that takes care of a lot of the details needed to be set up in place in order to be able to receive these notifications. But the MSDN examples and the general community know how with SqlDepenendency is geared toward straight forward usage, by attaching it to a SqlCommand object.

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How to change database mirroring encryption with minimal downtime

April 23rd, 2010

SQL Server Database Mirroring uses an encrypted connection to ship the data between the principal and the mirror. By default RC4 encryption is enabled and used. The endpoint can be configured to use AES encryption instead, or no encryption. The overhead of using RC4 encryption is quite small, the overhead of using AES encryption is slightly bigger, but not significant. Under well understood conditions, like inside a secured data center, encryption can be safely turned off for a 5-10% increase in speed in mirroring traffic. Note that even with encryption turned off, the traffic is still cryptographically signed (HMAC). Traffic signing cannot be turned off.

To change the encryption used by an endpoint, one has to run the ALTER ENDPOINT … FOR DATABASE_MIRRORING (ENCRYPTION = {DISABLED|SUPPORTED|REQUIRED}). Two endpoints must have compatible encryption settings to be able to communicate. The following table shows the compatibility matrix of encryption settings:


The default setting for an endpoint is ENCRYPTION = REQUIRED, which enforces encryption and refuses to connect to an endpoint that has disabled encryption.

Changing encryption settings on an existing endpoint

If you have a running mirroring session and want to change the settings to squeeze the extra 5-10% you can expect from removing RC4 encryption, then chances are you deployed the endpoint with the default encryption settings, namely REQUIRED. If you don’t know the current endpoint settings you can always check the sys.database_mirroring_endpoints metadata catalog. When encryption is REQUIRED the encryption_algorithm column is one of 1,2,5 or 6. When encryption is SUPPORTED the encryption_algorithm column is one of 3,4,7 or 8. When is DISABLED the encryption_algorithm is 0 and the is_encryption_Enabled column changes to 0. To force the traffic to be unencrypted at least one endpoint has to have ENCRYPTION = DISABLED.

When you run the ALTER ENDPOINT statement and change the encryption settings the endpoint is going to be stopped and restarted during the ALTER statement. All existing connections will be disconnected. A database mirroring session may immediately re-connect and not react to this short disruption in any fashion visible to the user.

The safest way to change an existing mirroring session that uses encryption to no longer encrypt the traffic, when there is no witness, would be like this:

  1. Change the mirror endpoint to SUPPORTED
  2. Change the principal endpoint to DISABLED
  3. Change the mirror endpoint to DISABLED
  4. Verify that the connections are unencrypted, check encryption_algorithm column in the sys.dm_db_mirroring_connections DMV.

If a the mirroring session involves a witness, then it too must have the endpoint set to a compatible encryption setting:

  1. Change the witness endpoint to SUPPORTED
  2. Change the mirror endpoint to SUPPORTED
  3. Change the principal endpoint to DISABLED
  4. Change the witness endpoint to DISABLED
  5. Change the mirror endpoint to DISABLED
  6. Verify that the connections are unencrypted, check encryption_algorithm column in the sys.dm_db_mirroring_connections DMV.

Note that if automatic failover is enabled then at the moment the principal endpoint is changed, it is possible for automatic failover to occur, given that for a brief moment the mirror and the witness will have a quorum.

How to troubleshoot if something goes wrong

Attach Profiler to all instances involved in the mirroring session and open a trace that listens for the Audit Database Mirroring Login Event Class (on SQL 2005 use the Audit Broker Login Event Class event instead, it will trace the DBM sessions). If you did a mistake during the ALTER ENDPOINT changes and ended up with incompatible settings, there will be an event generated visible in Profiler. The event Text will contain an error message explaining why the endpoints cannot connect.

Using tables as Queues

March 26th, 2010

A very common question asked on all programming forums is how to implement queues based on database tables. This is not a trivial question actually. Implementing a queue backed by a table is notoriously difficult, error prone and susceptible to deadlocks. Because queues are usually needed as a link between various processing stages in a workflow they operate in highly concurrent environments where multiple processes enqueue rows into the table while multiple processes attempt to dequeue these rows. This concurrency creates correctness, scalability and performance challenges.

But since SQL Server 2005 introduced the OUTPUT clause, using tables as queues is no longer a hard problem. This fact is called out in the OUTPUT Clause topic in BOL:

You can use OUTPUT in applications that use tables as queues, or to hold intermediate result sets. That is, the application is constantly adding or removing rows from the table… Other semantics may also be implemented, such as using a table to implement a stack.

The reason why OUTPUT clause is critical is that it offers an atomic destructive read operation that allows us to remove the dequeued row and return it to the caller, in one single statement.

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Performance comparison of varchar(max) vs. varchar(N)

March 22nd, 2010

The question of comparing the MAX types (VARCHAR, NVARCHAR, VARBINARY) with their non-max counterparts is often asked, but the answer usually gravitate around the storage differences. But I’d like to address the point that these types have inherent, intrinsic performance differences that are not driven by different storage characteristics. In other words, simply comparing and manipulating variables and columns in T-SQL can yield different performance when VARCHAR(MAX) is used vs. VARCHAR(N).


First comparing simple assignment, assign a value to a VARBINARY(8000) variable in a tight loop:

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Asynchronous procedure execution

August 5th, 2009

Code on GitHub: rusanu/async_tsql

Update: a version of this sample that accepts parameters is available in the post Passing Parameters to a Background Procedure

Recently an user on StackOverflow raised the question Execute a stored procedure from a windows form asynchronously and then disconnect?. This is a known problem, how to invoke a long running procedure on SQL Server without constraining the client to wait for the procedure execution to terminate. Most times I’ve seen this question raised in the context of web applications when waiting for a result means delaying the response to the client browser. On Web apps the time constraint is even more drastic, the developer often desires to launch the procedure and immediately return the page even when the execution lasts only few seconds. The application will retrieve the execution result later, usually via an Ajax call driven by the returned page script.

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Exception handling and nested transactions

June 11th, 2009

I wanted to use a template for writing procedures that behave as intuitively as possible in regard to nested transactions. My goals were:

  • The procedure template should wrap all the work done in the procedure in a transaction.
  • The procedures should be able to call each other and the calee should nest its transaction inside the outer caller transaction.
  • The procedure should only rollback its own work in case of exception, if possible.
  • The caller should be able to resume and continue even if the calee rolled back its work.

My solution is to use a either a transactions or a savepoint, depending on the value of @@TRANCOUNT at procedure start. The procedures start a new transaction if no transaction is pending. Otherwise they simply create a savepoint. On exit the procedure commits the transaction they started (if they started one), otherwise they simply exit. On exception, if the transaction is not doomed, the procedure either rolls back (if it started the transaction), or rolls back to the savepoint it created (if calee already provided a transaction).

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Read/Write deadlock

May 16th, 2009

How does a simple SELECT deadlock with an UPDATE? Surprisingly, they can deadlock even on well tuned systems that does not do spurious table scans. The answer is very simple: when the read and the write use two distinct access paths to reach the same key and they use them in reverse order. Lets consider a simple example: we have a table with a clustered index and an non-clustered index. The reader (T1) seeks a key in the non-clustered index and then needs to look up the clustered index to retrieve an additional column required by the SELECT projection list. The writer (T2) is updating the clustered index and then needs to perform an index maintenance operation on the non-clustered index. So T1 holds an S lock for the key K on the non-clustered index and wants an S lock on the same key K on the clustered index. T2 has an X lock on the key K on the clustered index and wants an X lock on same key K on the non-clustered index. Deadlock, T1 will be chosen as a victim. So you see, there are no complex queries involved, no suboptimal scan operations, no lock escalation nor page locks involved. Simple, correctly written queries may deadlock if doing read/write operations on the same key on a table with two indexes. Lets show this in an example:

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Resending messages

December 3rd, 2007

This article is a continuation of my two articles on using Service Broker as a pure data-push one-way communication channel: Reusing Conversations and Recycling Conversations. I originally did not plan for this third part, but I was more than once asked the same question: if a conversation is in error what happens to the messages that were sent but not yet delivered?

The short answer is that messages that are still pending are in the sender’s database sys.transmission_queue system table so when an Error message is received the sender can scan this table and resend each message that is still pending. An example of such procedure is not difficult to code:

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Recycling Conversations

May 3rd, 2007

In my previous post Reusing Conversations I promised I’ll follow up with a solution to the question about how to end the conversations that are reused for the data-push scenario (logging, auditing, ETL for DW etc).

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Reusing Conversations

April 25th, 2007

One of the most common deployed patterns of using Service Broker is what I would call ‘data push’, when Service Broker conversations are used to send data one way only (from initiator to target). In this pattern the target never sends any message back to the initiator. Common applications for this pattern are:

· ETL from the transactions system to the data warehouse

· audit and logging

· aggregation of data from multiple sites

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