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DxEnterprise - When You Need Zero Downtime for SQL Server


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Problem

The cost of downtime could be astronomical for an organization.  The tangible costs alone can significantly impact the business.  When you include the intangible costs and perception of your customers who cannot use an application or service they rely on and trust, the impact is much greater.  As SQL Server Professionals we generally realize there is an impact to the business with downtime, but how can we minimize both planned and unplanned downtime?  How can we ensure SQL Server is available to support the business and help make the IT Department the hero of the company?

Solution

Let's face it, as SQL Server Professionals and IT Professionals in general, we have a great deal of pressure and responsibility.  With new projects, requirements and enhancements from the business every week, in conjunction with validating our environment is healthy, available and resilient, it's difficult and no small task. For many of us, our sense of duty surfaces and this means long hours with night and weekend work to properly support the organization.  As SQL Server Professionals, we know managing a few SQL Servers is feasible, but supporting hundreds of SQL Servers is tough for a small team.  In many circumstances, SQL Server DBAs are stretched thin across hundreds of instances and thousands of databases.  Just wrapping your arms around the environment is challenging let alone supporting the uptime requirements that the company needs to be profitable and reputable.

To compound the situation, there are numerous variables that add to the complexity to properly manage the environment: multiple versions of SQL Server, Windows, PowerShell, storage, virtualization products, servers in multiple locations (i.e. numerous cloud providers, different data centers, etc.), clustered servers, stand-alone servers, servers with replication, etc.  All environments may not face the same challenges, but the reality is the challenges are tough and these variables add to the complexity to properly manage the environment.

With all of these variables, how can you properly manage the environment and work towards zero downtime for SQL Server?  Standardization is generally a first step followed by consolidation of SQL Server instances.  The next consideration is automation and then the realization that it is overwhelming to try to piece meal together a high availability and disaster recovery solution for your SQL Server environment with so many variables.  Although building a high availability and disaster recovery solution with the native options for your SQL Server environment on a small scale with limited variables is feasible, it can become a full time job independent of the remainder of your work. 

To ease this burden and support the numerous variables that are a reality in your environment, I would like to introduce a product from DH2i called DxEnterprise, which is container management software for Microsoft Windows Server.  DxEnterprise is a robust solution that manages SQL Server instances across your organization for disaster recovery, high availability, consolidation and upgrades.  Let's learn more.

 

How can DxEnterprise help my SQL Server environment?

Although the cost of downtime varies from one organization to the next, any sort of downtime directly impacts the organization.  Learn how DxEnterprise reduces SQL Server downtime:

  • Reduce Planned Downtime - Although planned downtime is scheduled, approved and communicated internally/externally, it is still time when your SQL Server environment is not available to support the organization.  With DxEnterprise, you have full control to move SQL Server instances between nodes of your cluster to maintain availability while specific nodes are patched, upgraded, migrated, etc.  This reduces the time requirements during nights and weekends enabling your team to address these critical projects during normal business hours.

    From a patching perspective, you would patch the non-active failover nodes first, then rehost the SQL Server instances.  This gives you the ability to failback if there was an issue with the patch.  Once all is fine, the original hosts can be patched and the application can once again be rehosted.  All of this work can be accomplished during normal business hours and allows you to have minimal planned downtime of 20 to 30 minutes per year.

 

  • Reduce Unplanned Downtime - When unplanned downtime occurs it is a fire drill for everyone on the team.  They have to drop what they are doing and go into firefighting mode.  First trying to figure out what is broken, second trying to bring systems online as quickly as possible, third researching the issue to determine the root cause and finally determining a plan to prevent the issue in the future.  With DxEnterprise there is full control to configure local and remote failover procedures for both high availability and disaster recovery needs including self-healing features to reduce impact and application issues.  This configuration can be planned and tested prior to ever facing unplanned downtime to guarantee the business the uptime expected.

 

  • Seamless Migration - Historically adopting a SQL Server high availability or disaster recovery solution has been difficult and time consuming.  DH2i has seen customers struggle with adopting a SQL Server HA\DR solution and has streamlined the process of moving an existing workload to DxEnterprise with a few clicks in their interface.  This ability to upgrade to a new version of Windows and SQL Server reduces the downtime needed to achieve high availability and disaster recovery for your SQL Server environment.

 

Beyond the downtime considerations, DxEnterprise can also help:

  • Improve Current Infrastructure ROI - Many SQL Servers are not using all of the hardware resources to the fullest extent.  With DxEnterprise you can consolidate those instances in the cluster and make sure expensive servers are not idling while others are over extended and not supporting the workload.

 

  • Reduce Management Time - By consolidating SQL Server instances in the DxEnterprise cluster there is a 75% or more reduction in the number of Windows servers that need to be managed, monitored, patched, upgraded, etc.  Most DH2i customers have 8 to 15 SQL Server instances per Windows host, which minimizes management overhead.  This enables your team to focus on new and exciting projects rather than tedious maintenance work.

 

  • Performance Management - With DxEnterprise you have the ability to set performance metric thresholds and if a metric exceeds a specific value you can be alerted.  You can also use the same threshold to automatically load balance SQL Server instances to another node in the cluster to ensure performance is optimal.  This functionality helps ensure application performance and saves your team time without constantly monitoring the environment. 

 

  • Problem Isolation - If you are experiencing performance issues and suspect a specific server\virtual machine as the culprit, DxEnterprise enables you to move the SQL Server instance with a shut down and restart to another node in the cluster to isolate the instance and eliminate variables to address the performance issue.

 

  • Licensing Savings - One of the best kept licensing secrets is that SQL Server natively supports multiple instances per server with no additional licensing costs.  DxEnterprise takes this to the next level by consolidating SQL Server instances into a cluster in order to support high availability and disaster recovery for any edition of SQL Server.

 

Will DxEnterprise support my environment?

Check out what DxEnterprise will support:

Infrastructure - Physical and virtual servers in your data center or in the cloud (private or public)

Windows Versions - Windows Server 2012R2 to 2008R2

SQL Server Versions - SQL Server 2014 to 2005 for any edition

Installation - Clustering is setup with servers locally or across data centers in just a handful of clicks and it takes less than a minute to complete

SQL Server Management - Management of SQL Server is at the instance level, which can reside on any node in the cluster

SQL Server Access - Configure DNS entries for your SQL Server instances to have a single connection string regardless of the node supporting the SQL Server instance

IT Team Management - Management of the environment from a single interface to create nodes in the cluster, assign storage, move SQL Server instances between nodes, upgrade Windows and SQL Server, review the health of the instance and more

 

 

How do I manage my SQL Server environment with DxEnterprise?

DxEnterprise has a full featured GUI to setup your cluster nodes, storage, SQL Server instances, monitoring, logging and more.  Also keep in mind beyond the simple DxEnterprise GUI, there is also a command line interface and full PowerShell support to further automate the management.

Below is a screen shot of the DxEnterprise interface showing how simple it is to manage your SQL Server instances and the associated storage.  As a performance gain, DxEnterprise lets you configure the Block Size for the NTFS partitions for the optimal performance based on your storage and workload.

Figure 1 - DxEnterprise Interface

 

Deploying a new SQL Server instance or upgrading an existing instance via DxEnterprise is a snap with an unattended installation.  It is just a matter of selecting the appropriate template, version, instance name, etc. as shown below.

Figure 2 - DxEnterprise SQL Server Installation Interface

 

Once your DxEnterprise cluster is set up, you then have the ability to set dependencies between Windows services and applications.  In addition, pre and post scripts can be set up with PowerShell or command shell to further coordinate storage, applications, configurations, etc. as shown below.  This level of scripting is critical for the coordination of multi-site disaster recovery and the process can be automated as much as possible based on your requirements.

Figure 3 - DxEnterprise Scripting Options

 

How do I get started with DxEnterprise?

  1. Take time to learn more about DxEnterprise and register for a free trial.
  2. Schedule a demo with the DH2i team to see just how easy it is to set up your cluster, install the product and simplify your SQL Server management.
  3. Check out the DxEnterprise Admin Guide to build your testing plan, outline predefined goals and test cases.
  4. Setup a test environment with physical\virtual SQL Servers and install DxEnterprise.
  5. Put DxEnterprise through its paces and share the results with your team.

 

Next Steps
  • Getting to nearest to zero downtime with SQL Server is no mistake.  It takes a great deal of planning, coordination and testing.  With DxEnterprise much of this burden is alleviated and your SQL Server management is greatly simplified.
  • When the time comes to consolidate your environment, maximize the return on investment of the infrastructure and guarantee your organization the needed availability and continuity, consider DxEnterprise to meet these needs.
  • Learn more about DxEnterprise from DH2i:
  • Try DH2i Products for Free - Free Trial

MSSQLTips.com Product Editorial sponsored by DH2i, makers of DxEnterprise.



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About the author
MSSQLTips author Jeremy Kadlec Since 2002, Jeremy Kadlec has delivered value to the global SQL Server community as an Edgewood Solutions SQL Server Consultant, MSSQLTips.com co-founder and Baltimore SSUG co-leader.

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