XEvent: Some final followup questions (slight return…)

Last blog entry on SQL Server Extended Events for a while. But…a couple of questions came up since I wrote my first blog entry on SQL Server Extended Events.
  What are the major advantages to SQL Server Extended Events?
  Is this really using the Crimson event system?

There's a couple of reasons that come to mind as an answer for the first one. First, and maybe foremost, this eventing system has an ETW target and therefore allows end-to-end tracing. ETW is a provider-based tracing system that is integrated throughout Windows. With the providers available ("logman -query providers" from the command line) you could trace from your ASP.NET app (by way of your IIS server), into SqlClient, across the network (providing that you can decode a TDS trace), into SQL Server, and back. That's a lot of power.

The main hassle I've always had with ETW is the dearth of post-processing tools available. You can use the tracerpt utility to process the ETW output into a comma-separated value file, but where you go from there depends on how well how you post-process the CSV. There is a logreader utility that can do simple SQL-like queries against a variety of log file formats. At one point, I made up a simple SSIS job to load SqlClient ETW output into SQL Server to do T-SQL queries, but where you go from there depends on your ability to decode the variable "data" fields in each event. Although the .mof files allow you to decode the binary format into columns based on the data type, CSVs aren't usually self-describing either, you have to know what each bit means.

Next reason why I was intrigued was the granularity of the eventing. At first glance, you can:
1. Create arbitrary groupings/rankings (buckets) on the event data with the bucketizer
2. Pair alloc/dealloc of most any type of resource with the pair_matcher
3. Add extra data (actions) to events. They even added a mechanism to determine causality.
4. Use as many targets as you wish (targets are separate from events and actions)
5. Add events and targets to a running session
6. Specify how much resources (like memory, dispatch latency) your trace should take (see CREATE EVENT SESSION DDL)
7. Use synchronous or asynchronous event collection, and event buffer retention
8. Specify memory partitioning by CPU or NUMA node

One of the good things about a trace is to attempt to balance "intrusiveness" (which slows things down) with thoroughness (you ARE usually tracing because there's a problem, after all).

The other question concerns the Crimson eventing system. Crimson is a really old codename for Windows Unified Eventing (Windows Eventing 6.0). You can collect your events in XML format and it uses an XML config file for registration, hence my possible confusion with the tern "XEvent" which I'd heard used for SQL Server's Exgtended Events. Matt Pietrick describes it as "an attempt to unify event log and ETW tracing". It's available on Vista and Longhorn OS's only. Here's a couple more references:


Don't search for XEvent like I did, you'll get a lot of hits for the XWindow system XEvent (remember XWindows?). Or Crimson, you'll get a lot of hits on University of Alabama.

All of the articles refer to using the wevtutil utility to list event providers, like logman lists ETW providers. So I installed SQL Server 2008 on Longhorn Server (Windows Server 2008) beta3 and looked for "new" event providers and events. I didn't see any, so I'm not sure that SQL Server Extended Events will register anything more than ETW with Windows Unified Eventing. And the bucketizer/pairer targets write to dynamic management views, not to the event log. There is one more target, the asynch file system target, but that's not in this CTP. So stay tuned, perhaps this is an investing towards future "unified eventing".

BTW, I began to wonder: is unifying the event log with ETW data is really a good idea. Event logs are the "normal" messages that are emitted, tracing seems to me to be a "special occasion" messaging with possible very high message volumes. I don't think the two are actually mixed in the same physical location in Vista/Longhorn, but…what do you think about this unification?

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