Glenn’s Technical Insights For June 30, 2019

(Glenn’s Technical Insights… used to be part of our bi-weekly newsletter but we decided to make it a regular blog post instead so it can get more visibility. It covers interesting new hardware and software developments that are generally relevant for SQL Server).

Leaked Intel Internal Memo About AMD

There was quite a bit of discussion and commentary last week about a leaked memo from an internal Intel “Circuit News” employee portal. This memo, which is entitled AMD competitive profile: Where we go toe-to-toe, why they are resurgent, which chips of ours beat theirs“. The memo is a pretty frank analysis of Intel’s current challenges in the desktop and server CPU market. Since it was written for internal consumption at Intel, it also seems to be little bit of a “buck up the troops” document, which seems understandable in that context.

The 7nm AMD Ryzen 3000 series processors and new X570 chipset motherboards are going to be on store shelves on July 7, 2019. The review embargos will expire on the same day, so we will probably have many reviews and benchmark numbers from a multitude of reputable 3rd party review sites. That is when we will finally know for sure whether the AMD Ryzen 3000 series processors actually have better single-threaded CPU performance than the best modern Intel processors.

This matters for SQL Server because the upcoming (Q3 2019) AMD 7nm EPYC “Rome” processors use the same Zen 2 architecture as the Ryzen 3000 desktop processors. If Ryzen 3000 lives up to the expectations and hype, that will be a good omen for “Rome”. SQL Server core-based licensing makes single-threaded CPU performance important if you want to maximize CPU performance and capacity while keeping license costs under control. Having a viable alternative to Intel for server processors is good for the market. Strong competition between AMD and Intel will force both companies to continue to innovate at a more rapid pace.

Despite what you may read and hear, Intel is not going to completely fail in those markets. They will lose some market share, and they will probably have to respond by offering lower prices for many of their existing processors. Intel is definitely under pressure in those two market segments, and they just don’t have an announced product release that will be a good competitive response for at least six to twelve months.


Microsoft Releases SQL Server 2019 CTP 3.1

On June 26, 2019, Microsoft released SQL Server 2019 CTP 3.1. The release notes are here. Some of the highlights for the database engine include the ability to have the SQL Server setup program suggest recommended MIN and MAX Server memory values (which you can override) during installation.

SQL Server 2019 CTP 3.1

Figure 1: Memory Configuration During Installation

Another improvement is a new option for indexes, which is OPTIMIZE_FOR_SEQUENTIAL_KEY. This lets you enable an optimization within the database engine that helps improve throughput for high-concurrency inserts into the index. This option is intended for indexes that are prone to last-page insert contention, typically seen with indexes that have a sequential key such as an identity column, sequence, or date/time column.

Microsoft continues to add new features to every SQL Server 2019 CTP release. So far, SQL Server 2019 looks like it is going to be good version release with a lot of genuinely useful new features and improvements compared to SQL Server 2017.



How to Uninstall Microsoft SQL Server 2017 Reporting Services

I had to uninstall SQL Server 2017 Reporting Services  (SSRS) for a client recently. It is not difficult to do, but the process is different than it was in older versions of SQL Server. Starting with SQL Server 2017, SSRS 2017 is a separate download from the rest of SQL Server that is not included on the SQL Server 2017 installation media. Because of this, you need to find Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services under Uninstall or change a program in Control Panel. Then you simply right-click and choose uninstall.

This is different than how it used to be, and different from how Microsoft currently describes it in their documentation, which doesn’t appear to have been updated yet.

Uninstall Reporting Services

SSRS Uninstall 1

Figure 1: Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services Entry

You will see a screen like this, which will let you do an Edition Upgrade, Repair, or an Uninstall.

SSRS Uninstall 2

Figure 2: Microsoft SQL Server 2017 Reporting Services Maintenance

Depending on your machine, the uninstall should go pretty quickly. It doesn’t typically require a reboot. It also doesn’t require a restart of the SQL Server Service, since it is a completely separate service.

SSRS Uninstall 3

Figure 3: Uninstall in Progress

It will look like this when it is done.

SSRS Uninstall 4

Figure 4: Completed Uninstall

Hopefully this will save you some time if you ever want to do this.

Glenn’s Technical Insights For June 13, 2019

(Glenn’s Technical Insights… used to be part of our bi-weekly newsletter but we decided to make it a regular blog post instead so it can get more visibility. It covers interesting new hardware and software developments that are generally relevant for SQL Server).

AMD Announcements at the E3 Conference

On June 10, 2019 AMD President and CEO, Dr. Lisa Su delivered a presentation at the E3 Expo 2019 in Los Angeles. During this presentation, Dr. Su announced more architectural details about the 7nm Ryzen 3000 series mainstream desktop processors,including a new 16C/32T, Ryzen 9 3950X SKU. AMD also demoed the upcoming 7nm AMD EYPC “Rome” server processors, along with the upcoming 7nm AMD Radeon RX 5700 “Navi” video cards. The updated Ryzen 3000 SKU list is shown in Figure 1.

AMD Ryzen 3000 Series

Figure 1: AMD Ryzen 3000 Lineup

One of the more interesting bits of new information is the fact that AMD has been working closely with Microsoft to develop improvements to how scheduling and thread allocation is handled on AMD Zen2 architecture processors on Windows 10 Build 1903. They are moving from a hybrid thread expansion strategy (where active cores are placed as far away from each other as possible) to thread grouping, where new threads are allocated  as close as possible to already active cores, hopefully on the same CCX. This improves thread to thread communication by speeding up memory access. This is designed to improve the apparent scheduling issues seen on Windows with some AMD Zen processors. You will need an updated AMD chipset driver to get this improvement.

It is not yet clear how well this will work on more heavily threaded workloads like you typically see on a database server. I am also not yet 100% certain that this fix is in Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2019 yet. The upcoming AMD EPYC “Rome” processors use the same Zen 2 architecture, so it is possible they will benefit from this change with some workloads.

Figure 2: Topology Awareness

Another Windows 10 Build 1903 improvement that will definitely help AMD Zen architecture processors is a feature that AMD calls faster clock ramping. It is actually UEFI Collaborative Power Performance Control 2 (CPPC2), which lets the processor and operating system cooperate more closely (and quickly) to increase the clock speed of individual cores more rapidly under a load. This feature moves P-state control from the OS to the processor, so the processor can “throttle up” much more quickly than before. AMD is claiming a clock ramp time of 1-2ms with this improvement compared to about 30ms before. This will also require a UEFI/BIOS update and a new AMD chipset driver before it will work.

This feature is very similar to Intel Speed Shift, which was introduced with their Skylake processors, and improved with Kaby Lake. Intel Speed Shift requires Windows 10 v10586 or Windows Server 2016 or newer. Intel Speed Shift takes 15-30ms to ramp up, so it is not as responsive as AMD’s implementation. AMD also revealed that the Zen 2 architecture processors will have hardware level mitigations for Spectre and Spectre v4. Keep in mind that AMD processors are not vulnerable to Meltdown, or newer exploits such as Foreshadow or Zombieload.

These architectural improvements in the Zen 2 architecture will also show up in the upcoming (Q3 2019) 7nm AMD EPYC “Rome” server processors, which is very exciting from a SQL Server perspective.