Glenn’s Tech Insights For May 15, 2019

(Glenn’s Tech 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).

Microarchitectural Data Sampling in Intel Processors

On May 14, 2019, news broke that a new series of speculative execution side-channel flaws are present in most existing Intel mobile, desktop, and server processors. These newly announced exploits are detailed in this advisory from Intel. Jon Masters from Red Hat has a pretty detailed explanation of these vulnerabilities here.  Here are the four CVEs:

CVE-2018-12126 Microarchitectural Store Buffer Data Sampling (MSBDS)

CVE-2018-12127 Microarchitectural Load Port Data Sampling (MLPDS)

CVE-2018-12130 Microarchitectural Fill Buffer Data Sampling (MFBDS)

CVE-2019-11091 Microarchitectural Data Sampling Uncacheable Memory (MDSUM)

For affected Intel processors, you will need OS patches plus microcode updates (BIOS updates) from your hardware vendor. You may want to consider disabling hyper-threading on affected processors. Microsoft has updated their guidance on this subject here:

SQL Server guidance to protect against Spectre, Meltdown and Micro-architectural Data Sampling vulnerabilities

Intel has a deep dive on this subject here:

Deep Dive: Intel Analysis of Microarchitectural Data Sampling

Microsoft has already released an updated PowerShell script that you can use to check your current OS and hardware status regarding these exploits. This article walks you through how to download the PowerShell script and run it to check your patching status:

How to test MDS (Zombieload) patch status on Windows systems

Figure 1 shows the results on my AMD Threadripper 2950X system (which is intrinsically less vulnerable to these types of attacks). This is after I patched Windows 10 yesterday.

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Figure 1: Get-SpeculationControlSettings Results

BTW, the SQL Server 2017 security update for SSAS that was released on May 14, 2019 is for a completely different issue.


AMD Ryzen 3000 Series Speculation

As Computex Taipei 2019 gets closer (May 27), there are an increasing number of leaks and rumors about the exact specifications and features of the upcoming AMD Ryzen 3000 series desktop processors. This family of 7nm mainstream desktop processors will supposedly have SKUs starting with 6C/12T, going up to 16C/32T. Ryzen 3000 series processors will also have PCIe Gen 4.0 support. These processors are supposed to work in most existing 300 and 400 series AM4 socket motherboards. There will also be new 500 series motherboards that will offer additional features.


See the source image

Figure 2: 2019 AMD Client Lineup

The main unknowns at this point are the exact specifications in terms of base and max boost speeds and how much instructions per clock (IPC) improvement we will see compared to the existing AMD Ryzen 2000 series processors. Depending on what the answers to these are, we may see these processors actually having better single-threaded CPU performance compared to Intel. If that happens, it will further establish AMD as a viable competitor to Intel from nearly every perspective in this market segment. This would be great for the consumer.

Here are some videos that cover the latest rumors and leaks:

The Full Nerd ep. 93: AMD Ryzen 3000 and Radeon Navi rumors, Computex predictions, Q&A

AMD Ryzen 3000 16c specs LEAKED, RX 600 series, Nvidia SUED | Awesome Hardware #0187-A

HW News – Intel Shortage Ending, Ryzen 9 16-Core, & AMD Supercomputer

You might be thinking that this is interesting, but what does it have to do with SQL Server? If the Ryzen 3000 series performs as expected, and is successful in the marketplace, it will be a good precursor to the upcoming 7nm AMD EPYC “Rome” server processors. It will give us some hint about the IPC and clock speed increases that we can expect from the Zen 2 architecture. We should also get much more detail about the Rome processors at Computex.



Glenn’s Tech Insights For April 29, 2019

(Glenn’s Tech 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).

SSMS 18.0 Goes GA

SQL Server Management Studio 18.0 became generally available on April 24, 2019. This means that it is the final release version (as opposed to being a preview or release candidate version). It is Build 15.0.18118.0. The Release Notes detail all of the new features, improvements and bug fixes in SSMS 18.0.


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Figure 1: SSMS 18.0 About Form


It is officially supported on Windows 10 version 1607 Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit), Windows Server 2012 (64-bit), and Windows Server 2008 R2 (64-bit). Older preview versions worked on 64-bit Windows 7 SP1.

If you have a preview or release candidate version of SSMS 18.0 installed, you should uninstall it before you install the GA release version.You can download it here.


SQL Server 2019 CTP 2.5 Available

On April 24, 2019,  Microsoft also released SQL Server 2019 CTP 2.5. Many of the new features in this release are focused on making it easier to deploy and manage “big data clusters”.  This is how Microsoft describes a big data cluster:

Starting with SQL Server 2019 preview, SQL Server big data clusters allow you to deploy scalable clusters of SQL Server, Spark, and HDFS containers running on Kubernetes. These components are running side by side to enable you to read, write, and process big data from Transact-SQL or Spark, allowing you to easily combine and analyze your high-value relational data with high-volume big data.

Kubernetes Cluster

Figure 2: Kubernetes Cluster

There are also improvements in sys.dm_exec_query_plan_stats, including a new database scoped configuration option that lets you control whether last query plan statistics are available at the database level (as opposed to instance-wide with TF 2451).

I think Microsoft must be pushing pretty hard to get SQL Server 2019 to GA status by July 9, 2019, which is when SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 fall out of extended support. This is just my own common sense speculation. That’s what I would be pushing for if I were in charge!


AMD Ryzen 7 2700X 5oth Anniversary Edition

AMD is releasing a special 50th Anniversary Ryzen 7 2700X desktop processor. This processor will have the same exact specifications as a normal AMD Ryzen 7 2700X processor, but will come in special gold colored packaging. It will also have a laser engraved signature from AMD President and CEO  Dr. Lisa Su on the heat spreader as shown in Figure 3. This will be covered up when you install the processor.

50th Anniversary Ryzen

Figure 3: 50th Anniversary AMD Ryzen 7 2700X Processor

To be fair, AMD is including a few other things to help justify the cost of this processor compared to a typical Ryzen 7 2700X processor. These include a coupon for a AMD 50th Anniversary T-Shirt, and a special AMD sticker signed by Dr. Su.

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X Package

Figure 4: AMD 50th Anniversary AMD Ryzen 7 2700X Packaging

Some retailers are also adding game bundles to the deal.

Personally, I wouldn’t buy this. It is interesting as a collector’s item, but I am not that much of a collector. It would have been much more interesting if AMD had decided to offer higher specifications on a cherry-picked version of this processor, similar to what Intel did with the special Intel Core i7-8086K processor.




Glenn’s Tech Insights For April 18, 2019

(Glenn’s Tech 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).

April Release of Azure Data Studio

On April 18, 2019, Microsoft released Azure Data Studio 1.6.0, which you can download here. The release notes are here. The highlights include some UI changes, such as renaming the Servers tab to Connections, and moving the Azure Resource Explorer as an Azure Viewlet under Connections. There are also a number of improvements for SQL Notebooks and 78 bug fixes on GitHub.

Azure Data Studio is stable and mature, and Microsoft (and open source contributors) seem very serious about improving it and maintaining a regular release schedule. They are regularly adding interesting new features, such as Jupyter Notebook support. If you haven’t started playing around with Azure Data Studio, you probably should try it out pretty soon.


SQL Server 2014 Cumulative Updates

On April 16, 2019, Microsoft released SQL Server 2014 SP3 CU3 (12.0.6259.0) and SQL Server 2014 SP2 CU17 (12.0.5632.1). These have four and three public hotfixes, respectively, so they are not big cumulative updates. You should be on the SP3 branch by now, but if not, you should plan on getting there as soon as you can. It is my understanding that there won’t be a Service Pack 4 release for SQL Server 2014, which makes sense given the time constraints.

Remember, SQL Server 2014 falls out of mainstream support on July 9, 2019, which means no more Service Packs or Cumulative Updates. Going by the calendar, there should be one more cumulative update for each branch before July 9, 2019.

If you are going to be stuck on SQL Server 2014 for a while, you should make a concerted effort to get on the latest SP and CU as they become available, and you are able to do your own pre-deployment testing.


AMD Ryzen 3000 Series Rumors

AMD is said to be introducing the 7nm Ryzen 3000 Series CPUs during the COMPUTEX CEO Keynote address of AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su on May 27, 2019. The rumor mill has been working overtime over the past several months, and there is huge anticipation among hardware enthusiasts about what the ultimate truth will be.


Ryzen 3000 Prototype

Figure 1: AMD Ryzen 3000 Prototype


These processors will work in most existing AM4 socket motherboards, with a BIOS update. There will also be new 500-series chipset motherboards that will better support new features, such as PCIe 4.0.

Here are some blog posts with the latest information:

AMD Ryzen 3000 Series CPUs: Rumors, Release Date, All We Know About Ryzen 3

AMD Ryzen 3000 release date, price, specs, and everything we know

The bottom line is that you might want to hold off on building a new desktop system, especially a dedicated gaming rig, until after this new generation is released and available. We are already seeing deep discounts of previous generation Ryzen 1000 and 2000 series processors as we get closer to the Ryzen 3000 release date.