MSDN Webcast Q&A: Index Defrag Best Practices – General Questions

Q: Does clustering rely on the operating system for performance?

Well, I have to admit I am not entirely sure of the question here… But – I think I understand from where it might originate (well, I’ll try). First – and unfortunately (and also somewhat seriously), I think many people lack creativity in choosing a term for something – at least in the computer industry! J Here, I think the confusion is between “clustered index” and the OS term/feature “clustering.” The term clustered index stems from having data “clustered” in a certain order or grouping. In previous releases, we tended to create the clustered index for range queries (like on LastName) and therefore people with the same LastName were “clustered” together. However, because the internals of SQL Server changed [significantly] between 6.5 and 7.0 the internals really dictated a change in where the clustered index should be created. So, even though the term didn’t change it doesn’t entirely apply. Now the OS term/feature “clustering” applies to high availability. Specifically, failover clustering refers to a feature of the Enterprise Edition of SQL Server – which requires a higher level of Windows (typically an “Advanced”, “DataCenter”, or “Enterprise” version) to support it. This really is not the primary focus for this webcast but below are a couple of references if you want to understand more about High Availability and Failover Clustering in SQL Server:


Q: How well are Microsoft’s standard products that use SQL optimized? Are there published studies on optimizing Microsoft CRM, Sharepoint Services, Project Server, and the various Microsoft Business Products?

This one I kind of answered during the webcast…First, I will start by mentioning that I’m NOT an expert on any of these products specifically. However, you are correct in that they are based on SQL Server and use SQL Server as their data store. What that means is that they too must be optimized and maintained; however, it is impossible for anyone to predict perfectly the exact usage of each of these products and as a result they might have a good selection of indexes but they are unlikely to have maintenance operations defined. However – again, I cannot say that I am an expert and I could be wrong! What I will say however, is that regardless of what is defined and what is maintained – you can create additional indexes, possibly drop indexes (more on this in a moment) and maintain indexes with NO application changes. The reason why I say “possibly” drop indexes is because queries/procedures, etc. will FAIL if index hints are used and the index does not exist at runtime. And while I’m fairly certain that NO Microsoft product hardcodes index hints, I have seen other third party products which do and unfortunately they become VERY hard to optimize and manage. In general, it is harder to drop indexes than add indexes. Nevertheless, it is always possible to defrag/rebuild indexes – regardless of the application whether Microsoft of not. So, while I can’t speak to each of these applications directly (although my partner works on Microsoft Project and he’s pretty sharp! J), you can always improve upon an application with better/more useful indexes (meaning more specific indexes for YOUR usage patterns and requirements) and proper/consistent/automated index maintenance.


Q: Is there any internal command to output query plan used by optimizer (not showplan or external tools available), which may show splits with DML operations?

Well, I’ll start by saying that these are really two different parts to your query processing. First, splits are NOT part of the optimization plan as they are only known at runtime. So, a plan really wouldn’t ever show them. As a result, I don’t believe an internal command exists to show this; however, I’m a bit confused as to why it must be “internal” and not something else? Are you just trying to determine which commands and in which tables you are having a lot of splits? (And IMO, this is the most important.). If that’s the case then you can start by using PerfMon to see if you have splits (and get a rough idea of when) and then use DBCC SHOWCONTIG to see which tables are fragmented (meaning they had the splits). Perf Mon will only tell you that you have them – not in which table they are occurring (but I will say that you might be very pleased with a few new features of SQL Server 2005 – look forward to playing with beta II Profiler and PerfMon). Right now, check out PerfMon SQL Server: Access Methods, Page Splits/sec.


Q: How do we use the I/O affinity option in SQL Server 2000?

Actually, I’ll let the KB take care of this one. Check out KB Article Q298402 titled: INF: Understanding How to Set the SQL Server I/O Affinity Option.


Q: Can we use MAXDOP with Index Creation?

No, MAXDOP is supported only as a query hint – for DML (SELECT, UPDATE, etc.) statements. However, if you want to limit all operations to a reduced number of CPUs you can set the server setting Max Degree of Parallelism. See the sp_configure option in the Books Online as well as KB Article 329204 titled: INF: General Guidelines to Use to Configure the MAXDOP Option.

One thought on “MSDN Webcast Q&A: Index Defrag Best Practices – General Questions

  1. I often develop on my laptop and have the need to transfer tables, views, stored procedures and sometimes lookup data to a customers SQL server. What is the best way to handle this? I’ve tried various methods, but they all seem time consuming.

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