Interview with Carl Speshock, Author of the Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Database Administrator’s Guidebook
Carl Speshock has been a DBA in the Houston area for over 6 years, and is moving back to Oregon, although he will continue to maintain some presence in Texas. Most recently, he has consulted to Shell Oil Products USA and Shell Services International. In addition to this book, he has authored an article on Full Text Indexes for the April 2002 edition of Access/VB/SQL Magazine.
Tell us, how did you get started as a SQL Server DBA?
Over seven years ago I was working for a consulting firm in Oregon and was impressed with what database technology could do for their customers through the work of their lead SQL Server DBA consultant. I started my DBA career via exposure to the technology through them, and I have pursued it even more intensely when I arrived in Houston over six years ago.
What inspired you to create the Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Database Administrator’s Guidebook?
I wanted to write a book that I felt is what an operational and research type DBA would need. The book is not typical of most DBA books written, as it goes into many of the additional skill sets required to be a well rounded DBA, such as technical writing, database modeling, Oracle/Sybase database transformation skills, and more.
The included CD-ROM is also not typical of what you find in most DBA books, for it is not just an electronic version of the book, and it does not include non-usable scripts. The CD-ROM contains many document templates that can be used to get a SQL Server DBA shop up and running, as well as maintain it, such as on DBA roles, backup, monitoring, inventory, and so on. It also includes a suite of scripts that are extremely useful and have been used and tested by many DBAs. The CD-ROM is something you would want to carry with you or have accessible wherever you are doing SQL Server support or research.
What do you think is the most important thing that a new DBA should learn?
Beyond having a strong technical knowledge base of SQL Server, with respect to both OLTP and OLAP usage, one should also have data modeling, technical writing, communication skills, and an understanding of other RDBMS system’s data objects and types. The biggest challenge that any SQL Server DBA has is the need to continue to keep their skill set sharp, up-to-date, and well-rounded, as Microsoft is continuing to expand SQL Server’s abilities well beyond what is expected from traditional DBA roles.
How do you see the role of a DBA changing over the next few years?
I see that the SQL Server DBA role be one that will require more systems integration skills, with respect to understanding how E-commerce and BI modules work together with SQL Server. I also see a need for a DBAs to become comfortable with supporting OLAP systems as they become more in the mainstream.
When you begin working on one of your customer’s databases, what are some of the first things you look for?
I perform a complete analysis of the database by reviewing the database’s objects (reverse engineer it with data modeling tools), file layout, initial database requirements, applications connecting to the database, documented problems and errors from the database and the server that have occurred over the past few months, review SQL Server error logs and Windows NT/2000 Event logs for the server, and run a trace against the database for a week to get a feel for what type of activity is being created. These are a few of the items I will perform before I can take responsibility and support of an existing user database.
How do you feel about SQL Server 2000’s security features? Where is it great, and where can it be improved?
SQL Server 2000 Security offers many features for the DBA to enact. What I see as the main issue for DBAs is the lack of utilization of these features, and many servers have security holes. Sometimes, this is due to having vendor applications that use SQL Server as a backend database and are written with no regard to security, such as vendor apps that require the use of the sa account and to have Windows 2000 accounts in the local administrator group of the server.
I have also seen that many SQL Server 2000 instances have the BUILTINAdministrator group still remaining after installation and being on-line for some time. This group will allow non-SQL Server admins, such as Domain Admins that are part of the local administrator account of the server, to have full SQL Server System admin rights within the SQL Server instance.
I do enjoy using application roles and find that many of the defined fixed roles are quite useful, and where they are not adequate at the database level, I am able to create user-defined database roles. I also find the new OLAP security features (dimension security, enhanced cell security, and HTTP authentication) ways to market OLAP solution as more secure solutions.
Are there any key features to SQL Server 2000 that you feel are too often overlooked or underutilized?
OLAP is underutilized, but with Microsoft’s BI technology, it will get more exposure and usage.
I have seen, over and over in SQL Server shops, that capacity planning and scalability concerns is an abused, or even forgotten function. Many times, the SQL Server DBA will inherit a SQL Server system that was installed to run right out of the box with default settings. This turn the SQL Server software installation onto a non-robust, incorrectly configured server class system that is not scalable or tunable.
Reprinted with written permission of the author. Copyright 2002.