The Guru's Guide to SQL Server Architecture and Internals

The Guru’s Guide to SQL Server Architecture and Internals
by Ken Henderson
Copyright 2003

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If you have read any of Ken Henderson’s books before, such as The Guru’s Guide to Transact-SQL or The Guru’s Guide to SQL Server Stored Procedures, XML and HTML, you already know that Ken’s books are a little different than the typical SQL Server book. Instead of regurgitating the SQL Server Books Online, he actually writes original content. This is especially the case with his new book, The Guru’s Guide to SQL Server Architecture and Internals. In a sense, it is his personal exploration of SQL Server, from the inside out.

When you first see the title of this book, you may think that it is an imitation of Kalen Delaney’s Inside SQL Server 2000. While there is some overlap in coverage, they are actually two very different books. While Kalen’s book is a comprehensive look at how SQL Server works internally, it also covers a lot of the basics of how to use SQL Server, somewhat overlapping what you can read in Books Online.

Ken’s book, on the other hand, takes a much more in-depth, experiential look at how SQL Server works, leaving the basics to other books. In other words, much of Ken’s material is original content he has developed from working intimately with SQL Server 2000, along with dissecting it, using such tools as WinDbg. It is much like a discovery process that you follow step-by-step as he unravels how SQL Server really works.

Although the book is written at a high-level, and includes C++ and Transact-SQL code examples, the book is still very readable and understandable. While it probably is not a good first read for the novice DBA, most DBAs with some experience under their belt will find the book interesting and useful.

Here’s what the book covers:

  • Windows Fundamentals

  • Processes and Threads

  • Memory Fundamentals

  • I/O Fundamentals

  • Networking Fundamentals

  • COM

  • XML

  • SQL Server as a Server

  • Use Mode Scheduler

  • SQL Server Memory Management

  • Query Processor

  • Transactions

  • Cursors


  • Full-Text Search

  • Server Federations


  • Notification Services

  • DTS

  • Snapshot Replication

  • Transactional Replication

  • Merge Replication

  • Finding Undocumented Features

At over 1,000 pages, this is one big read, and it doesn’t cover everything about SQL Server, just the internals and architecture. While there are no specific chapters on SQL Server performance tuning, there is a lot of performance tuning information scattered throughout. In fact, if you want to be good at SQL Server performance tuning, the more you understand how SQL Server runs under the hood, the better you will be at your job. Because of this, I would consider this book a “must read” for everyone interested in SQL Server performance tuning.

Included with the accompanying CD is a tool called DTSDIAG, that can be used to collect diagnostic data from SQL Server, including Performance Monitor counters, event logs, a Profiler trace, and the output of a blocking detection script, all at the same time. You might find this handy when troubleshooting performance-related problems.

One topic that is ignored in the book, and one that I would have liked to have seen discussed, is SQL Server clustering. There is a lot about this subject that just isn’t documented anywhere.

If you have already read Inside SQL Server, should you also read this book? Yes, as it adds information that is not covered in Kalen’s book. If you haven’t read either Inside SQL Server or The Guru’s Guide to SQL Server Architecture and Internals, which one of the two should you read, assuming you can only read one? That’s a tough call, but if you are more on the novice side, then I recommend reading Kalen’s book first. But if you are an experienced DBA or SQL developer, then you might want to skip Kalen’s book and jump immediately into Ken’s book. Ideally, you will want to read both books. Of course, if you do, it will be like having the word “geek” written all over you. In my case, I wear this as a badge of pride.


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