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Delayed Durability in the wild… — November 14, 2016

Delayed Durability in the wild…


We have recently been working on large data migration project for one of our clients and thought I would share how Delayed Durability helped us overcome a performance issue when the solution was moved to the client’s Development domain.

I won’t go into details of the project or the finer detail of our proposed solution as I have plans to put some more content together for that but in short the migration of the data was to be run by a (large) number of BIML generated SSIS (Child) packages for each table to be migrated, derived from a meta data driven framework with each stage being run by a master package, all of which run by a MasterOfMaster packages.

To maximize throughput, utilise as much processing power as possible, reduce the time it would take to run the migration and control the flow we built a series of sequence containers each running it’s own collection of Child Packages. We built the framework in such a way that these could be run in parallel or linear and each master package could contain as many containers (no pun intended) of child packages as required. This also allowed us to handle the order that packages were run in, especially those with dependencies whilst keeping the potential for parallelising (is that a word? No idea but I like it) the whole process as much as possible. Leaving the MaxConcurrentExecutables property to -1 mean’t we could push the processing to run up to 10 packages at once due to the VM having 8 cores (on Integration, 4 cores on Development) and this value of -1 allows the maximum number of concurrently running executables to equal the number of processors plus two.

An small example of how the MasterOfMaster and a Master Package for a stage looked is shown below:

Each container number could have Parallel and/or Linear Containers and both must succeed before the next Container level can start.

NOTE that this is just an example representation, naming conventions shown do not reflect the actual solution.


During development and initial testing on our own hardware, we had the migration at the time running at ~25minutes for around 600 packages (ie. tables) covering (what we termed) RawSource–>Source–>Staging which was well within the performance requirements for the stage that development was at and for what was initially set out. The rest of this blog post will hone in specifically on Source–>Staging only.

However, once we transferred the solution to the clients development environment things took a turn for the worse. In our environment we were running VMs with 8 cores, 16GB RAM and utlising SSDs. The client environment was running SQL Server 2016 Enterprise on VMWare vSphere 5.5, 8 vCPUs, 32GB RAM (for Integration, Development was half this) but the infrastructure team have done everything in their power to force all VMs onto the lower tier (ie. slow disks) of their 3-PAR SAN and throttle them in every way possible, just to make things more of a challenge. Even though the VM’s themselves were throttled we were confident that we wouldn’t see too much of a performance impact, especially as this was only a subset of the processing to be done so we needed it to be quick and it will only ever get longer and longer.

How wrong we were. On the first run the processing (for Source–>Staging) took around 141 minutes, yes you read that right, a full 116 minutes longer than the whole process took on our hardware! Wowza, didn’t see that one coming. I won’t delve too much into the investigations as again that will be saved for another blog post but essentially we were seeing a huge amount of the WRITELOG wait type since moving to the client environment. We believed the reason for this was due to the significant amount of parallel processing (running of SSIS packages in parallel loading to the same DB) we were doing and the SAN didn’t seem to be able to handle it. One other thing to note, due to truncations not being flagged as error’s in OLE DB Destination fast load data mode access, some of the packages that weren’t a direct copy where we knew the schema was exactly the same were run in non-fast load, ie row-by-row which puts additional stress on the system as a whole.

I will be blogging at a later date regarding how we managed to get everything running in fast load and handle the truncation via automated testing instead.


Enter Delayed Durability.

I won’t enter into too much detail regarding what this is or how it specifically works as this has been blogged by many others (Paul Randal, Aaron Bertrand to name just a couple) but my favourite description of delayed durability is comes from the msdn blogs and they refer to it as a “lazy commit“. Before you ask, yes we understood the issues of implementing such a change but the migration process was always a full drop and reload of the data so we didn’t care if we lost anything as we could simply run the process again.

Setting delayed durability at the database level we were able to control which Databases involved in the process we wished to have this without altering the BIML framework or code itself to handle it at the transaction level. By simply applying this to the Source and Staging databases we reduced the processing time from 141 minutes to 59 minutes. This wasn’t exactly perfect but shaving more than half the time off with one simple change and pushing the WRITELOG wait stat way way down the list was a great start.

As a side not, we have managed to get the processing from ~59mins to ~30mins without changing the VM/hardware configuration but I will leave that for another post.


When I first set out with this blog post it was only going to be a few paragraphs giving an insight into what we did however, I thought that all this would be pointless without some visualisation of the processing both before and after.

Row-by-Row with no Delayed Durability

We needed to get a baseline and where better to start than capturing the metrics through SentryOne and using Adam Mechanic’s spWhoIsActive we can see what I was talking about with the WRITELOG wait stat:


Granted the wait time themselves was relatively low, these were apparent almost every time we hit F5 and running our wait stat scripts in was in the top 3. A sample of the processing indicating this wait stat can also be seen below:


As stated previously, overall the Source–>Staging process took 141 minutes and the overall processing from SentryOne PA was captured:


Row-by-Row with Delayed Durability

So when we ran the same process with Delayed Durability we can see straight away that the transactions/sec ramp up from ~7000 to ~12500. Top left shows without Delayed Durability, bottom left with Delayed Durability and right shows them side by side:

The overall process for Source–>Staging took only 59 minutes. I’ve tried to capture the before/after in the image below, the highlighted section being the process running with Delayed Durability forced:


You can see from this the drastic increase in Transactions/sec and reduction in Log Flushes.

Two package execution time examples (trust me that they are the same package) showing that with Delayed Durability the processing time was only 43% (166sec down to 72sec and 991sec to 424sec) ) of that without Delayed Durability set. Apologies for the poor image quality….

To me that is a huge reduction for such a simple change!


So should you go out and apply this to all your production databases right this second? No, of course you shouldn’t. We applied this change for to fix a very specific problem in an isolated environment and were willing to take the hit on losing data if the server crashed – are you, or more importantly your company willing to lose that data? I’m taking an educated guess that this will be a no but for certain situations and environments this configuration could prove to be very useful.


Why would you never use SSIS Fast Load…? —

Why would you never use SSIS Fast Load…?

We all know that if you want SQL Server to push data into a table then you want to batch the inserts / use a bulk insert mechanism but is there a time when performance isn’t everything?


Although it has its critics, SSIS is a very powerful tool for Extracting, Transforming and ultimately Loading data from and to various systems. I kind of have a love / hate relationship with SSIS, I love it but it seemingly hates me with a passion.

During a recent data migration project we had a series of packages using a stored procedure as the source and a SQL Server table as the destination. By using the OLE DB Destination task you have a series of options Data Access Modes which can provide various additional configurations. I won’t delve into all of these but have a look at the msdn link provided at the end for further information.

The ones I want to concentrate on are:

  • Table or view
  • Table or view – Fast Load

In short, fast load does exactly what it says on the tin, it loads data fast! This is because it is optimised for bulk inserts which we all know SQL Server thrives on, it isn’t too keen on this row-by-row lark.


Now, I won’t be providing performance figures showing the difference between running a package in fast load compared to row-by-row, this has been done to death and it is pretty much a given (in most cases) that fast load will out perform row-by-row.

What I do want to bring to your attention is the differences between the two when it comes to redirecting error rows, specifically rows that are truncated. One of the beauties of SSIS is the ability to output rows that fail to import through the error pipeline and push them into an error table for example. With fast load there is a downside to this, the whole batch will be output even if there is only 1 row that fails, there are ways to handle this and a tried and tested method is to push those rows into another OLE DB Destination where you can run them either in smaller batches and keep getting smaller or simply push that batch to run in row-by-row to eventually output the 1 error you want. Take a look at Marco Schreuder’s blog for how this can be done.

One of the issues we have exerienced in the past is that any truncation of a column’s data in fast load will not force the package to fail. What? So a package can succeed when in fact the data itself could potentially not be complete!?! Yes this is certainly the case, lets take a quick look with an example.

Truncation with Fast Load


I have provided a script to setup a table where we can test this. I will attempt through SSIS to insert data which is both below and above 5 characters in length and show the output.

USE tempdb;

DROP TABLE IF EXISTS dbo.TruncationTest;
DROP TABLE IF EXISTS dbo.TruncationTest_error;

CREATE TABLE dbo.TruncationTest
TruncationTestID INT IDENTITY(1,1),
TruncationTestDescription VARCHAR(5)

CREATE TABLE dbo.TruncationTest_error
TruncationTestID INT,
TruncationTestDescription VARCHAR(1000) --Make sure we capture the full value

This code will set up 2 tables, one for us to import into (TruncationTest) and another to capture any error rows that we will output (TruncationTest_error).

I set up a very quick and dirty SSIS package to run a simple select statement to output 3 rows and use the fast load data access mode:

SELECT  ('123') AS TruncationTestDescription UNION ALL
SELECT  ('123456789');

The OLE DB Source Editor looks like this:


the OLE DB Destination data access mode:


Finally, this is how the package looks:


Note the truncation warning. This is easy to see when viewing a package in Visual Studio, not so easy to pick up when you are dynamically generating packages using BIML.

Let’s run it……


Great, 3 rows populated into the TruncationTest table, everything worked fine! So let’s check the data:

SELECT * FROM dbo.TruncationTest


Eh? What happened there???? Where’s my ‘6789’ gone from row 3???

From this example you can see that the package succeeds without error and it looks as though all rows have migrated entirely but by querying the data after the package has completed you can see that the description column has indeed been truncated.

Let’s try the same test but changing the Data Access Mode to non-fast load (ie. Row-By-Row)

Truncation with row-by-row

In this example you can see that the row with truncation is in fact pushed out to the error pipeline as you would hope and expect.



We now have 3 rows being processed but one row pushing out to the error pipeline which is what we would expect and hope for.

Let’s take a look at the output:

SELECT * FROM dbo.TruncationTest ORDER BY TruncationTestID
SELECT TruncationTestDescription FROM TruncationTest_error


The results highlighted in red are those from the fast load, in green are the results from the row-by-row indicating that the error row was piped out to the error table.


You have a few different options here:

  1. Not really care and push the data through in fast load and suffer the concequences
  2. Run in row-by-row and suffer the performance hit
  3. Amend the OLE DB Source Output to be the same length as the destination column and redirect error rows from there.
  4. Probably loads of others involving conditional splits, derived columns and/or script tasks
  5. Apply option #1 and make sure that relevant (automated or otherwise) testing is applied

During the recent data migration project we were involved in we chose option #5. The reasons for this are:

  1. We wanted to keep the BIML framework, the code and the relevant mappings as simplistic as possible
  2. Performance was vital….
  3. …..but more importantly was the validity of the data we were migrating

We already had a series of automated tests setup for each package we were running and table we were migrating and we had to add to this a series of additional automated tests to check that no data itself was being truncated.

NOTE: Option #4 was also a very valid choice for us but due to the nature of the mapping between source and destination this was not something that was easily viable to implement.

I will leave the how we implemented these test this for another blog post 🙂


Taking a look at the error redirect in the OLE DB Destination we can clearly see that Truncation is greyed out and no option is provided so I have to assume that it simply isn’t an option to configure it here.


I used to have a link to an article which mentions that truncation cannot be deemed an error in a bulk import operation via SSIS due to the mechanics of how it all works but for the life of me I cannot find it :(. I am hoping someone who reads this will be able to provide me with this but for now I will have to draw my own conclusions from this. The closest thing I can find is an answer from Koen Verbeeck (b|t) in an msdn forum question where he states:

The only thing you get is a warning when designing the package.

You get truncation errors when you try to put data longer than the column width in the data flow buffer, i.e. at the source or at transformations, but not at the destination apparently.

What I still don’t understand is why in tSQL you will get an error when trying to “bulk insert” (loose sense of the term……ie. using an INSERT….SELECT) data that will truncate data but SSIS does not. Hopefully someone far cleverer than me will be able to shed some light on this!

The idea behind this blog post was not to focus too much on the importance of testing any data that is moved from one place to another but I wanted to highlight how easy it is to believe that what you are migrating is all fine n dandy because the SSIS package told you so but in actual fact you could be losing some very very important data!!

You have been warned 😉


SSIS SCD vs MERGE Statement – Performance Comparison — July 3, 2012

SSIS SCD vs MERGE Statement – Performance Comparison

I wouldn’t class myself as an expert in SSIS but I certainly know my way around but came across something today which I thought I’d share. As with a lot of things there are “many ways to skin a cat”, none of which is something I’ll go into at the moment but what i will concentrate on is updating columns in a table where the data has changed in the source.

One of the projects I’m currently working on requires this very process and when i set about doing so I created the T-SQL Merge statement to do the business. However, the question was raised as to why I didn’t use SSIS’s built in component Slowly Changing Dimension (SCD)? I didn’t really have an answer other than personal preference but decided to delve into it a bit further and compare the performance of each method.

As a test, I created a source table with a Key and Name column:


IF  EXISTS (SELECT * FROM sys.objects WHERE object_id = OBJECT_ID(N'dbo.iSource') AND type in (N'U'))
	DROP TABLE dbo.iSource;

CREATE TABLE dbo.iSource
   ID INT,
   Name varchar(100)

IF  EXISTS (SELECT * FROM sys.objects WHERE object_id = OBJECT_ID(N'dbo.iTarget') AND type in (N'U'))
	DROP TABLE dbo.iTarget;
CREATE TABLE dbo.iTarget
   ID INT,
   Name varchar(100)

and populated it with some dummy data:

INSERT INTO dbo.iSource (ID,Name)
ROW_NUMBER() OVER (ORDER BY t.object_id) AS rownumber
,'Name_'+convert(varchar(4),ROW_NUMBER() OVER (ORDER BY t.object_id))
FROM sys.tables t
CROSS JOIN sys.stats s;

INSERT INTO dbo.iTarget (ID,Name)
ROW_NUMBER() OVER (ORDER BY t.object_id DESC) AS rownumber --Done in descending order
,'Name_'+convert(varchar(4),ROW_NUMBER() OVER (ORDER BY t.object_id))
FROM sys.tables t
CROSS JOIN sys.stats s;

SELECT ID, Name FROM iSource;
SELECT ID, Name FROM iTarget;

So we now have a source and target table with different Names and we’ll look to update the iTarget table with the information coming from iSource.

Method 1 – MERGE Statement

MERGE dbo.iTarget AS target
	FROM dbo.iSource
	 ) AS  source (ID, Name)
		ON (target.ID = source.ID)
		WHEN MATCHED AND target.Name <> source.Name 
			UPDATE SET Name = source.Name
		 INSERT (ID, Name)
		 VALUES (source.ID, source.Name); 

Using this method simply in SSMS for simplicity, profiler output 2 rows for Batch Starting and Batch Completing, CPUTime of 125ms and Duration of 125ms and it updated 6678 records. Top stuff, as expected.

Method 2 – SSIS SCD Component
I rebuilt the tables to put them back to where we started and set about creating the same thing in SCD setting ID as the business key and Name as the changing attribute and not setting inferred members, below is a screen dump of the outcome of this:


I clear down the profiler and run the ssis package and the outcome is quite astounding.


The profiler output 13456 rows including 6678 rows of queries like this:

exec sp_executesql N'SELECT [ID], [Name] FROM [dbo].[iTarget] WHERE ([ID]=@P1)',N'@P1 int',8

as well as 6678 rows of queries similar to this:

exec sp_execute 1,'Name_3304',3304

Total Duration of 37 seconds (yes that’s seconds not ms!!)…….and this is on a table of only ~7k rows!

Well I’ll be damned, the SCD basically runs a cursor looping each record checking for a match on ID and updating that record if so. I can’t actually believe that MS have built a component which performs in this way.

So, to answer the question asked ” why I didn’t use SSIS’s built in component Slowly Changing Dimension (SCD)?”, I now have a definitive answer, it doesn’t perform!

I’m sure SCD has its place but for me, the requirements and the datasets I’m working on I think I’ll stick with MERGE for now….. 🙂

NOTE: This was done on SQL Server 2008R2 Developer Edition running on Windows 7 Ultimate, not sure if SQL Server 2012 has improved the SCD performance but I’ll leave that for another day.

Powershell and Dynamic SSIS (or any for that matter) Config files — December 5, 2011

Powershell and Dynamic SSIS (or any for that matter) Config files

As I imagine that the majority of people who are reading this will have some level of SSIS knowledge, I’ll not go into explanations about package configurations in SSIS and its various methods but rather jump straight to it.

The majority of environments I’ve worked in where SSIS packages are utilised, tend to sway down the XML Config package configuration method. As many of you are aware, in multi-tier SQL Environments (ie. Integration, QA, UAT etc etc) this can be a pain when deploying the packages to the relevant environments because you have to at some stage reconfigure the XML configuration file to have the correct parameters to pass into the package for each environment. This can become an even worse scenario when you have tens if not hundreds of SSIS packages (and corresponding dtsConfig’s) and are upgrading your infrastructure with new servers (and/or instance names) as well as drive configurations.

If you don’t have the time to be re-working the SSIS packages to use a SQL table (depending on your process this could take a while to get through development, testing etc) to hold the configuration parameters which makes it easy to script, deploy and update then here’s a simple trick using Powershell (i’m still at the very basic Powershell level so bare with me!!) you can use for your existing dtsConfig files. The sample i’ll be using is for a dtsConfig used in a Restore package.

Unfortunately you’re still going to have to do some initial amending of one config file here :(.

Firstly, lets amend the relevant parameter values to have a standard name for each, as an (snipit) example:

<Configuration ConfiguredType=”Property” Path=”\Package.Connections[master – destination].Properties[ServerName]” ValueType=”String”>
<Configuration ConfiguredType=”Property” Path=”\Package.Variables[User::DataFilesDir].Properties[Value]” ValueType=”String”>

I’ve used a * to prefix and suffix the parameter so that you don’t amend anything that may have a similar name.

By doing this, you can run a bit of Powershell to update the relevant element parameter values for each instance by using the code below, NOTE i’ve excluded the setting of the parameters etc as I use this as a module and don’t want to waste space:

#Create Copy for dtsConfigs by piping the date from the static file (with *'d parameters to the new file to be used
(Get-Content $RestoreDatabasesDynamicConfig) |
Set-Content $RestoreDatabasesDynamicConfig_New

#Amend the dtsConfig's and create new files to use
$restoreArray = ("SQLInstance", "DataFilesDir", "LogFilesDir", "SSISRestoreLocationDBs")

#Loop through the array to replace each parameter listed
foreach($Arr in $restoreArray){
	$Replace = "\*"+$Arr+"\*" #This sets the parameter with the * prefix and suffix
	$WithThis = "$"+$Arr #What parameter name passed in to replace the text with, ie. $SQLInstance, $DataFilesDir

	switch ($Arr)
		# Use $ExecutionContext.InvokeCommand.ExpandString($WithThis) to evaluate the string (ie $SQLInstance)
		"DataFilesDir" {$WithThis = $SQLInstallLocation+$ExecutionContext.InvokeCommand.ExpandString($WithThis)}
		"LogFilesDir" {$WithThis = $SQLInstallLocation+$ExecutionContext.InvokeCommand.ExpandString($WithThis)}

		#I've left the above in as an example of how to set the files to a folder location passed in as a Parameter ($SQLInstallLocation)
		default {$WithThis = $ExecutionContext.InvokeCommand.ExpandString($WithThis)}

	#Now create the new dtsConfig file with updated Parameter information
   (Get-Content $RestoreDatabasesDynamicConfig_New) |
	Foreach-Object {$_ -replace "$Replace", $WithThis} |
	Set-Content $RestoreDatabasesDynamicConfig_New


In short, this script is taking the amended dynamic file with all the parameters with their *’s prefixed and creating a new dtsConfig file. It then builds an array of parameters to work through and do the replacement, the values of these are(or indeed can be…) passed through to the function/module. I’ve put a switch in there to check for particular items in the array as in my example i wanted to append a folder location to the value passed in. you don’t necessarily have to do this but left it in to show it can be done.

Another example of using this is for a silent SQL Server 2008 install. Once you have a ConfigurationFile.ini then you can follow the same process to put a standard tag in the file and use powershell to find and replace it with a parameter value – works an absolute treat when installing many instances

I’m sure there’ll be someone far more clever than me that can somehow the file for the element and replace any value without standardising the parameter values but I’m no expert with Powershell and learning everyday and hope some others out there can get some use out of this…..and yes, I also realise that you can do a “Find and Replace in Files” with Notepad++ but this technique is great for automating!