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Getting the Most out of SQL Server 2000's Query Analyzer, Part I

By Brian Kelley, (first published: 2002/02/21)


The first time I started up Query Analyzer after upgrading my client tools from SQL Server 7 to 2000, I noticed the Object Browser immediately.  Playing around a bit, I tinkered with the Transact SQL debugger and generally just explored some of the new functionality.  Most of it was quite useful, but not exactly straight-forward.  When I began looking into getting more out of some of these new features, I found the documentation on Query Analyzer was  intermingled with the rest of Books Online and I thought then how it could easily be overlooked.  About a month ago, I was talking with a developer about some issues he was having debugging code, looking at execution plans, and trying to determine the best places to put indexes. I started asking him some questions about how the development team was using Query Analyzer and quickly realized that they saw it basically as an environment to type in their stored procedures and write simple queries.  They weren't using any of the main features, and the reason was because they weren't aware of how to use them.

This series will hopefully be a helpful "How To" guide to maximizing the use of Query Analyzer.  There are quite a few great database tools out there other than Query Analyzer, but the main advantage of Query Analyzer is it comes with SQL Server, installs by default as part of the client set, and is very powerful in its own right.  If we're supporting SQL Server, we'll always have Query Analyzer.

The key is to understand what Query Analyzer can do for us, the kind of information it can provide us, and its limitations.   This article will cover the basics of starting up Query Analyzer and connecting to SQL Server.  I'll introduce the various ways to execute Query Analyzer and talk a bit about authentication methods and a new tool provided for us by Windows 2000.  We'll also take a quick look at a problem with linked servers, Query Analyzer (or any client, for that matter), and Windows authentication.

For those who've been using Query Analyzer, most of the information in this article will be old hat but hopefully there will be some new information for everyone. We'll start from the very beginning, to ensure we leave no gaps. Query Analyzer has a lot of functionality, and some of it can get pretty in depth.   As with most good tools, it takes a little bit of work and some time to really learn all of the features and options  in order to put the tool to maximum effect.  So without further ado, let's dive right in!

Starting Query Analyzer

There are several ways to start Query Analyzer. The first is from the Programs sub-menu:

The second is from the Tools menu of Enterprise Manager:

A third way is to simply execute the program (isqlw) from Start >> Run:   

We'll see more about bringing up Query Analyzer via isqlw in a bit when we talk about the RunAs command.

Connecting to a Server

Upon entering Query Analyzer, we're prompted to connect to a server.  The connection dialog box is the same we'll see in other SQL Server tools such as Profiler.  With it we can choose the server to connect to, as well as the connection method:

One area that I've seen issues with is understanding the two different authentication methods.  I have seen developers take their NT (Windows) authentication and try and use the username and password using SQL Server authentication.  This usually occurs when the developer is logged into the workstation as one user and is  trying to get access to the SQL Server using another NT login.  

Windows authentication deals with domain or local computer user accounts. SQL Server authentication deals with SQL Server logins created on the particular SQL Server, which means SQL Server must be running in mixed mode.  Obviously, one cannot authenticate Windows accounts using SQL Server authentication.  

Under Windows NT 4.0, there aren't too many options.  Windows authentication is going to match  the user account logged into the workstation.  With Windows 2000, however, there is the RunAs command.  The general syntax is:

RUNAS [/profile] [/env] [/netonly] /user:<UserName> program

An example of its use to bring up Query Analyzer is:

runas /user:MyDomain\User2 isqlw

This will allow us to use Windows authentication with Query Analyzer under the User2 account.  The User2 account is only active for Query Analyzer.  When we exit Query Analyzer, nothing will be running under the User2 context.  

Digressing a little, this is a good practice for privileged accounts.  Best practices state that we shouldn't do day-to-day activities such as checking email, writing status reports, etc., using a privileged account because whatever account we use for those tasks is the most vulnerable to compromise.  From a risk perspective, if a non-privileged account is compromised, the potential damage is far less than if a privileged account is compromised.  By utilizing the RunAs command, we can carry out our daily tasks with a non-privileged account, and if we have a second account with the appropriate privileges, we can use it only in the specific context of certain applications.  For other SQL Server utilities, given default paths, here are the runas commands:

Enterprise Manager (SQL Server 2000):

runas /user:MyDomain\User2 "mmc.exe /s \"C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\80\Tools\BINN\SQL Server Enterprise Manager.MSC\""

SQL Profiler:

runas /user:MyDomain\User2 profiler

As can be seen, the RunAs command is very helpful from a security perspective.  Running in a non-privileged account with the ability to go to privileged mode has been around in the Unix world for a long time with the su command (superuser).  It's nice to see this security measure has come around to the Windows world.

Linked Servers, NT Authentication, and "Double Hop"

One other issue I've seen that can throw a developer or DBA into fits involves querying against linked servers.  The root of the issue involves Windows authentication and the concept of the "double hop," which is prohibited by Windows authentication under NT non-Kerberos environments (such as NT 4.0).

Most of the time when we're using Query Analyzer, we're sitting at a workstation accessing a physically different computer running SQL Server.  For instance:

In SQL Server we can create a linked server from one SQL Server to another.  Diagramming this:

However, we may be running QA from our workstation, and we're writing queries on one SQL Server that may need to include data from a linked server.

If we're using SQL Server authentication to get to the first SQL Server, and the SQL Server uses SQL Server authentication to get to the linked server, we can get at our data without issue.  SQL Server is able to make the connection to the second server by using the SQL Server login we specified when we created the linked server. 

However, when we connect to a SQL Server using Windows authentication (specifically NTLM, the method of authentication for NT 4.0) and that SQL Server then attempts to use Windows authentication to the linked server, we'll get one of the following errors:

Server: Msg 18456, Level 14, State 1, Line 1 Login failed for user '\'


Server: Msg 18456, Level 14, State 1, Line 1 Login failed for user 'NT AUTHORITY\ANONYMOUS LOGON'

 The problem is with NTLM.  SQL Server is having to take the Windows authentication passed to it by the client and then authenticate using the same Windows authentication to the second server.  If we think of going from one computer to another as a hop, we have to traverse two hops to get from client system to the linked server. NTLM does not support such a "double hop" and as a result, when the second hop is attempted, SQL Server must try and make an anonymous connection, since it has no other credentials which to use. 

As a result, we fail and receive the error message above.  This problem is not limited to SQL Server, as it can occur in FrontPage 2000 under similar conditions when trying to work with security. Kerberos does not have such a limitation and SQL Server 2000 running on Windows 2000 with Active Directory and Kerberos will not have the same issue.  Windows authentication can then traverse the double hop.  If that's not our setup, however, the only workaround is to make the second connection via SQL Server authentication.

This gets around the double hop issue, though admittedly it means the second SQL Server has to run in Mixed Mode.  Now, one thing to remember is if we're running Query Analyzer at the console of the SQL Server and not from a separate client is that we'll not encounter the double hop.  The double hop occurs when we have to go from one computer to another, and then finally to a second.  Also, if we have jobs on a particular server that need to access a linked server, those jobs can work with a link via Windows authentication, since we're still only talking about a single hop.

Wrap Up

In this article we've covered the basics of starting up Query Analyzer and authenticating on SQL Server.  We looked at several ways to execute Query Analyzer and we also looked at the RunAs command.  The RunAs command allows us to be logged into our Windows 2000 or higher workstation with a non-privileged account while still being able to carry out our administrative duties with the level of permissions we need.  We also took a  quick loop at authentication and the problems we encounter with the double hop.

In the next article we'll take a closer look at the Object Browser and the Transact-SQL Debugger.  The Object Browser is the most visible new feature of Query Analyzer, so we'll take the time to look at it in some detail.  We'll also walk through the use of the Transact-SQL Debugger so that we might leverage it for future development efforts.  A good understanding of these two tools can save us a bit of time here and there and so we'll drill down on them.


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