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It’s all magic to me.

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"Any technology, no matter how primitive, is magic to those who do not understand it."


Arthur C. Clarke penned three laws of prediction

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The  last is the most well known. I love the change that the comic strip freefall made to it and felt that was most appropriate to my day to day dealings with people and technology in general.

On a regular basis, I hear people describe SQL Server as a black box or magic box and working with it in any real depth is an art or wizardry. That simply isn’t so. It is science 100%. Not to take away from the designers and developers of SQL Server and the people that push the boundaries on  what it is capable of, but it is all based fundamentally on engineering principles,math (relational algebra in particular) and the underlying technology of computers.

Once you demystify it, break it town into small enough parts you can quickly master the parts of it that effect your life in a reasonable amount of time.

One of the areas I focus on is I/O performance and SQL Server. So, I’ll be doing a multi-part post covering the entire I/O stack from how a hard disk works through SAN’s and eventually how this all effects SQL Server.

Hopefully you will find it useful.

Here is to my blogging endeavor!

SQL Man of Mystery

Wes Brown is a PASS chapter leader and SQL Server MVP. He writes for SQL Server Central and maintains his blog at http://www.sqlserverio.com. Wes is Currently serving as a Senior Lead Consultant at Catapult Systems. Previous experiences include Product Manager for SQL Litespeed by Quest software and consultant to fortune 500 companies. He specializes in high availability, disaster recovery and very large database performance tuning. He is a frequent speaker at local user groups and SQLSaturdays.


Posted by Steve Jones on 5 April 2009

Good points, Wes. I think there is a bit of an art to really tuning a SQL Server, but the first 80% of the improvement you're likely to get is based on science.

Part of the issue is that it's a very complicated platform now, so it's hard for many people that casually work on SQL to understand how to tune things.

Posted by Wesley Brown on 7 April 2009

So, what makes up the other 20%?

Are you sure it's art or just a real understanding of SQL Server?

I guess what I am getting at is what part is art?

I've heard this 80/20 rule before but from my own anecdotal experience analyzing what actually happened usually boils down to deduction application of what you already knew and maybe a bit of luck.

Posted by joe.kelly on 23 April 2009

Wes, I find your posts very readable and insightful. Have just read your thoughts on SSD media. Thanks for that.

Re above, I agree with your points, but also with Steve's.

I think the key point you make is "Once you demystify it, break it town into small enough parts you can quickly master the parts of it that effect your life in a reasonable amount of time."

In a real world job, there is rarely time enough to investigate any issue to the lowest granular level, nor should there be.  My time is valuable, and expensive, so if I can get 80-90% of the potential performance from a system, I'm moving on to the next item on my priority list.  If the remaining few % is still an issue for my users, they will feed that back and that will bump the issue up the list again to where I will be enabled to spend more time on that last few % or perhaps a redesign, of the infrastructure or even the app.

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