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Server Hardware or Coffee?

This editorial was originally published on 3 Nov, 2016. It is being republished as Steve is traveling.

I actually chuckled out loud in my office recently. I was reading a piece about Expensify and how they learned some lessons from their database architecture over time. It's a good piece, but at one point the author talks about two Dell servers. There's a dual core 2.8Ghz CPU with 500GB of storage for US$700. This could be upgraded to an 8 core, 3.7GHz CPU with 64GB of RAM and 10TB of storage for around US$3,200. However, the author says don't be cheap. Why?

That's less than the company spends on coffee each month.

I thought that line was funny, and it proves a point. It can be easy to think about the cost of hardware as being high because it's a large ticket item for most of us. When you view it in the context of the scale of business, then it's cheap. If any of us spent $3000 a month on food, we might not think $3000 for a server is expensive. When you look at the cost of your labor that might need to babysit an underpowered system, a few more thousand dollars seem like a bargain for memory or CPU resources.

The author also notes that while EC2 charges for managing your systems, it's still a steal, and for many of us, capacity isn't a big issue. We do find that one single system runs most of our workload. If it doesn't, then we could buy more, or a second system, for a relatively low cost. At least, compared to the rest of our business.

There certainly are some of you that have a large workload, or you have spent substantially more on server hardware. I think many of my systems have been tens of thousands of dollars, but there are good points to be made. Today's computers are very powerful, and even though we have more data, a single server is likely able to handle many workloads.

If we write good code.

That's a big caveat, but training your staff to code better, having them spend time learning to query hierarchies more efficiently or quickly splitting strings, can pay off with much happier servers and customers. While I am a fan of using hardware to avoid spending too much time tuning queries, I also think continuously improving the skills of your development staff is much more important and might be the best IT investment you can make. Assuming, of course, that you treat them well and they enjoy working for your management staff.

Steve Jones - SSC Editor

Join the debate, and respond to today's editorial on the forums

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  Question of the Day

Today's question (by Steve Jones - SSC Editor):


The PowerShell String

I have this code:
$name = 'Steve'
write-host( "My name is $name")
What is output from the write-host() statement?

Think you know the answer? Click here, and find out if you are right.



  Yesterday's Question of the Day (by crow1969)

What is the datatype?

I came across this (anonymised) view in a recent code review:

create view dbo.QOTD
select null as ummm_what

I was curious as to what the datatype for the column would be, and ran sp_help on the view.  What datatype does SQL Server pick for the view?

Answer: int

Explanation: The NULL columns were meant as placeholders until real data was available, but there may be some implications as far as how downstream systems may handle the column (I'm looking at you, SSIS).  This behavior appears to be rooted in the SELECT statement, rather than the creation of the view.  Creating a temp table by SELECT ... INTO will also cause datatype-less columns to be defined as INT.  In short, the following would not work:

select null as placeholder into #temp

insert into #temp (placeholder) values ('hello')

Discuss this question and answer on the forums


Featured Script

Stored Procedures Inside Stored Procedures

chadswt from SQLServerCentral

See a template for a procedure in a procedure.

/** CHAD MILES 12/5/2019 **/
(ProcessStep VARCHAR(50),
StatusDesc VARCHAR(20))

SET @SuccessQry = REPLACE('
@ProcessStep VARCHAR(50)
(ProcessStep, StatusDesc)
(@ProcessStep, |Success|)', '|', CHAR(39))

SET @FailureQry = REPLACE('
@ProcessStep VARCHAR(50)
(ProcessStep, StatusDesc)
(@ProcessStep, |Failure|)', '|', CHAR(39))

EXEC (@FailureQry)
EXEC (@SuccessQry)

EXEC #Success @ProcessStep = 'Do Something Right'

EXEC #Failure @ProcessStep = 'Do Something Wrong'

EXEC #Success @ProcessStep = 'Back On Track'

EXEC dbo.RunProcInProc

More »


Database Pros Who Need Your Help

Here's a few of the new posts today on the forums. To see more, visit the forums.

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SQL Server 2008 - General
weird sql problem. - Hi all, I´m not sure what I´m doing bad with this query: Situation: I need to select all the purchase order lines(poitem_all) that not exists in the table of requisition lines (preqlines). select po_num from poitem_all results with all the  purchase orders (po_num) for the table poitem_all. Ok. Then for select only that not exists […]
plantation shutter exterior or interior grade - Here is a recent inquiry we received about an oval window, and our response with the customer: Customer Request– Hi there. I have an oval bathroom window for which I’m looking for Plantation shutters the hieght is 30? and the width is 40-1/2? I’m not sure if I prefer the fan -like, or horizontal louvre […]
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Reporting Services
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ssrs 2012 column headers repeat on each page while the user is running the rpt - My issue I want to have column headers repeat on each page while the user is running (accessing) the ssrs report. I just started to work with ssrs 2012 reports. Recently I have workd with ssrs 2010 and ssrs 2008 reports. In the past when working with ssrs 2010 reports, I would select the 'advanced […]


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