Blog Post

Don't Tick Me Off...CPU Ticks


OK, there was something that Microsoft did to tick me off.  SQL Server 2005 introduced us to so many exciting and useful DMVs, such as sys.dm_os_sys_info.  This DMV, which would give us a set of useful information about the computer, and about the resources available to and consumed by SQL Server, SQL 2008 came about, and already there was a change here.

One of the very useful things that we were able to derive is CPU usage.  This was calculated based on the cpu_ticks  and cpu_ticks_in_ms columns.  The T-SQL statement that gave us the base value to successfully determine SQLProcessUtilization, OtherProcessUtilization and SystemIdle originally looked like this:

                              declare @ts_now bigint

                              select @ts_now = cpu_ticks / convert(float, cpu_ticks_in_ms) from



However, a funny thing happened when applying the same t-sql logic in SQL Server 2008.  The cpu_ticks_in_ms column is no longer present in the sys.dm_os_sys_info DMV in SQL Server 2008. Microsoft determined that this column is no longer accurate, and so, they removed it.  This of course caused great consternation among the SQL Server DBA Community.  Cries across the internet and sql forums everywhere, folks asked MS to please put it back!  The cpu_tickes_in_ms column originally returned the number of CPU ticks in milliseconds. Due to an imprecision in this value, they could not guarantee the accurate measure.  Microsoft posted the following explanation:

‘SQL 2005 used the value presented in cpu_ticks_in_ms as a conversion factor for high resolution timing. The time source used ticked at the same speed as processor instructions. SQL 2005 calculates the value assuming that CPU frequency is constant and ever increasing, however there is no accurate way to determine how many CPU ticks may actually occur in a millisecond. Current hardware that can change CPU frequency in power management modes breaks this assumption. SQL 2008 has moved to a more reliable time source, and as such no longer attempts to determine CPU frequency.’

The irony in this whole thing is that the most popular application of this DMV calculation was in their own code release of the SQL Server Performance Dashboard (SQL 2005 SP2).  The stored procedure MS_PerfDashboard.usp_Main_GetCPUHistory, would fail on SQL Server 2008 with the following error:

Msg 207, Level 16, State 1, Procedure usp_Main_GetCPUHistory, Line 6
Invalid column name 'cpu_ticks_in_ms'.

So, what’s a DBA to do to get the CPU utilization stats for SQL Server 2008?  I didn’t want to revert back to using some WMI\VBScript code, which I found slow, and unreliable (pre-2005), and a process outside SQL Server.

After some intense scouring of the internet, and close examination of the new sys.dm_os_sys_info DMV in SQL Server 2008, I noticed the ms_ticks column, present in SQL 2005, was still there in SQL 2008.  This column returned the number of milliseconds since the computer was started. 

According to one article I found, ‘The first column (cpu_ticks_in_ms) remained (mostly - within 0.000001% variance which may be due to rounding errors in ms_ticks) constant (and surprise, it was roughly the CPU frequency in ms - number of CPU ticks per millisecond). Note this happened in both SQL 2k5 and 2k8.  In SQL 2k5, we also added cpu_ticks_in_ms to the output and again it was within 0.000001%’

OK, close enough.  By making a relatively simple modification, by applying the new logic using these columns, we can get the value using this T-SQL Code:

select cpu_ticks / ms_ticks as ratio_ticks_in_ms, cpu_ticks, ms_ticks from sys.dm_os_sys_info

The above code works on both SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2008.  Now let’s  put it all together, and get some real understandable statistics by running the following code:

set nocount on declare @ts_now bigint

 select @ts_now = cpu_ticks /( cpu_ticks / ms_ticks )

 /*cpu_ticks / convert(float, cpu_ticks_in_ms)*/ from sys.dm_os_sys_info

 select top 1 record_id,dateadd(ms, -1 * (@ts_now - [timestamp]), GetDate()) as EventTime,

 SQLProcessUtilization,SystemIdle,100 - SystemIdle - SQLProcessUtilization as OtherProcessUtilization

            from (select record.value('(./Record/@id)[1]', 'int') as record_id,

    record.value('(./Record/SchedulerMonitorEvent/SystemHealth/SystemIdle)[1]', 'int') as SystemIdle,

            record.value('(./Record/SchedulerMonitorEvent/SystemHealth/ProcessUtilization)[1]', 'int') as SQLProcessUtilization,

            timestamp from (select timestamp, convert(xml, record) as record

            from sys.dm_os_ring_buffers

            where ring_buffer_type = N'RING_BUFFER_SCHEDULER_MONITOR' and record like '%<SystemHealth>%') as x

                              ) as y order by record_id desc

Here you will get the output in a most readable format, suitable for realtime monitoring and reporting:

EventTime                                        SQLProcessUtilization    SystemIdle    OtherProcessUtilization

  2009-9-29 08:26:30:00.603                        2                             96                            2

In addition to CPU Usage, you can get all sort of other great information, readily available in the sys.dm_os_sys_info DMV, including the Number of logical CPUs on the system, Ratio of the number of logical and physical processors, Amount of physical memory available, and more!   (Take a look at BOL, or here for more on sys.dm_os_sys_info).


By now you know, I was using a play on words in my title, and the tick, in ‘tick me off’ was all about CPU Ticks in SQL Server’s DMV.


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