Category Archives: Testing

Sometimes, you have to fix it yourself

The Problem

SQL Server is a huge product with lots of moving parts. Bugs happen. Microsoft has a place to voice your issues or problems. They allow you to vote on the issue and then decide when or if it will get fixed. I’ve used Connect when I hit a bug and I have voted on items that were important to me. Recently I hit a bug in sp_createstats. I use this system stored procedure generate statistics in an automated process I’ve got that manages statistics. I added a new vendor database to the system and on the first run hit “Column ‘DAYSOPEN’ in table ‘dbo.TBL_OPPORTUNITY’ cannot be used in an index or statistics or as a partition key because it is non-deterministic.”. Well, we all know you can’t create stats on a computed column! I quickly went to the connect site and someone else had already entered it. The down side was it had so few votes it was only slated to go into the next cumulative update/service pack. When I hit this issue they hadn’t yet announced service pack 4. I already had this procedure coded into my routines and really didn’t want to rewrite them to get past this one problem.

The Solution


By doing what I am about to describe could break at a later date or randomly kill baby kittens.

Since it is a system stored procedure I am loathe to make any changes to it directly. There are ways to modify some system stored procedures but they involve the installation CD and creativity. With that door closed there was only one avenue open to me. Create my own system stored procedure with the fix in it. There is a problem with this solution as well, if it gets dropped due to a service pack or an upgrade anything calling it will break. The first thing I did was to see if the procedure text was available by executing sp_helptext sp_createstats. Luckily it was! Now all I had to do was figure out where it was broken. The procedure is pretty simple and uses some cursors to loop through all the objects and create column statistics where they don’t exist.

declare ms_crs_cnames cursor local for select from sys.columns c  
     where c.object_id = @table_id  
     and (type_name(c.system_type_id) not in ('xml'))  
     and not in (select col_name from #colpostab where col_pos = 1)  
     and (( in (select col_name from #colpostab)) or (@indexonly <> 'INDEXONLY'))
    -- populate temporary table of all (column, index position) tuples for this table  

It was pretty easy to spot. The weren’t checking to see if the column was computed so I added a line to the where clause.

and c.is_computed = 0

That’s it. One little check to see if it is a computed column. Now that I had fixed it I created a new procedure named sp_createstats_fixed in the master database. Just creating it in master doesn’t make it act like the original procedure or make it a system stored procedure. For that I had to execute EXECUTE sp_MS_marksystemobject ‘sp_createstats_fix’. This is an undocumented stored procedure and could change or go way any time. The only way to unmark it in SQL Server 2005 is to drop the procedure and recreate it. Now it acts just like the old procedure. Next I had to replace all references to the old proc with the new one. I made an entry into our bug tracking system about the change so we would have a record of what I did and why.


This wasn’t the most elegant solution. It could break later. The upside is it only took me about 30 minutes to fix and deploy versus the hours of re-coding and then testing that I would have had to do before. Do I think you should go around creating your own system stored procedures? Not at all. I don’t recommend you put anything in the master database period. If the problem had been more complex I would have redone the original routines to exclude the broken procedure. This time it just happened to be a very quick fix to a non-critical part of our system.

Fundamentals of Storage Systems – Stripe Size, Block Size, and IO Patterns

If you have been following this series we have covered system buses, hard disks, host bus adapters and RAID. Along the way we also covered how to capture your IO patterns and the SQLIO tool. Now we will pull it all together.We move up the stack even further to the actual layout of the RAID stripe and the file system. How the stripe and file system are laid out on your disks has a huge impact on performance. One of the things that has really gotten some traction over the last few years is sector alignment. This one thing, if not done, could cost you 30% to 40% of your IO potential. Jimmy May has covered sector alignment in depth So I won’t hash it here again. Kendal Van Dyke also has a good series that covers offset, stripe size, and allocation units with different raid levels.

It Don’t Add Up…

Something I’ve seen, and been guilty of, is taking a drives base specifications and just multiplying out. Say the manufacturer says the drive will to 79MB/Sec minimum throughput, we have 10 drives so that is 790MB/Sec of throughput! We all know from experience that this isn’t so. What eats us up is how much slower it really can be. As we have seen throughout this series there is overhead associated to everything. Before we just throw a bunch of disks in an enclosure and press it into service it would be nice to have an idea of what the performance should be. It’s also recommended to do some of this work before you actually buy anything so you don’t have to go back to your boss and beg for more money and explain to him that your wild guess was wrong.

Always add a pinch of salt to whatever the disk manufacturer puts in the specifications. Most of the time they will be close enough. The problem lies in the fact they don’t always disclose the methods for archiving those numbers. For instance, when they report minimum and maximum throughput they are usually talking about a scan of the entire disk including all meta data stored between tracks, the best possible throughput possible. You won’t see those results in every day life. They also give you numbers that can be completely irrelevant like single sector read rates. very rarely do you read a single sector at a time. Personally, I would love if the drive makers gave the engineering specifications. I know that won’t happen, it would make my life easier though. The disk characteristics that are important are, sector size,spindle speed, seek times read and write, sequential times read and write. To a lesser extent sequential throughput in megabytes per second. With the single disk numbers we can move on to the RAID configuration.

Configuring your RAID Array

There are several factors that impact the RAID arrays ability to perform. The RAID level, size of the IO request, and stripe size. RAID level is the easy one, what kind of hits do you take on writes vs. capacity of the array. On the stripe size there is a direct corollary with the size of the IO request. If the IO request is bigger than the stripe size it will have to seek across another disk to satisfy the data request. If the IO request size is very small and random you may loose some IO performance if the requests pile up on one disk causing a hot spot. There are established calculations that you can perform to get an idea of how to configure you array. I’ve built a web page that you can use to do all the basic calculations, Disk Drive RAID Configuration Tool. These equations are base line estimates so you aren’t working completely in the dark. You can enter your own drive statistics or pick from one of 1100 hard drives in the database. This web calculator is based off of Peter Chen’s equations for estimating RAID performance and best stripe size. I’ll add more to it as I get time.

SQL Server IO Patterns and Array Performance

SQL Server works with two specific IO request size 8K and 64K in general. If you did your due diligence earlier you could also add any other request size that you saw come through. Focusing on the page size and extent size is a good place to start. Using the raid calculator tool I chose a Seagate Savvio 15K.2 drive as my base. One of the things my calculator can’t take into consideration is your system and RAID HBA. This is where testing is essential. You will find there are anomalies in every card, physical limits on throughput and IO’s. Since my RAID card won’t do a stripe bigger than 256k that is my cap for size. Reading through several IO white papers on SQL Server the general recommendation is for 2000/2005 a 64k or 128k stripe size and for SQL Server 2008 a 256k stripe size. I’ve found as general guidance, this is a good place to start as well. The calculator tells me for a RAID 10 array with 24 drives at a 256k stripe size and 8k IO request I should get 9825 IOs/Sec and 76.75 MB/Sec on average, across reads, writes, sequential and random IO requests. That’s right, 76 MB/Sec throughput for 24 drives rated at 122 MB/sec minimum. That is 2.5 MB/Sec per drive. The same array at a 64k IO request size yields 8102 IOs/Sec and 506 MB/Sec. A huge difference in throughput just based on the IO request size. Still, not anywhere near 122 MB/Sec. As an estimate, I find that these numbers are “good enough” to start sizing my arrays. If I needed to figure out how big the array needs to be to support say 150 MB/sec throughput or 10000 IOs/Sec you can do that with the calculator as well. Armed with our estimates it’s time to actually test our new RAID arrays. I use SQLIO to do synthetic benchmarking before running any actual data loads.

After doing a round of testing I found that in some cases the numbers were a little high or a little low. Other factors that are hard to calculate are cache hit ratios. Enterprise RAID HBA’s usually disable the write cache on the local disk controller and just use their own batter backed cache for all write operations. This is safer but with more and more disks on a single controller the amount of cache per disk can get pretty low. The HBA will also want you to split that between read and write operations. On my HP RAID HBA’s the default is 25% read and 75% write. In an older study I found on disk caches and cache size saw diminishing returns above 2 MB gaining between 1 and 2 percent additional cache hits per megabyte of cache. I expect that to flatten out even more as the caches get larger, you simply can’t get 100% cache ratios that would mean the whole drive fit in the ram cache or your IO request are the same over and over. Generally if that is the case you will find SQL Server won’t have to go to disk it will have what it needs in the buffer pool for reads. I find that if you have less than 20 percent write activity leaving the defaults is fine. If I do have a write heavy load I will set the cache to 100% writes.

The Results

Having completed my benchmarking I found that 128k or 256k stripe size was fine on average. Just realize that if you optimize for one IO pattern the others will suffer. Latency is also important and I have included it here as well. You find that the larger the IO request and the smaller the stripe size latency gets worse. Here are the results from my tests on a DL380 G5 with a P411 and 24 drives in a MSA 70 enclosure. I’ve included tests for an 8k to 256k stripe sizes.

As a footnote I’d like to thank Joe Handley, Ben Poliakoff, David Gosslin and Dale Davis for helping me get the Disk Drive RAID Configuration Tool together. I’m not a web guy!

WARNING! Lots of charts below!

Read 8K IO Request 24 73GB 15K Drives RAID 10 64K File System Cluster Size 1 Outstanding IO’s 8 Threads
Random Sequential
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Write 8K IO Request 24 73GB 15K Drives RAID 10 64K File System Cluster Size 1 Outstanding IO’s 8 Threads
Random Sequential
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Read 64K IO Request 24 73GB 15K Drives RAID 10 64K File System Cluster Size 1 Outstanding IO’s 8 Threads
Random Sequential
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Write 64K IO Request 24 73GB 15K Drives RAID 10 64K File System Cluster Size 1 Outstanding IO’s 8 Threads
Random Sequential
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Series To Date:
  1. Introduction
  2. The Basics of Spinning Disks
  3. The System Bus
  4. Disk Controllers, Host Bus Adapters and Interfaces
  5. RAID, An Introduction
  6. RAID and Hard Disk Reliability, Under The Covers
  7. Stripe Size, Block Size, and IO Patterns – You are here!
  8. Capturing IO Patterns
  9. Testing IO Systems

Fundamentals of Storage Systems – Testing IO Systems

12/03/2009 – UPDATE! There were a couple of bugs in the SQLIOCommandGenerator new has been updated.

I often tell people one of the greatest things about SQL Server is that anyone can install it. I also tell people what the worst things about SQL Server is that anyone can install it. Microsoft fostered a “black-box” approach to SQL Server in 7.0 and 2000. Thankfully, they are reversing this course. As a follow-on to my last article, capturing I/O patterns, we will take a quick look at building some synthetic tests based on those results. There are several tools on the market test I/O systems, some of them free some of the not. SQLIO has been around for several years. There are lots of good articles already on the web describing various uses for this tool.SQLIO was specifically designed to test the limits of your I/O system at different workloads. The problem is people tend to run this tool, will look at the best results, and assume that they will see the same results when the server goes live. But, without understanding your current workloads that is an unreasonable expectation at best. What ends up happening, is a misconfigured I/O system, lots of headaches, with no idea why the system performs so poorly.

I always advocate testing new systems before they go into production. I also understand that it always isn’t an option. Having found myself in that exact situation recently, I’ve decided to take my own advice and pull the new storage off-line to do the proper testing. I’m also taking this opportunity to refine my testing methodology and gather as many data points before the system goes live.

The Test Scripts

With my IO patterns in hand I set out to build a couple of little tools to help me generate all the test scripts and manage the data. As usual, I built these as command line tools since I have no skill at all with GUI’s. It is all in C# and I will be posting them up to Codeplex. You can download the tools here, this zip has the two tools, they are beta and don’t have a ton of error checking built into them yet. The first tool, SQLIOCommandGenerator does just that, generates the batch file that has all the commands. I does depend on the SQLIO.exe being in the same directory as well as having already defined a parameter file for it to use.


X: S Q L I O _testfile0.dat 8 0x0 150240

The first parameter is the test file name that SQLIO will create on start up or use if it already exists. Second is the number of threads that will access that file. Third is the affinity mask. Fourth is the file size in megabytes. Make sure and size the file large enough to be representative of a real database you would be housing on the system. If it is too small it will simply fit in the RAID controllers cache and give you inflated results. I also tend to use one thread per physical CPU core. Be careful though, if you are using a lot of files, having too many threads can cause SQLIO to run out of memory.

Calling SQLIOCommandGenerator:

SQLIOCommandGenerator 0.10
We assume -F&lt;paramfile&gt; -LS -d,-R,-f,-p,-a,-i,-m,-u,-S,-v, -t not implemented

Usage: SQLIOCommandGenerator [OPTIONS]

Generates the command line syntax for the SQLIO.exe program output into a batch file.
-f, –iopattern[=VALUE] Random, Sequential or Both
-k, –iotype[=VALUE] Read,Write or Both
-s, –seconds[=VALUE] Number of seconds to run each test 1(60) to 10(600) minutes is normal
-c, –cooldown[=VALUE] Number of seconds pause between tests suggested minimum is 5 seconds.
–os, –outstandingiostart[=VALUE]  Starting number of outstanding IOs 1
–oi, –outstandingioincrament[=VALUE] Multiply Outstanding IO start by X i.e 2
–oe, –outstandingioend[=VALUE] Ending Number of outstanding IOs i.e. 64
–ol, –outstandingiolist[=VALUE] Specific Outstanding IO List i.e. 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256,512,1024
–oss, –iosizestart[=VALUE] Starting Size of the IO request in kilobytes i.e. 1
–osi, –iosizeincrament[=VALUE] Multiply IO size by X in kilobytes i.e. 2
–ose, –iosizeend[=VALUE]  Ending number of outstanding IOs in kilobytes – i.e. 1024
–osl, –iosizeList[=VALUE]  Specific IO Sizes in kilobytes i.e. 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256,512,1024
-b, –buffering[=VALUE] Set the type of buffering None, All, Hardware, Software. None is the default for SQL Server
–bat, –sqliobatchfilename[=VALUE]  The name of the output batch file that will be  created
-?, -h, –help show this message and exit

So I passed it this command:

SQLIOCommandGenerator.exe -k=Both -s=600 -c=5 –os=1 –oi=2 –oe=256 –oss=1 –osi=2
–se=1024 -b=all –bat=c:wes_sqlio_bat.txt -f=both

That generates this sample:

:: Generated by SQLIOCommandGenerator
:: This relies on SQLIO.exe being in the same directory.
:: c:wes_sqlio_bat.txt c:paramfile.txt c:outputfile.csv “description of the tests”
:: param1 sqlio parameter file, param2 output of each test to single csv file, param3 test description
SET paramfile=%1
SET outfile=%2
SET runtime=600
SET cooloff=5
SET desc=%3
ECHO Date: %DATE% %TIME% &gt;&gt; %OUTFILE%
ECHO Runtime: %RUNTIME% &gt;&gt; %OUTFILE%
ECHO Cool Off: %COOLOFF% &gt;&gt; %OUTFILE%
ECHO Parameters File: %PARAMFILE% &gt;&gt; %OUTFILE%
ECHO Description: %DESC% &gt;&gt; %OUTFILE%
ECHO Test Start &gt;&gt; %OUTFILE%
ECHO Command Line: sqlio -kW -s%RUNTIME% -frandom -b1 -o1 -LS -BY -F%PARAMFILE% &gt;&gt; %OUTFILE%
sqlio -kW -s%RUNTIME% -frandom -b1 -o1 -LS -BY -F%PARAMFILE% &gt;&gt; %OUTFILE%
timeout /T %COOLOFF%
ECHO End Date: %DATE% %TIME% &gt;&gt; %OUTFILE%
:: This batch will take approximately 264.0014 Hours to Execute.

The batch file has the instructions for calling it and what parameters you can pass into it. You can omit seconds and cool down if you want to generate a more generic batch file.

This tool is flexible enough for my needs. I can generate specific targeted tests when I have data back that up, or I can generate more general tests to feel out the performance edges.

You may have noticed the estimate run time, that is pretty accurate. This is a worst case scenario where you have chosen pretty much every possible test to run. I wouldn’t recommend this. With the data we have already we can narrow down our testing to just a few IO sizes and queue depths to keep the test well within reason.

SQLIOCommandGenerator.exe -k=Both -s=600 -c=5 –ol=2 –osl=8,64 -b=None –bat=c:wes_sqlio_bat.txt -f=both

This batch will take approximately 80.08334 Minutes to Execute.

Much better! by focusing on our IO targets we now have a test that is meaningful and repeatable.

Why would you want to repeat this test over and over? Simple, not all RAID controllers are created equal. You may need to adjust several options before you hit the optimal configuration.

Running The Tests

Now that I have my tests defined I need to start running them and gathering information. There are some constants I always stay with. One, use diskpart.exe to sector align your disks. Two, format NTFS with a 64k block size. Since I”m doing these tests over and over I wrote a little batch file for that too. Diskpart can take a command file to do its work. Once the RAID controller is in I create an array and look what disk number is assigned to it. As long as you don’t make multiple arrays you will always get the same disk number. After that I format the volume accordingly. WARNING, I do use the /Y so the format happens without prompting for permission!


select disk 2

create partition primary align = 64

assign letter = X


diskpart /S z:diskpart.txt

format x: /q /FS:NTFS /V:TEMP /A:64K /Y

I I also use the RAID controllers command line interface if it has one to make it easier to construct the tests and just let them run using a batch file as a control file. If that isn’t possible don’t worry, the bulk of your time will be waiting for the test to complete anyway.

Gathering The Data

As you have guessed, I have a tool to parse the output of the tests and import them into SQL Server or export it as a CSV file for easy access in Excel. SQLIOParser is also pretty simple to use.

SQLIOParser 0.20

Usage: SQLIOParser [OPTIONS]

Process output of the SQLIO.exe program piped to a text file.


-c, –computername[=VALUE] The comptuer name that the test was executed on.
-s, –sqlserver[=VALUE] The SQL Server you want to import the data into.
-u, –sqluser[=VALUE] If using SQL Server authentication specify a user
-p, –sqlpass[=VALUE] If using SQL Server authentication specify a password
-t, –tablename[=VALUE] The table you want to import the data into.
-d, –databasename[=VALUE] The database you want to import the data into.
-f, –sqliofilename[=VALUE]  The file name you want to import the data from.
-a, –sqliofiledirectory[=VALUE] The directory containing the files you want to import the data from.
-o, –csvoutputfilename[=VALUE]  The file name you want to export the data to.
-?, -h, –help show this message and exit

It will work with a single file or import a set of files in a single directory. If you are importing to SQL Server you need to have the table already created.

CREATE TABLE [dbo].[SQLIOResults](
[ComputerName] [varchar](255) NULL,
[TestDescription] [varchar](255) NULL,
[SQLIOCommandLine] [varchar](255) NULL,
[SQLIOFileName] [varchar](255) NULL,
[ParameterFile] [varchar](255) NULL,
[TestDate] [datetime] NULL,
[RunTime] [int] NULL,
[CoolOff] [int] NULL,
[NumberOfFiles] [int] NULL,
[FileSize] [int] NULL,
[NumberOfThreads] [int] NULL,
[IOOperation] [varchar](255) NULL,
[IOSize] [varchar](255) NULL,
[IOOutstanding] [int] NULL,
[IOType] [varchar](255) NULL,
[IOSec] [decimal](18, 2) NULL,
[MBSec] [decimal](18, 2) NULL,
[MinLatency] [int] NULL,
[AvgLatency] [int] NULL,
[MaxLatency] [int] NULL

This is the same structure the CSV is in as well.

Analyzing The Results

I will warn you that the results you get will not match your performance 100% once the server is in production. This shows you the potential of the system. If you have horrible queries hitting your SQL Server those queries are still just as bad as before. Generally, I ignore max latency and min latency focusing on the average. That is what I am most worried about as the IO load changes or queue depth increases how will the system respond. Remember raw megabytes a second isn’t always king. Number of IO’s at a given IO block size is also very important. I will go into great detail in the next article as I walk you through analyzing the results from my own system so stay tuned for that.

Final Thoughts

These tests aren’t the end of your road. I still advocate playing back traces and seeing how the system responds with your exact workload whenever possible. If you can’t do that then using tools like SQLIO is better than nothing at all. We are also working under the assumption that we are upgrading or replacing an existing production server. If that isn’t the case and this is a brand new deployment using SQLIO will help you know what your I/O system is capable of before you have a problem with bad queries or other issues that always crop up on new systems.

You can always to more testing. It is almost a never ending process, my goal isn’t to give you the end solution just to give you another tool to pull out when you need it. As always, I look forward to your feedback!

Series To Date:
  1. Introduction
  2. The Basics of Spinning Disks
  3. The System Bus
  4. Disk Controllers, Host Bus Adapters and Interfaces
  5. RAID, An Introduction
  6. RAID and Hard Disk Reliability, Under The Covers
  7. Stripe Size, Block Size, and IO Patterns
  8. Capturing IO Patterns
  9. Testing IO Systems – You are here!

OT: Maximizing My Time, Using Technology

Well I’ve taken the plunge. I have finally broken down and decided to dictate blog post, articles, and other documents. Speech recognition has come a long way over the years, and it’s time I make use of it. Does that mean I’m getting typing altogether? Not exactly. One of the biggest problems is learning how to speak in a way that isn’t exactly natural. It also changes the way I write.

One of the things that people who know me know that I am dyslexic. My hand writing is horrible and my spelling is so poor that it is not unusual for the spellchecker in each article I write to completely miss a word or two. It also means that even when I see a word misspelled it looks perfectly okay to me. So, between the spellchecker missing words, and my inability to spot incorrect words means I spend a lot of time editing and proofing all my work. For short e-mails this isn’t a big problem. But, on average my blog posts are between 1000 and 2000 words, this leaves a lot of room for error. So, here we are leaning on technology. It also means I can “write” while away from my computer via my Sony recorder.

I don’t know how well this is going to go but, with a minimum of training I was able to dictate this post via the crappy head set they ship with the software 🙂

Fundamentals of Storage Systems – Capturing IO Patterns

We often take the advice given to us on forums or in articles at face value. Even though the authors almost always say things like “your mileage may vary” or “may not apply to your situation” people still assume it is the gospel. Sometimes it is lack of experience. Other times it is just lack of knowledge on how to verify these things on your own. In this article I’m going to give you a tool to look at what SQL Server is doing at the disk level and allow you to make better decisions on how to configure your underlying disks.

The Basics

There are several things you need to know about how SQL Server accesses the database files and the implications of that before you can construct a proper testing methodology. covers the basics. There are a few things I will highlight here.


ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability) is what makes our database reliable. The ability to recover from a catastrophic failure is key to protecting your data.

WAL (Write-Ahead Logging) is how ACID is achieved. Basically, the log record must be flushed to disk before the data file is modified.

Stable Media

Stable media isn’t just the disk drive. A controller with a battery backed cache is also considered stable. Since SQL Server can request blocks as big as 64KB make sure your controller can handle that block size request in cache. Some older controllers only do a 16KB block or smaller.

FUA (Forced Unit Access)

With the requirement of stable media SQL Server creates and opens all files with a specific set of flags. FILE_FLAG_WRITETHROUGH tells the underlying OS not to use write caching that isn’t considered stable media. So, the local disk cache is normally bypassed. Not all hard drives honor the flag though, Some SATA/IDE drives ignore it. Usually, the drive manufacturer provides a tool to turn off write caching. If you are using desktop drives in a mission critical situation be aware of the potential for data loss. FILE_FLAG_NO_BUFFERING tells the OS not to buffer the file ether. At this point the only cache available will be the battery backed or other durable cached on the controller.

File Access

SQL Server uses asynchronous access for data and log files. This allows IO request to queue up and use the IO system as efficiently as possible. The main difference between the two are SQL Server will try and gather writes to the data file into bigger blocks but the log is always written to sequentially.

All of these rules apply to everything but tempdb. Since tempdb is recreated at restart every time recoverability isn’t an issue.

SQL Server data access patterns

Searching around you will find these generalities about SQL Server’s IO patterns

Log Writes

Sequential 512 bytes to 64KB

Data File Read/Writes


Read ahead – more important to Enterprise Edition

8KB to 125KB

Bulk Insert

8KB to 128KB

Create Database

512 byte – full initialize on log file only.

Backup Sequential Read/Write

1 MB

Restore Sequential Read/Write



Sequential Read 8K – 64K


(Read Phase) Sequential Read (see Read Ahead)


(Write Phase) Sequential Write

Any multiple of 8K up to 128K


Sequential Read 8K – 64K

Now that we have an idea of what SQL Server is suppose to be doing its time to verify our assumptions.

Capturing IO activity

There are a few tools that will allow you to capture the file activity at the system level. Process Monitor is a free tool from Microsoft that I will use to collect some base line information. In it’s standard configuration Process Monitor captures a ton of stuff and uses the page file to spool the info to. So, before we begin we need to change the default configuration.


Capturing IO data using process monitor.

Filter to apply

process is sqlservr.exe
Operation is Read
Operation is Write


Columns to choose.


Process Name
Date & Time
Time of Day
Relative Time

Change Backing File.


The maximum number of events it will capture is 199 million. This is enough on my system to capture 12 hours of activity easily. Once we have a good sample you can save it off as an XML file or CSV. Choosing CSV it is pretty easy to import the data into SQL Server using SSIS or your tool of choice.


I import the CSV into a raw table first.

Raw table to import into.

CREATE TABLE [SQLIO].[dbo].[pm_imp] (
  [Process Name]  VARCHAR(12),
  [PID]           SMALLINT,
  [Path]          VARCHAR(255),
  [Detail]        VARCHAR(255),
  [Date & Time]   DATETIME,
  [Time of Day]   VARCHAR(20),
  [Relative Time] VARCHAR(50),
  [Duration]      REAL,
  [TID]           SMALLINT,
  [Category]      VARCHAR(6)

Next I create a cleaner structure with some additional information separated from the detail provided.

[Process Name]       AS ProcessName,
PID                  AS ProcessID,
PATH                 AS DatabaseFilePath,
[Date & Time]        AS EventTimeStamp,
[Time of Day]        AS TimeOfDay,
[Relative Time]      AS RelativeTime,
TID                  AS ThreadID,
Category             AS IOType,
substring(detail,charindex('Length: ',detail,0) + 8
,(charindex(', I/O',detail,0) - charindex('Length:',detail,0) - 8)) AS IOLength,
CASE reverse(left(reverse(PATH),3))
    WHEN 'mdf'
    THEN 'Data'
    WHEN 'ndf'
    THEN 'Data'
    WHEN 'ldf'
    THEN 'Log'
  END AS FileType
WHERE  reverse(left(reverse(PATH),3)) IN ('mdf','ndf','ldf')

Once we have the data cleaned up a bit we can now start doing some analysis on it.
Queries for interesting patterns.

This query gives us our read and write counts.

count(*) IOCount
ORDER BY count(*) DESC

This one shows us the size of the IO and what type of operation it is.

count(*) IOCount
ORDER BY count(*) DESC

This is a look at activity by file type data or log.

count(*) IOCount,
count(*) DESC

Since we are capturing the thread id we can see how many IO’s by thread.

count(*) IOCount,
count(*) DESC

We can also look at IO types, sizes and count by file helping you see which ones are hot.

count(*) IOCount,
databasefilepath LIKE '%filename%'
HAVING   count(*) > 10000
ORDER BY databasefilepath,
count(*) DESC

Now that we see exactly what our IO patterns are we can make adjustments to the disk subsystem to help scale it up or tune it for a particular pattern.

This is just another tool in your tool belt. This is a supplement to using fn_virtualfilestats to track file usage. I use it to get a better idea of the size of the IO’s being issued.Using these two tools I can see the size of the IO’s in a window of time that is reported by my fn_virtualfilestats capture routine.

Always verify your assumptions, or advice from others.

Series To Date:
  1. Introduction
  2. The Basics of Spinning Disks
  3. The System Bus
  4. Disk Controllers, Host Bus Adapters and Interfaces
  5. RAID, An Introduction
  6. RAID and Hard Disk Reliability, Under The Covers
  7. Stripe Size, Block Size, and IO Patterns
  8. Capturing IO Patterns – You are here!
  9. Testing IO Systems