AlwaysOn 2016 – Direct Seeding

–By Ginger Keys

SQL Server 2016 provides some awesome new enhancements and features, especially in Enterprise Edition.  One of the new features relating to AlwaysOn is Direct Seeding.

Good stuff – No more time consuming backup and restore

  • Direct Seeding allows you to initialize the databases to your secondary replica(s) without having to configure a network share or perform backup and restore operations.  It will send the database directly over to the secondary replica without you needing to do anything.  Woo hoo!!

Gotchas – Some with regards to Large Databases

  • Direct seeding does not use compression by default, so adding a very large database to your AlwaysOn group could take a while and can use a lot of your network bandwidth.  Compression can be enabled by turning on Trace Flag 9567.   However, know that adding a large database with compression enabled will cause high CPU utilization during the seeding process.   For more info click here https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/database-engine/availability-groups/windows/tune-compression-for-availability-group .
  • Also during direct seeding the transaction log will not truncate, so in a highly transactional database your transaction log could potentially grow very large during this time.
  • For large databases being initialized to secondary replicas using direct seeding, be mindful of your network capacity (as the entire database will be sent across the network to the secondary(s)), workload amount which could bloat your transaction log, CPU pressure if you enable compression, and database size which will affect the seeding time.

You may want to use direct seeding during afterhours to prevent your Network or System Admin from hunting you down for the network hit that will happen.

If you are using SQL Server Management Studio version 17, Direct Seeding of your databases is now available in the GUI! You can download this version of SSMS here https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/ssms/download-sql-server-management-studio-ssms .

Let’s Do This!

I will assume you already have your environment ready (i.e. failover cluster created and configured, SQL installed and configured, AlwaysOn enabled, replicas and logins configured, etc.). So from the New Availability Group Wizard, you will specify your AG name:

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Just a side note… in earlier versions of AlwaysOn (SQL 2012 & 2014), failover would occur if there was a problem with the health of the instance. If one of your databases was in trouble however, the AlwaysOn group would not fail over as long as the instance was okay. So if you had a database that was offline, suspect or corrupt, no failover would occur. In AlwaysOn 2016, failover will occur not only if the instance is in trouble, but also if one or more of your databases is in trouble. This is not a default setting however. You have to specify this when creating your AlwaysOn group, by selecting the ‘Database Level Health Detection’ checkbox in the setup wizard.

Next, select your database(s) to add to the AlwaysOn group:

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Then add the replicas to be included in your AG and what type of failover (automatic or manual), data replication (synchronous or asynchronous), and whether they will allow for read only access:

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Next click on the Endpoints tab and make sure URL and port numbers are correct:

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Click on the Backup Preferences tab and specify how you want your backups to occur:

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Click on the Listener tab and specify the Listener (DNS) name, port number and IP address:

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And THIS is where you can specify Automatic (Direct) Seeding!

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Click Next through the next screens and THAT’S IT!

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You’re done, simple as that.

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If you do not have SSMS v17 you can still initialize your databases to secondary replicas using direct seeding, but you will need to do this through TSQL from the primary replica:

CREATE AVAILABILITY GROUP []

FOR DATABASE db1

REPLICA ON ‘<*primary_server*>’

WITH (ENDPOINT_URL = N’TCP://<*primary_server*>.<*fully_qualified_domain_name*>:5022′,

FAILOVER_MODE = AUTOMATIC,

AVAILABILITY_MODE = SYNCHRONOUS_COMMIT,

BACKUP_PRIORITY = 50,

SECONDARY_ROLE(ALLOW_CONNECTIONS = NO),

SEEDING_MODE = AUTOMATIC),

N'<*secondary_server*>’ WITH (ENDPOINT_URL = N’TCP://<*secondary_server*>.<*fully_qualified_domain_name*>:5022′,

FAILOVER_MODE = AUTOMATIC,

AVAILABILITY_MODE = SYNCHRONOUS_COMMIT,

BACKUP_PRIORITY = 50,

SECONDARY_ROLE(ALLOW_CONNECTIONS = NO),

SEEDING_MODE = AUTOMATIC);

GO

For more information click here https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/database-engine/availability-groups/windows/automatically-initialize-always-on-availability-group .

Conclusion

SQL Server 2016 AlwaysOn gives you the ability to join databases to your AlwaysOn group and initialize them on your secondaries without having to backup and restore, or establish a network share. This ultimately saves much time and effort, but can take a while if your database is large. And using compression during the seeding process can save some time, but your CPU will take a performance hit. Also keep in mind that your transaction log will grow during this time as it will not truncate during the seeding process. Of course, be sure to test this first before doing it in your production environment!

For more information about blog posts, concepts and definitions, further explanations, or questions you may have…please contact us at SQLRx@sqlrx.com. We will be happy to help! Leave a comment and feel free to track back to us. Visit us at www.sqlrx.com!

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