Jan 14

T-SQL Tuesday #50 – Automation – When repetition is really what you want


This post is meant to be part of January 2014 edition of T-SQL Tuesday, a rotating blog party started by Adam Machanic (@AdamMachanic | blog). This month’s edition is hosted by Hemanth.D (@SQLChow | blog) and the topic is automation:

“Automation plays a huge part in our lives and the DBA profession is not so different. A couple of years ago this topic was shared by Pat Wright. I would like to revisit this again and see how much of our approach has changed.”

At the beginning there was a shell script

My first serious dabbling with computing started back in college, and at the time, Unix was the only operating system around. Windows was still to be created and scripting was the natural way to do things, other than creating programs in a language such as C or Fortran. Back then I already preferred programming to just about anything else and didn’t have any administration responsibilities, so I wrote a few scripts, but can’t say I was very proficient. This really didn’t change much after graduation and even though I had the chance to try stuff in other scripting languages, such as perl, I confess I was never a heavy scripter. 

Oh, that amazing and dreadful GUI

Then, of course, the GUI came about and it didn’t really contribute to change the state of things very much. GUIs are pretty much amazing, when you want to have an easy life. A few clicks here and there and things are done.This works fine when your needs are confined to a database at a time,the GUI makes it really easy to do most of the things. The reverse of this is, of course, a bit of incentive not to really delve into things, especially  when time is short and the GUI is nice and good enough to do what you need.

Ok, now repeat it 80 times

GUIs are not so nice when whatever you need to do, needs to be done not once or twice, but many times, in a repeated manner. I think my first encounter with automation in SQL Server was 10 years ago, when I found myself responsible for 80 undergrads and had to provide them with databases and proper access to such databases, as part of the database design course I was going to teach. The solution was obvious – write a simple T-SQL script, creating the databases, the logins, the users, the permissions and make sure everything works fine. Of course, while you are at it, write one script to clean everything up when the semester ends.

Since that first time, the T-SQL script has become a good friend. Although my automation needs are not very pressing, it is usually based in T-SQL. even if s part of a bigger SSIS package and directed with timely precision under the guidance of the SQL Server Agent. On my company, we really only host development servers, so this fulfills our automation needs rather well.

Repetition, yet again

Things will probably change soon, since we are launching a new application that will, mean the need to deal with a big number of databases (hundreds or even thousands). Expecting our automation needs to change because of that, we’re looking into other options, including the obvious Powershell, but also considering the possibility of developing apps that can make our expected tasks easier. Its’ even a bit of a coincidence that this topic should be the subject of this month’s T-SQL Tuesday, since we are evaluating our options for automation at this very moment. I will certainly be looking at the contribution of the SQL Server community for additional insight on this matter.