Archive for January, 2017

Interesting one today:

MSDTC is one of the popular software components that is on all Windows systems. It is one of the Windows  Operating System components that Sql Server relies on it to perform some crucial tasks (when needed).

What does it do?

MSDTC, Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator, is essentially, as name suggests, a coordinator/manager to handle transactions that are distributed over multiple machines. Let’s say we start a transaction, where one of the steps includes querying data from a different Sql Server instance on a different physical machine; MSDTC comes into action with these specific tasks that need transaction coordination across different physical machines. It executes the section of code that is supposed to run on remote machines and brings back the results to local Sql instance. In this process, if any issue were to occur, on the remote machine that results in rollback, MSDTC makes sure the original transaction on this machine also rolls-back safely.

How does it do?

MSDTC comes with necessary Operating System controls and memory structures to carry out these operations independent of the Sql Instances, while keeping integrity of the transaction across the multiple physical Sql machines a.k.a. the complete two-phase distributed commit protocol and the recovery of distributed transactions.

Where does Sql Server use it?

The key point here is that these need to be Sql Instances on different physical machines. Queries that request data across different instances on the same physical box do not go through MSDTC.

MSDTC is used by query activities like

  • Linked Servers
  • RPC (Remote Procedure Calls)
  • Ones with
  • etc…

So, every time we run SQL queries that utilize above techniques, they rely on MSDTC to carry out operation while maintaining transaction integrity.

Who else uses it?

MSDTC is an Operating System resource that is used by applications other than Sql Server, to perform any distributed transaction activities; Like eXtended Architecture applications.

Is MSDTC required?

MSDTC is not required for Sql Server installation or operation. If you are only going to use Database Engine, then it is not required or used. If your Sql uses any of the above mentioned query techniques (Linked Server, OPENQUERY, etc), or SSIS or Workstation Components then MSDTC is required.

If you are installing only the Database Engine, the MSDTC cluster resource is not required. If you are installing the Database Engine and SSIS, Workstation Components, or if you will use distributed transactions, you must install MSDTC. Note that MSDTC is not required for Analysis Services-only instances.

What about Sql Cluster?

Same rules as above apply to Sql Clusters as well with one additional rule. If you have two instances on the same machine (that are clustered across different physical machines), then you’ll need MSDTC. Since the Cluster could failover to remote machine at anytime.

Let’s take an example:

Let’s say Instance1 is on physical machines A & B, with B as active node. Instance2 is on machines B & C, with B as active node. A query going from Instance1 to Instance2 will need MSDTC (even if both the instances are active on the same physical machine B at that given point in time.).

This is because, there is no guarantee that they will remain on the same physical machine at any given time; They might failover to other machines, resulting in instances being on physically different machines. So MSDTC is required (when distributed operations are performed).

Also the recent Sql Server versions do not required MSDTC during Sql Server installations.

Other points in a Clustered Environment

We could have multiple instances of MSDTC as different clustered resource (along with default MSDTC resource).

In scenario with multiple MSDTC, we could configure each Sql Cluster resource to have a dedicated MSDTC instance. If such mapping does not exist, it automatically falls back to use the default MSDTC resource.

Hope this helps,

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Interesting one today:


In replication, as we all know, data/records from Publisher are copied to all Subscribers. This is carried out as Transactions and Commands from Publisher to each Subscriber. Let’s say application INSERTs 10 new rows into the database (Publisher) as part of some application transaction; Now the LogReader reads Transactional Log file and takes a note of these 10 records; Brings their details to Distributor.

Behind the Scenes:

From Distributor, they are transferred to each Subscriber by the Distribution Agent. In actuality, the Distribution Agent executes these INSERT commands at each subscriber; Upon success, it proceeds to execute the subsequent commands until all Subscribers are up to date.

Here is the beauty:

In Replication, the result of INSERT activity by the application, is carried out as “1 transaction with 10 commands” (one INSERT command for each record, all encompassing in one transaction). When we look closely, each INSERT command is carried out by Replication Stored Procedures located in each Subscriber (they are created as part of replication setup). Distributor will have entries with these stored procedures with appropriate parameters. Now Distribution agent will execute them at each subscriber.

Distributor will have entries like:

{CALL [dbo].[mtx_rplins_SampleTable] (758374661,1,N'SomeName1')}
{CALL [dbo].[mtx_rplins_SampleTable] (758374662,4,N'SomeName2')}
{CALL [dbo].[mtx_rplins_SampleTable] (758374663,5,N'SomeName3')}




Now here is the question that we’ll discuss today. Why do we have different replication stored procedures calls? Not different procedures, but different procedure calls. We have dedicated replication stored procedures for each table; Each to carry out INSERT, UPDATE and DELETE. Like

  • sp_MSins_ : Handles INSERT operations for this table
  • sp_MSupd_ : Handles UPDATE operations for this table
  • sp_MSdel_ : Handles DELETE  operations for this table

But why do we have different procedure calls?

In the above image, we see entries like {CALL […..]}. There other procedure calls like CALL, SCALL, XCALL, MCALL, VCALL. What are these for?

  • CALL
    • This is the most popular or default call used in Replication.
    • It could be used for INSERT or UPDATE or DELETE
    • This is used for UPDATEs only.
    • Used for UPDATEs and DELETEs
    • Used for UPDATEs only
    • For internal use only.
    • Also used for updatable subscriptions


This is the default option used for all activities a.k.a. UPDATE/DELETE/INSERT. As seen in the picture above, CALL will have a list of values provided for all columns of the table.


Looks like some procedures are used exclusively for certain actions; Like MCALL & SCALL are dedicated for UPDATEs. But there is some difference between these too. SCALL only sends the columns that need updating; Where as MCALL sends all columns of the table (including the ones that are not changing).


Sends data for both before and after values for all columns of the table involved in UPDATE or DELETE. Obviously, in UPDATE, there are values for both before and after; But in DELETE, the after values is empty.

For more details, please refer to this excellent article.

Hope this helps,

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Interesting article today on troubleshooting replication errors.

A few weeks ago, on production, we received an alert with on replication failures. Upon further inspection the error looks like this:

Command attempted:
if @@trancount > 0 rollback tran
(Transaction sequence number: 0x001031C200001B06000700000000, Command ID: 1)

Error messages:
The row was not found at the Subscriber when applying the replicated command. (Source: MSSQLServer, Error number: 20598)
Get help: http://help/20598
The row was not found at the Subscriber when applying the replicated command. (Source: MSSQLServer, Error number: 20598)
Get help: http://help/20598

Identify Root Cause:

To understand the course of action, we need to first understand the underlying issues. Go to Replication Monitor >> Open Details Window on the subscription that has errors. Go to ‘Distributor to Subscriber’ tab for more details. See the image below:


Now we see that, replication is attempting to perform an action on the Subscriber, but the row does not exist. So, lets find out more.

Find the exact command that is being replicated (or executed on Subscriber as part of replication) that throws this error. Use replication procedure sp_browsereplcmds for that.

Query the Distribution agent ID from dbo.MSdistribution_agents and use it in the query below.

-- Uncover the replication command throwing error
EXEC sp_browsereplcmds @xact_seqno_start = '0x001031C200001A620004000000000000'
                     , @xact_seqno_end = '0x001031C200001A620004000000000000'
                     , @agent_id = 49
                     , @publisher_database_id = 3

You’ll see something like this:


Under the command column, we’ll see the exact command that is running into this error.

--  Error 20598 occurring in
{CALL [mtx_rpldel_ReportCriterion] (908236,71357,250,-1)}

Now, lets go to that stored procedure ‘mtx_rpldel_ReportCriterion’ and see what tables are involved in manipulation. In my scenario, the table ReportCriterion does not have the record with ID = 908236


Once you understand the root cause, we have a few options.

  1. Data Integrity: Looks like we have synchronization issues between Publisher and Subscriber. If it is a non-production environment or an environment where reinitializing is an option, then we could take that route to sync up the data first.
    1. Once data integrity issues are resolved, all subsequent replication commends would be successful.
  2. Manual fix: Manually insert the missing record at Subscriber and then allow replication to perform its operations on the new record.
    1. With this option, the more records we uncover as missing, the more manual operation would be required. Its not ideal, but it is a workaround to get things going again.
  3. Ignore, for now: In some situations, until further solution is identified, we may need to ignore this one record and move forward with rest of the replication commands.
    1. Take necessary precautions to make sure there are no more such missing records. Or gather a list of all missing ones.
    2. Configure replication to ignore error 20598 using skiperrors parameter. There are a couple of ways to achieve this; here we’ll look at one.
    3. Go to the Agent Profile for this particular Distributor Agent. One of the profiles allows us to skip certain errors. See the image below.
    4. replication_error_20598_resolution

For more information, please refer to Microsoft Support article on similar issue.

Hope this helps,

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Interesting one today:

For the last few months, on and off, there have been opportunities to run some interesting tests in our lab environment. this resulted in some good posts in the last few weeks. Adding to that tradition is another interesting topic Uniquifier.


Imagine a table with multiple records and a Clustered and bunch of NonClustered indexes. In the non-clustered indexes, the b-tree is structured based on the index keys and at the bottom of the tree, the leaf points back to clustered index using Clustering Key. Now imagine the same scenario with a non-unique clustered index, so there could be multiple records with same clustering key values. The dependent, non-clustered indexes now will need a way to uniquely identify between the identical looking entries. Enter Uniquifier column !!


An extra 4-byte column called uniquifier is added to all non-clustered indexes to uniquely distinguish between multiple index entries that result in pointing to the same clustering key.

Let’s take an example:

We’ll re-use some of the code from previous posts for this.

-- Create a dummy table to test DBCC IND
IF EXISTS (SELECT * FROM sys.objects WHERE name = 'Uniquifier_Test' AND type = 'U')
 DROP TABLE dbo.Uniquifier_Test

CREATE TABLE dbo.Uniquifier_Test (

-- Create Clustered and NonClustered indexes
    ON dbo.Uniquifier_Test(ID ASC)

    ON dbo.Uniquifier_Test(Name ASC)

-- Let's insert some dummy records
INSERT INTO dbo.Uniquifier_Test (ID, Name)
VALUES (1, 'aa')
     , (2, 'bb')
     , (3, 'cc')
     , (4, 'dd')

FROM dbo.Uniquifier_Test

Now, lets look at the contents of the non-clustered index pages. Fr more details on retrieving PageID and query page contents, please refer to the previous posts.

-- Retrieve PageID of nCI
DBCC IND (test, Uniquifier_Test, -1)

-- Retrieve contents of nCI page
DBCC PAGE(test, 1, 34535, 3)

As you can see, along with the nCI key column, Name, we also have the clustering key (ID) added to the nCI b-tree structure. Along with that there is a new column called UNIQUIFIER added to the non-clustered index pages. Since we did not add any duplicate values, the UNIQUIFIER column is set to zero.

Uniquifier (before duplicate entries)q

Uniquifier (before duplicate entries)

Now, lets add some duplicate entries.

-- Let's insert some duplicate records
INSERT INTO dbo.Uniquifier_Test (ID, Name)
VALUES (1, 'aa')
     , (2, 'bb')

As you can see, where there are duplicate entries, the UNIQUIFIER column adds a unique value to distinguish between them. This incremental number is just within the same set of duplicate entries. Two duplicate rows for aa & 1 have the UNIQUIFIER value set to 0 and 1 respectively. For the next set of duplicates the incremental value starts over from 0. So it can accomodate a lot of duplicate entries.

Uniquifier after adding duplicate entries

Uniquifier after adding duplicate entries

So, the uniquifier column helps Sql Server distinguish between two identical entries in the non-clustered index.

Hope this helps,

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