The 5 Scariest Moments for a SQL Server Developer

Published on: 2018-10-30

While families and friends are scaring each other this Halloween week with stories of ghosts and ghouls, I thought it’d be way scarier to talk about truncate tables and source control.

Accidental Data Deletion

You’ve spent all morning loading millions of records into your tables.  Some of that data was painstakingly loaded by hand from flat files, and some lookup values you even authored manually because “you’ll only have to do this once.”

You are jumping around between SSMS windows, running this query here and that query there, pressing F5 like there’s no tomorrow. And then right before you press to F5 to finish all of your work…

…you realize that you ran the whole tab worth of code instead of the one statement you meant to highlight.  “Commands completed successfully” flashes in your Message window, and in horror you discover you accidentally ran a truncate table statement!

Ok so this is pretty bad.

You know backups are being taken but…can the DBA restore the most recent data you spent all morning working on?  You tell her about your misfortune (“…yeah one of my coworkers accidentally deleted the data…”) and hold your breath.

After a few minutes she gets back to you saying everything is back up and working.  Saved by good backup practices…this time!

Problems With code You Inherited

You receive an instant message from your DBA.

DBA: “Hey <your name here>, how are you doing?

“You: “Good how are you?”

DBA: “Look, the instance XYZ has been at 100% CPU utilization for the past hour.  I see you have that has been running that whole time….and it’s using a scalar function.

You: “…”

You: “Sorry.  I am just running this job for Bill since he left a few weeks ago.  Obviously there are some problems with the way he was writing some of this queries and I haven’t had a chance to look them over yet.”

DBA: “That’s ok.  I know you would never write a scalar function that totally destroys the server.  Anyway, I was able to easily rewrite the query into a table-function that should run a lot more efficiently.  Is it ok if I kill your original query and run this new one instead?”

You: “Yeah sure, that’d be great.  Thank you!”

Missing Index Details

You’ve been having a good day: no outages, no annoying customer requests, and the only thing keeping you from going home is to finish tuning the query you are working on.

You execute your query after making all necessary changes and…nothing.  The executing query icon just keeps spinning, and spinning, and spinning…

You go grab some water, and by that time the query has finished.  You switch over to the Execution plan tab and…you see SQL Server’s Missing Index hint recommending that you create an index.

Now don’t be confused, this text looks green and friendly.  You might be tempted to follow the recommendation and add the missing index it recommends – but don’t! 

That siren song of easy query tuning will steer you straight into the rocks known as unnecessary index maintenance. 

Just before you execute Microsoft’s missing index details script, you realize that if you add some include columns and reorder a couple of the key columns, you’ll have an index that will be applicable to all of your table’s queries.

You avoid getting ship wrecked and create an index that useful for more than just this one query – phew!

Email Subjects That Read: “Does anyone know why none of my queries are running?”

Last night’s data load failed.  “No big deal,” you assure yourself. “I’ll just run it now – no one will know the difference.”

You kick-off your ETL queries and decide to go make some oatmeal.  At your office’s kitchen you run into a coworker you haven’t seen in a while, and you get to talking about work, life, that weekend’s football game that was lost in overtime…that’s been happening a lot this season, huh?

On the way back to your desk, one of your customers stops you to ask some questions, your manager needs to discuss project planning with you, a new employee is introduced, etc…

By this point the office is busy with activity.  You finally make it back to your desk MUCH later than you originally intended.  What were you doing again?

You can’t remember so you decide to check your email.  You notice a chain emails asking “Does anyone know what’s going on with server ABC?” Things are running so SLOW!  I can’t run even the simplest queries!”

OH CRAP you think.  You look at your load process queries and they are still running with no end in sight.  Do you kill the queries and wait for the hour-long rollback to complete or…

…just then your queries finish.  A minute later you receive another email saying “seems like everything is working fine now.” 

Another bullet dodged.

Where Did My Code Go?

Working on this team project has been a fun experience for you – responsibilities have been shared and you and your coworkers have been delivering on deadlines ahead of schedule.  You’ve never been able to write queries and make progress to the end product as quickly as this.

You sit down to start working and remember that you had to debug a query from yesterday afternoon.  You go and open the stored procedure in dev and…… it’s not the same query anymore.

Sure, parts of it are the same, but there are some extra parameters and some of the logic has changed.  What the heck…?

“Did anyone mess with USP_GetProducts since yesterday?” you ask your alley of teammates.

“Uhh…I updated it this morning to make it work for my business logic requirement,” said intern Sam.  “Is something wrong?”

“Well, it’s totally different from the way I had it when I left yesterday evening.  I bet we got out of sync and the merge conflict wasn’t resolved correctly” you say.

“Oh yeah, I got some message about merging.  I just clicked the ‘keep my version’ button,” says Sam.

“No big deal,” you say with confidence.  “I can pull my version out of source control.  Come on over and I can show you how we can merge both of our queries together.”

Source control saves the day.

Happy Halloween.

Thanks for reading. You might also enjoy following me on Twitter.

Want to learn even more SQL?

Sign up for my newsletter to receive weekly SQL tips!