In my search of better understanding the scalability options of SQL Azure I stumbled on an interesting aspect: Query Hints in SQL Azure. More specifically, the MAXDOP hint. A few years ago I did a lot of analysis on this query hint (see article on SQL Server Central: 

Here is a quick synopsis of MAXDOP: It is a query hint you use when issuing a SQL statement that provides you control with how many processors SQL Server will use to execute the query. For complex queries with lots of I/O requirements, more CPUs can mean faster parallel searches. However the impact can be drastic on other running threads/processes. If your query takes all available processors at 100% for 5 minutes... guess what... nothing else works. The bottom line is that more is not always better. The use of MAXDOP is more art than science... and a whole lot of testing; it depends on two things: the underlying hardware architecture and the application design. So there isn't a magic number that will work for everyone... except 1... :) Let me explain.

The rules of engagements are different. SQL Azure is about sharing. Yep... you are forced to nice with your neighbors.  To achieve this goal SQL Azure sets the MAXDOP to 1 by default, and ignores the use of the MAXDOP hint altogether. That means that all you queries will use one and only one processor.  It really isn't such a bad thing however. Keep in mind that in some of the largest SQL Server implementations MAXDOP is usually also set to 1. It is a well known configuration setting for large scale implementations. The reason is precisely to prevent rogue statements (like a SELECT * FROM HISTORY) from bringing down your systems (like a report that should have been running on a different in the first place) and to avoid the overhead generated by executing too many parallel queries that could cause internal memory management nightmares to the host Operating System.

Is summary, forcing the MAXDOP to 1 in SQL Azure makes sense; it ensures that your database will continue to function normally even if one of the other tenants on the same server is running massive queries that would otherwise bring you down.

Last but not least, keep in mind as well that when you test your database code for performance on-premise, make sure to set the DOP to 1 on your SQL Server databases to simulate SQL Azure conditions.


Print | posted @ Sunday, January 30, 2011 2:51 PM

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