A Christmas tale for DBAs – “Twas the night before deployment”

DBAs have a tough job sometimes. When deployments go wrong, they’re the ones everyone looks to. They’re also the ones who have to fix it, which can mean working through the night, the weekend, the holidays, whatever it takes.

So let’s lighten the mood this Christmas with a DBA take on a festive classic, The Night before Christmas. The poem by Clement Clarke Moore was originally published with the title A Visit from St. Nicholas in 1823. It was also put to music by Gene Autry and Rosemary Clooney, and reached number 9 in the US charts in 1952:

Now it’s time to read along, read aloud, or sing out at the top of your voice the words to Twas the night before deployment

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the place,
Not a server was stirring, ‘cept the database,
The DBAs sat in dim light, typing with care,
In hopes of how well the deployment would fare.

Their developers were nestled all snug in their beds,
Whilst visions of non-clustered indexes danced in their heads,
And low user traffic, connections, activity of all kind,
Gave the DBAs plenty of confidence in mind.

When all of a sudden there arose such a clatter,
One DBA sprung from their chair to see what was the matter.
To SSMS they flew like a flash,
To find what had caused the poor DB to crash.

The gath’ring of multiple changes to make,
Had led to a rather ginormous mistake,
When what to their wond’ring eyes should appear through the smoke,
But several Stored Procs, which appeared to have broke.

Dependencies thrown like caution to wind,
A deadline appeared, and none of them grinned,
Deadlocks and latches too were plaguing this night,
It seemed SQL Server was up for a fight.

They worked and they worked, all through the night,
Weary and exhausted, no one knew of their plight,
‘Til ping went the inbox, and again and again,
It seemed also users were feeling the pain.

That’s it”, said one DBA, who had had quite enough,
“I gave up cookies and warm milk, to have it THIS rough!?”
So, with faces quite contorted by strain,
They started to roll back, but that was also pain.

Trying to find who had changed what, when and why,
Had them verging on madness, and shouting out “Why!?!”
But then, in a flash of red and green light,
A man in red coat had appeared from the night.

“Ho Ho Ho,” he bellowed, stomach jiggling along too,
“It seems at this point there’s just one thing to do!”
So with a flick of his wrist and a jingle of bells,
Santa highlighted the errors and all the code smells.

“You see poor DBAs, you needn’t be pained!
You just need to be agile, there’s much to be gained.
Big Bang deployments are dangers you see,
Like leaving for too long, the lights on your tree!”

And like that, as if all’d been a dream,
The DBAs awoke away from their screen,
Twas Christmas once more and now they knew why,
In the New Year perhaps, we should give DevOps a try.

If you’d like hear Twas the night before deployment being recited (not sung) by me, tune in to the seventh DBAle podcast. This is the series in which I chat to Pre-Sales Engineer, Chris Kerswell, about topical SQL Server issues, and in number seven we address the timely – and complex – subject of Santa. Like many, he does a big bang deployment once a year, but it’s an error-prone and laborious process. How could he improve it? What are his options? Could Christmas, like SQL Server, be improved with a DevOps approach? Tune in and find out.