PostWhy Learning About Always On Availability Groups Can Help You Become a Better SQL Server DBA or Consultant

While working on the video ad for my SQL Server Always On Availability Group: The Senior DBA’s Ultimate Field Guide training program, I couldn’t help but take stock of the different skills I had acquired throughout my lifetime to come up with the final result.


  • – started playing piano at 5
  • – learned how to play guitar at 11
  • – started playing the bass guitar at 14
  • – learned few tricks to becoming a video cameraman and director at 16
  • – learned the basics of audio engineering at 18
  • – tried motion animation with Adobe (then Macromedia) Flash at 19
  • – learned the basics of music sequencing using Cakewalk (now SONAR) at 21
  • – learned the concepts storytelling at 33
  • – learned the basics of digital photography at 34
  • – learned the basics of lighting for photography and film at 36
  • – re-learned the concepts of sound synthesizers at 37
  • – learned copywriting at 38


I could list all of the things that I have learned throughout my lifetime that led to me creating the video.

I’m not a pro at any of the skills I listed above. But you be the judge.


Skills You Will Acquire When You Learn About Always On Availability Groups


The technology industry is constantly changing and evolving. If you want to be successful in your career as a SQL Server DBA, knowing things outside of your area of expertise is a must. You don’t need to be an expert on those things, an awareness of how it affects your work and an understanding of the basics are enough.


When you start learning about Always On Availability Groups, you learn these things as well:


  1. 1) Active Directory and DNS. OK, I’ll admit. I knew Active Directory (AD) and DNS even before I started learning about Always On Availability Groups. I designed and implemented AD sites, managed an enterprise using group policy objects (GPOs) and leveraged DNS for standardizing access points to servers and applications using a 4-part naming convention. Even with SQL Server on Linux, majority of Always On Availability Group deployments are still on Windows Server operating systems. And they are very much dependent on AD and DNS. But if you do not know AD nor DNS, don’t worry. You just need to know what happens in AD and DNS when you create a Windows Server Failover Cluster (WSFC) and objects like SQL Server failover clustered instances (FCI) and Availability Group (AG) listener names. It will be easy for you to have that conversation with your AD administrator when you request for that computer account. You can speak his language and get your job done quicker. Besides, according to Microsoft SQL Server CSS, AD-related issues are still on their list of the top issues commonly faced by customers deploying AGs.

  3. 2) Windows Server Failover Clustering (WSFC). Didn’t I mention that majority of Always On Availability Group deployments are still on Windows Server operating systems? And AGs rely on WSFC for high availability, health detection, and automatic failover. I couldn’t count the number of cases I’ve worked on for the past decade where the SQL Server databases went offline because the WSFC is unhealthy – and the DBAs don’t have any permissions to manage the WSFC. This means, as someone responsible for managing AGs, you need to know exactly what’s going on with the WSFC. Because your job is dependent on it.

  5. 3) Networking. Seriously, both technical and social. Technical because the WSFC nodes have to communicate with each other via the heartbeat and you need to make sure that the appropriate port numbers (3343 for the heartbeat, 445 for SMB, 1433 for SQL Server and several others) are allowed on your firewall – both Windows Firewall and corporate firewall. AG replicas communicate with each other for the data synchronization to work. Social because you will be communicating with the AD/DNS administrators, network administrators, application developers, storage administrators, project managers, etc. There are so many moving parts that require interaction with different teams, hence, forcing you to really improve your communication skills.

  7. 4) Excellent Analytical Troubleshooting. Solving problems is what really good SQL Server DBAs and consultants do. But unless you develop the skill of process-driven analytical troubleshooting, your career won’t go beyond just a technician or an operator. Now, there is nothing wrong with that if that’s all that you want. But you’ve read this blog post up to this point to show that you really are serious about your career. With a lot of moving parts in a complex AG implementation  – AD, DNS, network, storage, SQL Server, etc. – and the need to maintain the system highly available, you will slowly develop the skill of process-driven analytical troubleshooting like that of a really good sports car mechanic. Those guys get paid really well.


I’ve only listed a handful of the technical skills that you will acquire when you learn about WSFC on top of what you need to learn about SQL Server. I haven’t even included some of the non-technical skills like project management, presentation skills, leadership, persuasion, etc.


If you need help with your SQL Server Always On deployments, reach out and schedule a call with me using my online calendar.

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