Had a relatively simple maintenance to perform this past weekend; the kind so simple, it’s the fodder of DBA dreams everywhere. I was assigned the task to move the data and log files for four separate databases to another drive on the same server. The server designation itself for these four database wasn’t to change; simply the file path to the mdf and ldf. To make it even easier, none of these four were involved with replication; actually quite a rarity in our environment. Our network operations team provided me with a new SAN share on this box, which afforded me the opportunity to ease some of the drive space issues I ran into occasionally.
At first glance, a simple detach-move-reattach was all that appeared necessary for this straightforward operation. But a deeper look prior to the maintenance window’s arrival indicated all four of these databases were full text enabled and populating six separate catalogs each. Ok, no need for panic, this doesn’t turn it from a half hour operation into a six-hour one, but dropping the 24 catalogs then recreating and repopulating them did indeed add a substantial amount of time to the project. It got me wondering just how efficient my approach really was.
Detaching and reattaching a database does by default disable full-text indexing on that database. After the files have been properly moved, the task at hand is to move the full-text catalogs to folder alongside the new mdf/ldf location. For example, the “Users” table is FTI’d and the original catalog in stored on the M drive, same as the data and t-log files. After the move, the mdf and ldf are now on the N drive but right-clicking the “Users” table shows the catalogs still mapped to M. Not only this, but they are grayed out in the full-text editing dialog box, disallowing a simple remapping of the catalog location. My solution was to carefully document the fields/names/primary keys/etc. used for each table’s FTIs, then remove all catalogs and re-add them individually with them mapped to N as needed. Not a mind-numbingly horrible operation as some DBA stuff goes, but complicated enough in that one truly has to concentrate and not miss ANY details whatsoever.
While I accomplished the whole thing with hours still to spare in the maintenance window, I told myself there just has to be an easier way to accomplish the FTI portion. I suppose I could script out the whole process from dropping of the original catalogs to the recreation at the new location in T-SQL. Now while that would indeed save me mountains of time during the window, just how long would it take to create those very scripts? Have I really saved myself work? I don’t think so with that option.
It occurred to me that this catalog location must of course be stored in one of the system tables somewhere. What if I simply ran an update against that row then repopulated the index? Or maybe there is some non-documented-super-duper-secret hidden system stored procedure I could fire off? Could it be that simple?
Turns out that it isn’t that simple after all.
Sudarshan offers a SQL Server 2005 solution towards the bottom of this forum post which seems to indicate the magic “Keep Full Text Indexes” checkbox included with the detach dialog takes care of the issue very easily. There are a couple gotchas according to Sudarshan, but his solution appears quick and elegant. Lest it be noted I haven’t actually tested it because I currently work in a predominantly SQL Server 2000 environment. This looks viable for ’05 and most likely ’08, but proceed cautiously due to me not knowing this author personally.
Microsoft offers up two support pages that address this very issue; here and here. As your typical MSDN pages do, these offer tremendous detail into the process; more than most humans need. They recommend not just a simple “point the catalogs somewhere else” solution, but registry changes as well. Now, well I’ve been around a bit and registry changes don’t scare me as much as they used to, I still try and avoid them whenever possible. Too many horror stories have surfaced over the years of even the slightest of registry changes wreaking total havoc across multiple systems, that I’m ALWAYS going to be hesitant to manually make those changes. If that’s what goes on behind the scene when I complete a wizard or close a dialog box, well then fine, that I trust. If I have a choice that’s slightly more laborious yet means I don’t have to visit regedit, then I’m all for it.
While my “manual” solution appears to possibly be the quickest methodology for a small number of databases, obviously one’s going to have major issues when it comes to scaling and trying to accomplish this over 20, 30 or more databases simultaneously. Like so so many other SQL Server topics, this comes down to an “It depends” answer once again. Take everything into account. How many databases? How long is your maintenance window? Your ability for producing similar scripts to run at a later time? Your tolerance for making direct registry changes? Take all these factors into account and I’m sure the solution you end up with with, will much more appropriate for your situation.
I’m very interested in your feedback on this topic. Have I over-complicated a relatively simple issue? Or have I stumbled upon one of those timeless aspects of SQL Server that simply needs dealing with on a manual basis? How have you accomplished this in the past? I look forward to your responses.
Have a Grateful day…Troy