Unlike most application support professionals, or even system administrators, as database professionals, you have the ability to look under the hood of nearly every application that you support. I know in my fifteen plus years of being a DBA, I have seen it all. I’ve seen bad practices, best practices, and worked with vendors who didn’t care that what the were doing was wrong, and others with whom I worked closely to improve the performance of their systems.


One of my favorite stories was an environmental monitoring application—I was working for a pharmaceutical company, and this was the first new system I helped implement there. The system was up for a week and performance had slowed to a crawl. After running some traces, I confirmed that there was a query without a where clause that was scanning 50,000 rows several times a minute. Mind you, this was many years ago, when my server had 1 GB of RAM—so this was a very expensive operation. The vendor was open to working together, and I helped them design a where clause, an indexing strategy, and a parameter change to better support the use of the index. We were able to quickly implement a patch and get the system moving quickly.


Microsoft takes a lot of grief from DBAs for their production systems like SharePoint and Dynamics, and some interesting design decisions that are made within. I don’t disagree—there are some really bad database designs. However, I’d like to give credit to whomever designed System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)—this database has a very logical data model (it uses integer keys—what a concept!), and I was able to build a reporting system against it.


So what horror stories do you have about vendor databases? Or positives?