Your opinion on the next edition of my architecture book


As I think many of you know, I’m updating my SQL Server books for SQL Server 2005.  I’m currently wrestling with something that I’ve decided to put to a vote.  The question before me is whether to include the Windows fundamentals coverage that was in the first edition of The Guru’s Guide to SQL Server Architecture and Internals in the second edition.  I decided to cover Windows fundamentals in the first edition because a) it struck me that many DBAs and even some database developers lacked the basic understanding of OS internals that would be necessary to grasp the SQL Server internals I was delving into, and b) I didn’t want to take the easy way out and direct people to read multiple other books in order to understand mine, and c) I didn’t feel the existing books on Windows fundamentals really covered the subject in the way that I wanted it covered for DBAs and database people in general, anyway. 


The Windows fundamentals coverage ended up spanning about 400 pages of the book, and this was after I spent considerable time editing it and paring it down to get it as small as I could without leaving out details I felt were important.  Many have told me that the OS internals coverage could be a book unto itself.  I suppose that’s true, depending on your perspective.  So, in one sense, you get two books for the price of one.  From another, however, I’m sure there are DBAs who don’t feel like they need to understand how Windows works to understand how SQL Server does.  Or, perhaps they feel that they don’t need to understand how SQL Server works at the level I shoot for in the book.  Regardless, I’m sure there are those who don’t find the OS internals coverage that useful.


My question for you is whether to omit it in the second edition of the book.  I like to keep my books small and concise, and that runs counter to expanding this section to cover recent developments in Windows, not to mention Vista.  To be fair to the topic, the 400 pages would have to grow some — I don’t see how I’d avoid that.  Add to this the explosion of features in SQL Server 2005 itself, and you have a recipe for a book that could easily top 2000 pages.  We can’t have that, and I really don’t want to split the book into multiple volumes.  So, I’m looking for feedback from various sources.  If you have an opinion on this, please post a comment to this blog or email me.


Comments (26)

  1. Norman says:

    Ken,

    I do not have the first edition, only because of the age of SQL Server and 2005 was on the horizon. I plan to purchase the new edition and obviously the OS would be very valuable.

    You could keep the OS stuff in an electronic only version of the book. Paper is so 20th century anyway.

    Norman

  2. Joe Webb says:

    I think the OS information is important and should be included. However, a 2000 page book seems a bit daunting to me so I’d vote for splitting into two books.

  3. Chris says:

    Though valuable, I think you probably have to bite the bullet and remove that section from the book. Maybe you could just have a chapter on "other stuff you really should know".

  4. Cameron says:

    I think you should break it out, and replace it with a short chapter that discusses the importance of that knowledge, and how to aquire it. I think Ken’s comment on providing that content in electronic form is a great one, if possible. The fact of the matter is, the content in both those areas is enormous and growing everyday. Let’s get a book focused solely on 2005 internals.

    Cameron

  5. Mark says:

    Hi Ken –

    I would definitely include the Windows fundamentals coverage. This is a one of a kind book. The Guru’s Guide to SQL Server Architecture and Internals.

    As you mention in it you need to know how Windows works to really understand SQL Server’s internal components. Every person I have recommended this book too thanks me over and over again it is very unique.

    Many thanks,

    Mark

  6. vineetgupta says:

    I think we have a great book on Windows Internals already and people can always refer to it. You could (as Chris suggests), devote a chapter (Appendix?) on recommended reading.

    What I would rather see is that you use the same space to explain the motivations for various design decisions.

  7. David says:

    An understanding of the appropriate parts of the OS architecture is really required to fully understand the SQL server internals properly so I think it would be a mistake to completely omit it . I think the best compromise is as suggested earlier to remove the required OS knowledge to an electronic format inlcuded with the book so that the book itself is kept to a manageable size

  8. I agree with Vineet and Chris. Remove the OS stuff and refer people instead to other books on the topic. Make it very clear in the intro that an understanding of the OS stuff is necessary. I personally would rather see concentration on the stuff I buy your books for: SQL Server!

  9. MSDNArchive says:

    For me, simply removing the OS internals coverage isn’t an option. Simply put, the other books on the subject don’t cover it the way I think it needs to be covered. As I outlined above, it wasn’t just that I didn’t want people to have to hassle with reading other books. It was also that I didn’t believe the others covered the subject in the way that I thought it should be covered for DBAs and database people in general.

    The idea of possibly relegating the OS stuff to electronic form only is an interesting idea and one that I hadn’t thought of as I generally don’t like books that aren’t entirely in print. I’ll have to think about that one.

  10. Just before your book came out I bought Jeffrey Richter’s "Programming applications for Windows" because I wanted to know more about the OS, still when the book came out I was glad to see you covered all the OS stuff. I fully agree that a lot of persons lack understanding of the OS, and I would like to see the topic expanded, but I have the feeling that if people are not interested in the topic they will just skip the pages or buy only the second volume. An electronic version of the OS stuff may be an option, but I also prefer a printed book so I still hope you come out with two volumes. The important thing is that you don’t shrink the SQL internals 🙂

  11. Pierre LaFromboise says:

    While it would be nice to have it all in one volume, I feel that 2000+ pages would be too much. I would rather see it split into two volume. Maybe you could call the windows volume something along the lines of: A DBA’s Guide To Windows Internals. 😉

  12. Ennor says:

    Agreed with Pierre, with one exception: it’s not needed to be a second volume, it can be just an absolutely separate book. It’s need is not a question, I suppose, but why make them together?

    Moreover, it can be appreciated by the users of DBMS’s other than Yukon, just because OS tuning have much in common for this type of software.

  13. Zach Nichter says:

    I think that the OS internals in electronic format is a great idea. If it was there I would most definetly read it, but if it were sold seperately I most likely would not buy it, primarily because I’m a DBA who has plenty of ground to cover with 2005 alone.

    I also agree that it should be included but not at the cost of the SQL Server information.

  14. Wesley B says:

    Hi,

    I like background information and always try to understand the big picture. On the other hand everyone of us should have your first book already. I think it may be useful to give detailed information about the things that are new to the Windows 2003 OS and maybe in 64bit.

    I also agree that the focus should be on SQL Server internals and leaving out information about SQL in favor of OS would be a shame.

    I can hardly wait for the book to arrive.

    Regards,

    Wesley

  15. Claus says:

    I agree that it should be included, as it is vital to a well running system to have some insight in the OS. I think it should be in one book but cut it to the bone and recommend further reading if nessacary.

  16. MSDNArchive says:

    Follow-up question: Someone mentioned that most folks already will already have purchased the first edition by the time the second one is ready. Is it reasonable to refer people back to that edition for OS internals coverage? IOW, if I cut it from the second edition, is it reasonable to tell readers to read the OS internals coverage in the first one if they want to fully understand the new book?

  17. Dis4ea says:

    Imho it shouldn’t be a problem but that’s selfish probably 🙂

  18. John Allman says:

    Ken, I have your first book, and I benefitted by reading the OS stuff too. I think Windows knowledge is very important to a DBA. I agree with you that a DBA cannot understand SQL Server internals without having more than a casual acquaintence with the OS. I vote to keep it in your book, or at the very least create another book with a DBA slant on OS internals.

  19. Terry Grignon says:

    I agree with Norman: have an electronic version of the entire book but only put the O/S info in it and leave the new 2005 stuff for the print.

  20. Simon says:

    I agree with your comment on having something that covers the OS from a SQL stand point. Memory being key. Very few people I know understand the whole memory thing in an generally because they don’t have to until your in a high end system. You then have to consider the audience, One would hope those requireing the knowledge will be experienced an thus have your first book, the numbers are probably not that high and so from a marketing point of view having this as a download would probably be good.

    On the SQL 2005 front, more has been coming out about the SQL OS, this I understand has been changed wuite a bit to ensure the CLR can fit. What is key is that this is all covered so that an informed discussion can be had with one’s fellow developers on how and probably why they can’t do certain things in the CLR.

  21. Tim says:

    Ken,

    My vote is to keep the OS stuff, but only in electronic version. Great books. Thanks.

  22. Mike says:

    Ken,

    In order of preference:

    1) My vote is to have it in a seperate volume of the same book. I wouldn’t want to lug around a 2000 page book, but would purchase both.

    2) Seperate book.

    3) Refer to your SQL2k book — as you mentioned, newer information on Windows would not be in your 2k book. Would that new info be a short section in your SQL2005 book?

    4) Electronic reference. I simply wouldn’t read it. If you include the reference, great, but please also make a paper version available for those who want to purchase it seperately.

  23. Tibor Karaszi says:

    To me, the book felt a bit like two distinct parts. The OS architectural parts with how SS is using them (basically ch1 – 12) and then the rest.

    To me ch1 – 12 was extremenly valuable. I’d very much like that to continue, especially as we now have SQLOS. Event though this isn’t what you want to hear, I’d like a OS & SQLOS book (volume 1). And then the "services on top" as volume 2.

    Volume 1 is extremely important as this is the type of information that we haven’t been able to find anywhere else (or only as fragmented pieces of info). And the information should be out there in one way or the other, for basically the same reasons why we have all the dynamic management views.

    Tibor (who doesn’t read e-books, yet)

  24. Matthew Roche says:

    I think that the OS information was invaluable. I’d seen some of it before, but never have I seen so much platform/OS information presented in such a concise and (even more importantly) *relevant* package. If you simply refer readers to other Windows/Win32 books, most of them will likely say "if it was truly important, it would be in this book, so I’m just going to skim it like I always have."

    Please keep the OS information in the book, and please extend it to cover SQLOS topics as well.

  25. Brian Amersi says:

    I think you should keep it as the previous version and inlcude the OS overview. How many people working as DBAs actually have this type of background knowledge? I don’t think it is more than 20 to 30 percent. The fact that you are including it underlines the importance of widening your scope of knowledge as a DBA – a light went on for me anyway.

    So my question is: When can I buy the book?