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Buck Woody

Carpe Datum!

SQL Server Chargeback Strategies

It seems the more things change the more they stay the same. One of the things I used to create on the mainframe system when I started years ago was a “charge-back” system.  It tracked the time and resources used by the employees so that we could charge their department money for the time they spent on the (very expensive) mainframe.

When LAN systems came out, IT departments were just charged as a general expense. But these days, with shrinking budgets and deeper scrutiny on how resources are used, this idea has come back around. IT and Data Systems managers are keen to show the organization that it isn’t free to operate a database system.


From time to time I get asked if it is possible to do a chargeback system for SQL Server. And it is! In fact, I wrote a couple of articles on how to do that right here:

Published Tuesday, December 29, 2009 7:47 AM by BuckWoody



AaronBertrand said:

I also included some information on using Resource Governor in SQL Server 2008 to assist in this (it makes it very easy to track resources used by each workload group, say one per department) in the whitepaper I wrote with Boris earlier this year:

December 29, 2009 12:25 PM

Linchi Shea said:

Although it's possible to create various ad hoc charge back systems and people are doing it, it would help for SQL Server to have a built-in accounting system.

December 29, 2009 12:29 PM

NR said:

Doesn't like to share

Does not play nicely with the other kids

December 29, 2009 2:05 PM

Stephen Munson said:

I wish I could agree with this idea, but having been a mainframe person for almost 20 years, and watching a company spend more time arguing about the chargebacks instead of making more effective use of their time, it's a rathole that traps people into looking at only half of the IT equation.

Any sizable organization needs to get the heck away from chargeback and start realizing that while measuring resource usage is valuable, ultimately, IT infrastructure is a cost you can 1) never get away from, 2) will always increase exponentially, and most importantly 3) isn't going to come down just because of chargeback disincentives.   What happens almost all the time is that people focus solely on the dollar costs coming out of the chargeback system without measuring those charges against the value of making use of that infrastructure.  The company ultimately gets short-changed as a result, as folks start to forget that doing business with automation is only cost-effective when there's a central person or organization that examines EVERY IT NEED - even if it's just a spreadsheet, as the business process is what's important here, and depending on a spreadsheet is just as potentially problematic as depending on server hardware.  Someone needs to keep a much closer eye on the overall business process involved, and GET INVOLVED far more often so that economies of scale can actually be realized because at least one person understands the business processes of the entire company at a very detailed level.   All a chargeback system can realistically accomplish is to illuminate usage.  What most companies do with this data is focus on only the cost piece without any consideration of value or business process.  It's kind of like using only one half of a balance scale.

There's very little point in adding more number crunching to the IT pool of stuff that needs doing if the usage of it fails to provide value by improving business process and/or making IT a strategic partner for the business as a whole.  If it can't be used to improve things, why waste the time?

December 29, 2009 6:01 PM

Buck Woody said:

Stephen - I actually agree with you!  It's SO much work to track these things, the business would be better off just paying for IT as it should. But the reason I wrote the article was to help frustrated IT managers that are tired of not getting any budget and constantly getting pinged to do more with the systems. They rarely actually "charge" the groups back - it's just a mechanism for getting a discussion open on properly funding what everyone is using.

Thanks for reading, and for commenting!

December 29, 2009 7:14 PM

Linchi Shea said:

Stephen and Buck;

If SQL Server had the infrastructure support to make it easy to do chargeback, doing chargeback could have benefits beyond who used how much. There are inefficiencies, sometimes huge inefficiencies, in almost any system, and cahrgeback can help highlight the worst inefficiencies and therefore help reduce them and get more mileage out of the system. If you are writing really bad queries, you may not as easily get away with it when there is a chargeback.

December 30, 2009 9:32 AM

Stephen Munson said:


If only that were realistic...   There is such a large number of folks who "know SQL", but couldn't design even a simple database and get it right by anything short of dumb luck, that the odds in any given large organization of your desired scenario actually coming to pass are not particularly good.   The problems only begin when that poor sap writes the nasty query, and because it's identified as a problem and charged back at some rather high price, managers with no concept of what database server chargeback ought to accomplish start bickering back and forth over what they perceive as IT highway robbery.   That's just not the way to go until ALL the people with ANY access to writing SQL have been properly trained -  of course, that's pretty hard to do in large organizations...   Life is just all kind of wonderful, isn't it?

Sorry for the cynicism on a day such as begins a new year, but the best way to change the behavior is to educate the users and disabuse management of the idea that you can actually get away with hiring the least cost or least capable employees and still expect success.

January 1, 2010 2:02 PM
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