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February, 2008

  • Brian Smith's Microsoft Project Support Blog

    OLAP and Data Analysis - timeouts, plan guides and tempdb


    UPDATE: Be sure to see the more recent post -  

    Some of this has been in previous postings or comments on postings - but thought it was time for a round-up.  As a quick intro this blog will look at more information on tempdb growth some of you may have experienced since Project Server 2007 SP1, as well as timeouts that you might have hit due to the same problem.  I'll also talk more about SQL Server 2005 plan guides used to overcome this problem - and finally errors you may see after your reporting database gets rebuilt - or refreshed as we call it in the queue.

    TEMPDB Growth

    In SP1, and in a hotfix just prior to SP1 we introduced some dimensions to the cube that we had missed in the initial release.  These related to some of the flags for generic and team resources and a few other things.  For customers that were also using many other dimensions and had large datasets these changes gave longer queue build times and also increased the use of tempdb as the SQL execution plan made use of table spools which create temporary tables in the tempdb database.  In many cases the workaround described in my previous blog  gives some relief from this problem.  You may still need a reasonable amount of tempdb so don't bother shrinking tempdb below the level it would normally use - it will just slow things down as it has to grow again next time.

    In some cases the increased cube build time may lead to the timeout issue dealt with below - and also applying the workaround can be challenging.  To help understand the workaround a bit more on to plan guides...

    Plan Guides

    SQL Server Books Online have always been a great resource since the early days of SQL Server.  This is still true and the plan guide documentation can be found at Understanding Plan Guides.  Basically whenever SQL runs a query it will look for any plan guides (in the system table sys.plan_guides - so select * from sys.plan_guides will show what is set) and if it has query_text in that table that matches the query it will follow the hints in that table.  The query needs to be an exact match so any change in date or dimensions (or even order of dimensions added to a cube) may "break" the plan guide and the workaround would need to be re-applied.  As the default name of the plan (from the workaround) is already in existence either a new name needs to be used or the plan guide needs to be dropped from the database.  An example of the command to drop a plan guide called guide_forceorder would be:

    EXEC sp_control_plan_guide N'DROP', N'guide_forceorder';

    You can also enable and disable the plan guides using the sp_control_plan system stored procedure.

    To see if a plan guide is being used you can run the profiler trace and add the Showplan XML event type (located under the Performance node).  Then in the trace you should find the Showplan XML event for the affected query and it will start something like:

    <ShowPlanXML xmlns="" Version="1.0" Build="9.00.3054.00"><BatchSequence><Batch><Statements><StmtSimple PlanGuideDB="pwa_Reporting" PlanGuideName="guide_forceorder"><QueryPlan CachedPlanSize="1463" CompileTime="336" CompileCPU="336" CompileMemory="9432"><RelOp NodeId="0" PhysicalOp="Compute Scalar" LogicalOp="Compute Scalar" EstimateRows="1" EstimateIO="0" EstimateCPU="1e-007" AvgRowSize="1625" EstimatedTotalSubtreeCost="778.134" Parallel="0" EstimateRebinds="0" EstimateRewinds="0"><OutputList><ColumnReference Column="Expr1007"/><ColumnReference….

    If you don't find this then perhaps the query in the plan doesn't match what Analysis Services is using to pull the data.


    One of my tips for support engineers is that if something fails at very specific times then be suspicious.  So when a cube fails at just over an hour suspect that the default External Command Timeout is still set in Analysis Services.  The default is 3600 and is in seconds - so is equal to 1 hour.  Right click the AS server in Management Studio, then set Show Advanced (All) Properties and check the External Command Timeout.  Increase as appropriate - 36000 would be 10 hours.  For the SP1 issue you may find that this is the first error you hit - then once you get past this the tempdb problem may give you issues.

    The error for the timeout issue is:

    Failed to build the OLAP cubes. Error: Analysis Services session failed with the
    following error: Failed to process the Analysis Services database <cube name> on
    the <Analysis Server name> server. Error: Internal error: The operation terminated

    Internal error: The operation terminated unsuccessfully. Internal error: The
    operation terminated unsuccessfully. OLE DB error: OLE DB or ODBC error:
    Unspecified error. Errors in the OLAP storage engine: An error occurred while
    processing the 'Assignment Timephased' partition of the 'Assignment Timephased'
    measure group for the 'Assignment Timephased' cube from the <cube name>

    The initial part of the error may be different depending on the exact point the timeout stops things.  The first part will also be localized if you are running a language pack.

    Refreshing the reporting database loses the Assignment dimensions

    The error for this problem is:

    Failed to build the OLAP cubes. Error: Invalid call to GetJoinForCustomFieldDimension. Cannot join "Task Non Timephased" fact with a custom field of entity Assignment

    And is caused when you have added dimensions to your assignment cube and then have done something that will have caused the reporting database to refresh.  Restoring from certain administrative backups will do this.  The fix is easy - just remove the dimensions from the assignment cube, save the configuration - then add them back again and save again.  To be sure this is your issue take a look at the view MSP_EpmAssignment_OlapView in the reporting database.   If the last column is AssignmentBaseline10BudgetMaterialWork then this means no dimensions are added.  If the repository is expecting some dimensions you will get the error.  A screenshot of the view with added dimensions will look something like:


    I hope this helps to understand more about the cube build process and some of the problems you can run into.

  • Brian Smith's Microsoft Project Support Blog

    COMException on x64 platforms when automating the Project client via the Primary Interop Assembly (PIA)


    ***UPDATE*** Hotfix now available -  

    You may see this error when using the CodePlex Test Data Population sample for creating project data using the WinProj tab, or just using your own code to automate winproj.exe (the Microsoft Office Project Professional 2007 client application).  It is only a problem with the object model interaction and not an issue with PSI calls.  It is the Tasks.Add() method which is the trigger for the problem, and it will work just fine on x86, but fails on x64.

    Currently the x64 platforms do not support more than 1024 methods on an object (which comes down to around 1017 once the COM standard methods are deducted) and the Tasks object has a lot of methods.

    The error is:

    Error HRESULT E_FAIL has been returned from a call to a COM component. System.Collections.ListDictionaryInternal.

    One work around we have found is re-writing to avoid using the Tasks method.  So the following code:

    protected void Page_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
    string filename = "c:\\test.mpp";
    ApplicationClass a = new ApplicationClass();
    a.FileNew(Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing);
    Microsoft.Office.Interop.MSProject.Project p = a.ActiveProject;
     p.Tasks.Add("test", Type.Missing);
    p.SaveAs(filename, PjFileFormat.pjMPP, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, "MSProject.mpp.9", Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing);
    lblfilename.Text = filename;

    could be re-written as:

    protected void Page_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
    MSProject.Application objAppProject;
    MSProject.Project objProject;
    string filename = "c:\\test.mpp";
    objAppProject = new Microsoft.Office.Interop.MSProject.Application();
    objAppProject.FileNew(Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing);
    objAppProject.EditGoTo(1, Type.Missing);
    objAppProject.SetTaskField("Name", "Test", true, Type.Missing, 1, Type.Missing);
    objProject = objAppProject.ActiveProject;
    objProject.SaveAs(filename, MSProject.PjFileFormat.pjMPP, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, "MSProject.mpp.9", Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing, Type.Missing);
    lblfilename.Text = filename;

    and would work in both x86 and x64 environments.

    This is currently being worked on by the Windows teams and we are anticipating a fix.

  • Brian Smith's Microsoft Project Support Blog

    Loading projects from server or mpp files can be slow with some security products


    One thing we have seen recently in support is several cases where security products can slow down the loading of projects into Project Professional 2007 both from mpp files or from Project Server 2007 connections.  An example of this is McAfee Host Intrusion Prevention, and we have seen this make projects load up to ten times slower.  We are working with McAfee to see if there is a workaround for this and I would certainly not suggest disabling any security products on your servers.  It might however be worth testing in a secure environment if you think your speed might be affected by something like this - if only to eliminate it as a "suspect".

    I'm hoping we may just need to exclude something and things will speed up - if anyone has experience of HIP and can give me pointers I'm happy to talk.

  • Brian Smith's Microsoft Project Support Blog

    Timesheet Classifications - what they don't do


    With the change in relationship between time tracking in timesheets, and the updating of status in tasks, that we introduced in Project Server 2007 there has been some confusion.  One area that after working on a case yesterday needs a little more explanation is timesheet classifications.  Where you create these in PWA it give the following description:

    Edit, Enter Line Classification

    You can duplicate timesheet lines for business purposes or accounting reasons. To do this, define timesheet line Classifications, which will become the unique identifier for a timesheet line.

    What it doesn't say directly is that these classifications are not for tasks - and only the timesheet classification of "Standard" can be imported to the "My Tasks" page through "Import Timesheets".  All other classification types will be ignored and any lines will not display in the grid to be imported.

    The intention behind this design is that other classifications can be used for business analysis of time related to the task that was not productive as far as working the task.  So you may have spent 2 hours traveling to perform a task - and you may bill the customer, but this wasn't something directly related to performing the task - and in this scenario was not included in the planned time to perform the task.  Obviously there could be other ways to handle this and the travel may well be a task on its own. 

    In the support incident where this caused some issues the customer was trying to use the classifications as a way of flagging different activities within the same task - but as the only the standard line goes through to the time tracking in the project this would not work.  The solution agreed here is that the project requires tasks for all the different activities being performed.  You could also do some sort of server side event that allows you to add time in different timesheet classifications against the same task - and then these get consolidated in the "Standard" row - but analysis would only be available in the timesheet and reporting database.


    As an example only the 6h highlighted for the ABC Outlook Task 1 would be available for import to "My Tasks" - the research and travel time would not. 

    I hope this helps clear up any misunderstanding of this feature.

  • Brian Smith's Microsoft Project Support Blog

    Is your Project Server 2007 queue running a few minutes slow?


    Not sure if you remember the problem we had with Daylight Savings Time last year - but basically when adding jobs to the queue they have a time when they should be processed - and most times this time is "now" or the current time.  Well with the DST problem "now" was actually set in one hour's time - so some jobs just sat there for a while.

    We have seen a couple of recent cases where time differences between servers can give this same problem.  A server puts a job on the queue and the timestamp for "now" gets set a couple of minutes in the future - because the SQL Server machine doesn't have the same time as the Project Server machine.  When the queue gets to this job it will just let it sleep until the right time arrives.  This can look like a slow queue, when in fact it is doing what it is told.  Keeping your servers clocks in sync will avoid this problem.  The ULS logs will show this as jobs sleeping when there does appear to be any reason.  In most "sleeping" cases the reason appears in the log - such as a missing custom field in the reporting DB will put a project reporting publish to sleep.

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