Understanding Replication Agents Part 2

What is really happening when snapshot, logreader and distribution job is running on SQL Server? I will try to explain in that blog post.

SQL Jobs

As I described before in Part 1 All replication agents are really SQL Jobs located either on Distributor server or in some cases (pull replication) on Subscribers. When you go inside the SQL job (exactly second step of the job) like distribution agent u will see few strange (or not so strange) things/parameters like this:

-Subscriber [MAINTEST\SUBSCRIBER] -SubscriberDB [subscriberDB] -Publisher [MAINTEST\PUBLISHER] -Distributor [MainTest\DISTRIBUTOR] -DistributorSecurityMode 1 -Publication [Pub1] -PublisherDB [AdventureWorks2014] -Continuous

It is pretty self-explanatory however there is more than only above settings. In this place you can modify subscriber or Distributor Authentication, you add multiple streams or hard code what agent profile it should use etc. Full list of settings you can find here… and it is quite a list:)

Distribution Agent Settings

Snapshot Agent Settings

LogReader Agent Settings

I need to make note that if you make change in SQL job it will override specific settings  that you set via GUI. For Example if you use parameter  [-ProfileName profile_name] this setting will be always used, even when you change agent profile using Replication Monitor.

Last thing that is crucial, you need to stop and start agent to make new settings “live”.

Execs

Now, how these setting are really executed? How it really works? Well it is pretty straight forward. It is using execs from COM folder where you installed SQL Server (mostly Program Files etc.).You can also go to Distributor and look at Task Manager on the server, you will notice these execs running:

execs

You can also see under what account that exec is running. There is one particular reason why you should not run ALL your agents under SQL Service account. I will describe it later in different post.

Each agent has different exec:

LogReader -> logread.exe

Snapshot -> snapshot.exe

Distribution -> Distrib.exe

The interesting thing is that you can execute this execs manually from cmd line, using your own account. You will ask why? I found few moments in my career that I need to check route cause of agent failure and replication monitor or SQL Job history did not give me any error. This is the way you can check if you have permission , authentication or user memory issue (more about memory in different post).

First stop the agent you want to test, otherwise you will get an error that agent already running. Then go to COM folder in your SQL server installation files:

Com_Path

Copy ALL settings from second step of SQL Job/Agent and paste it after either distrib.exe, snapshot.exe or logread.exe. I did distrib.exe:

exec_command

Execute:

exe_command_results

You can see all the information about subscription you are trying to run and under what settings it is running. Note that SQL job wont be started and when you go to Replication Monitor you will see that agent is running, however you WONT be able to stop it from here. In order to stop agent you need to close cmd window or just press Ctrl+C, it will stop the exec process and Replication Monitor will be refreshed as well.

I used this way few times at my work and it is good to know how replication is working and operates. Once you know this it is easier to troubleshoot some of the issues that occur.

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