No, not Azure Data Studio or Databricks notebooks (yet) – I wanted to give Google Colab a spin and the big G hosted Jupyter notebook has an expansive free tier with more RAM than my work computer and a graphics card attached to boot!
Going forward with my explorations I wanted to make use of an open-ish dataset, so I used Stack Overflow via Brent Ozar’s blog post on getting the data
Keep in mind its almost 500GB (zip + extract) – and while in an ideal situation we wouldn’t be torrenting a database, extracting, attaching, querying, etc to get at our insights I’ve honestly seen slower iterations at many enterprises so it wasn’t a big deal for me.
If you’ve never used Stack’s database its worth mentioning you an also avoid this all by running queries on their own servers at the Stack Exchange Data Explorer. There’s more tables there too!
If you haven’t touched Stack’s database before you might be surprised how svelte it is, the backup I am working with only has 12 tables. That’s right, just 12.
The truth is that you don’t need to make things complex to make a useful product, and of course Stack/Brent have removed some ancillary and internal things which is fine by me.
The first question I wanted to model out was a bigger issue with on-premises databases – when are we going to run out of storage?
Back in the day I’d cheat with msdb backups, comparing compressed sized to actuals, and moving on. However I don’t have a historical reference for Stack Overflow… so what can I do?
Taking a look at the tables we see a commonality in many tables – CreationDate! It looks like the rows faithfully are stamped when they are created.
We might not be able to truly look back in time but if trust the database we have a chance to query the contents and get back some interesting data about Stack.
So let’s head over to the notebook if you like, or sit back and read more.
The first text block contains the dynamic SQL to query the tables with CreationDate and construct additional queries to run – I could have automated this or added a cursor but given I am running it locally in SSMS and copying the CSV by hand today, it wasn’t worth it.
In our first code block () we install plotly==5.2.1 because of some newer and nicer features, setup the file upload of the csv(), and define the headers because SSMS is too lazy to include headers().
Next in code block () we define a DANGER_ZONE, the constant that should make us very worried because that’s how much space we have (in megabytes), and add a function to add DANGER_ZONES to figures easily.
We make a line figure, render it, and we see something!
We’re obviously not done yet, we’re going to need add some data to predict when this is going to fail.
In code block() we sum and group the RunningTotalMBUsage values such that we get an overall value for each month’s total megabytes for all tables.
And happily in code block() we see that we have our overall graph looking good, though obviously its a bit closer to our DANGER_ZONE!
Finally, in code block () we take all the lessons we’ve learned and project out a set of points to determine what a linear best fit line would look like.
Given a 500GB limit, we can see that a prediction of April 30th, 2026 is given for Stack’s storage being overwhelmed – and if you look closely you can see that Stack’s growth of data isn’t strictly linear, so it’s probably going to happen sooner than that. In reality I bet they have at least twice as much as that available 🙂
I had a good time using Colab, and the only frustrating moment during the process was when my sign in timed out, it silently switched me to a new login context and couldn’t save, porting that back over got annoying for a bit. Otherwise its great!
Feel free to copy/fork my notebook if you want to make the same predictions for you environment and try it out for yourself, I know I will. And if you were wondering, yes, I was listening to Kenny the entire time.
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