SQL Sentry v10 : Your world's about to get a whole lot bigger

Jason Hall

Published On: March 8, 2016

Categories: Azure, Azure SQL Database, Hyper V, Virtualization 1

This post has been updated to include a link to our Strategies and Best Practices for Virtualizing SQL Server guide.

Anyone who knows me well also knows that I'm a huge fan of "The Walking Dead," both in print and in video formats. I'm not going to write about the zombie apocalypse today, but I will say that a recent episode of "The Walking Dead" provided some inspiration for this post.

The Walking Dead

That guy, the one with the long hair and beard in front, is a new addition to our group of survivors. During the course of the episode, he said something that reminded me of the SQL Sentry v10 release:

"Your world's about to get a lot bigger."

Those eight words sum up well what is happening with SQL Sentry v10.

A Wider View of a Bigger World

Ten years ago, the Microsoft Data Platform was already evolving, but it was still fairly contained. We had SQL Server, Analysis Services, Reporting Services, and Integration Services, all running on Windows. That was a lot to keep up with, but manageable.

Today, the landscape is much larger. We still have all of the above, but we have it running on virtual machines or in the cloud, creating the need to see what is happening inside of a new layer of abstraction. We have services like Azure SQL Database, where we don't necessarily have to worry about as many of the management tasks that we do for a full SQL Server instance. Then we have entirely new animals like APS and Azure SQL DW, which provide parallel processing on a massive scale.

Understanding performance today goes far beyond what it once did. It's not just about understanding the distribution of resources on a local server anymore. We need a single place where we can see all the pieces of the data platform puzzle, and understand how workloads are performing across all of them. I would go so far as to say that Database Administrators today are being transformed into Data Platform Administrators. (If that becomes a thing, you saw it here first!)

We also need to see familiar performance metrics for platform services like Azure SQL Database. We understand that, even though the system layer is abstracted away from us, we still need to manage the performance of those databases, just like we would with a database server under our desk, in the server room, or in one of our own data centers.

Today, we have SQL Server running in more places than ever, and SQL Sentry v10 is a huge step toward providing SQL Sentry performance and event management in all of those places.

Performance Advisor for VMware

In v9, we added a view into relevant performance metrics for virtualized environments. That laid the groundwork for a new Performance Advisor option.

In v10, we can monitor the VMware hosts themselves, opening up the virtualization layer even further to SQL Server professionals. Best of all, you still only need read-level access to the data in vCenter.

You will now be able to see system resources for a virtual host, along with how all of those resources are distributed:

VMware Host Performance Dashboard

Note: If you followed that last link, you saw that it was to an article written by David Klee (b|t). David just posted another article, related to the VMware Co-Stop metric, and how it relates to SQL Server performance under VMware. We show this for guest VMs now, and very soon after the initial v10 release, we will show it on the host dashboard as well.

You'll also be able to see how your virtual environment is organized, and what lives on what host, using the standard navigation tree:

image Expanded VMware Navigation

The detailed views of disk activity and disk space you're used to with SQL Server are also provided, but instead of data and log files, you'll see files related to your virtual machines:

VMware Datastore Disk Activity

imageVMware Datastore Disk Space

You may also notice something interesting in the above images. We have detected a Tintri storage device, and we've adjusted performance thresholds down accordingly based on the improved performance expectation.

We've recognized Tintri's leadership in the area of VM-aware storage, and we're excited to be partnering with them for our own product efforts related to virtualized environments.

A New Licensing Option for the Virtual Computing Era

Along with the new Performance Advisor option for virtual hosts comes a new option for licensing SQL Sentry. We're seeing more and more large virtual environments dedicated to the Data Platform, and to help support those environments, we've added the option to license based on the number of processor cores in the virtual host.

This provides "buffet"-style licensing that allows monitoring Windows and any SQL Server-based platform on any VMs managed by the host, as well as the host itself.

What about Hyper-V?

Very similar support for Hyper-V is planned for the next v10 update. So, Hyper-V is coming, we just have a few more knobs to twist on it.

Performance Advisor for Azure SQL Database

I'll let Mike Wood (b|t) cover the details of Azure SQL Database support, but the fact that SQL Sentry now provides this support is very relevant to the theme of this post.

As someone that manages an application in Azure myself, I am very happy to be using SQL Sentry to monitor Azure SQL Database.

Now, from the same client that I use for SQL Server instances in our data center, I can check up on the performance of my Azure SQL databases. I don't have to log into the Azure portal separately anymore. Not only that, but I can actually see a lot more than what's in the Azure portal by default, including performance counters relevant to my database, wait statistics, and query and procedure statistics.

Azure SQL Database Performance Dashboard

Again, Mike has a lot more to tell you about Azure SQL Database support, but I wanted to highlight it as part of the "bigger world" theme in this post.

Integrated Plan Explorer Index Analysis

Let's not forget all those super heroes that are out there making 30 minute queries run in 2 seconds.

We've been talking about some of the things coming for Plan Explorer for a while now, and one of the big features of Plan Explorer ULTIMATE will be the new Index Analysis module.

Index Analysis is a sandbox environment that allows you to plan a more effective indexing strategy for a query you're tuning without actually creating indexes or using hypothetical indexes.

jh_ia-1Index Analysis Moduleimage_thumb-29-1 Index Analysis Module: Histogram  Range Highlighting

Aaron Bertrand is going to be talking more about this new capability very soon, but I wanted to point out its inclusion in SQL Sentry v10 as well.

Performance Advisor users are gaining access to this amazing new feature before it is released in the stand-alone version of Plan Explorer.

Recent Additions

Let's take a look at how Microsoft Data Platform coverage has shaped up over the last few months for SQL Sentry.

  • Support for APS
  • Support for Azure SQL DW
  • Virtualization support for guest VMs
  • Support for VMware hosts
  • Support for Azure SQL Database
  • Index Analysis

Add these to the existing data platform support for SQL Server and related services prior to v9.0, and you can see how we are dedicated to providing the most complete coverage available for the Microsoft Data Platform.

We're not finished, either. We have plans to provide SQL Server performance optimization solutions everywhere you find SQL Server.


Back to the phrase that inspired this post, "Your world's about to get a whole lot bigger," I can definitely relate.

Data management professionals are dealing with more new platforms all the time. Your world has been getting bigger for some time now. SQL Sentry will be there to help ensure superior performance, no matter how big your world gets.

Jason has worked in technology for over 20 years. He joined SentryOne in 2006 having held positions in network administration, database administration, and software engineering. During his tenure at SentryOne, Jason has served as senior software developer and founded both Client Services and Product Management. His diverse background with relevant technologies made him the perfect choice to build out both of these functions. As SentryOne experienced explosive growth, Jason returned to lead SentryOne Client Services, where he ensures that SentryOne customers receive the best possible end to end experience in the ever-changing world of database performance and productivity.