SQL Server is the primary enterprise data platform for many companies, which makes its ongoing performance and availability critical to the success of businesses. SQL Server database monitoring tools enable you to continuously and automatically track important SQL Server performance and operational metrics. The last thing a data professional wants to find out is that the database is slow, or worse—down. SQL Server database monitoring tools enable you to proactively manage SQL Server performance by monitoring critical system metrics and providing notifications for any behaviors that indicate potential problems.
Many small and medium-sized businesses don’t perform any database performance monitoring or what monitoring they do have in place is very basic. However, the lack of monitoring can be like flying blind—you’re always surprised at what you encounter.
One of the biggest problems with this approach is the absence of a performance baseline. For example, if one of your critical production applications suddenly experiences a performance problem, you can start troubleshooting the problem by using SQL Server Activity Monitor or the Dynamic Management Views (DMVs). However, without a regular history of your system’s performance, it’s difficult to quickly identify specific problem areas because you have no known reference points to compare to your current metrics. The absence of baselines vastly increases troubleshooting time. Having a set of performance baselines that were collected from regular monitoring enables you to quickly identify any anomalies by comparing current performance to historical metrics and identifying the differences.
Although it’s possible to monitor your SQL Server database instances manually, comprehensive monitoring is a complex and difficult process that requires a great deal of expertise. There are hundreds of performance metrics you could analyze, and you need to know which metrics are important, what each metric means, and what the baseline is for each metric. You also must manually create and schedule several scripts to capture the required monitoring information. Manual monitoring solutions can be very labor intensive, making them easy to neglect.
In the best of cases, inadequate monitoring results in poor performance, and in the worst cases, it can even result in system downtime.
SQL Server database monitoring tools take the heavy lifting out of performance monitoring, enabling you to efficiently optimize performance, troubleshoot performance problems, and perform capacity planning. Unlike DIY monitoring methods, which can be hit-or-miss, SQL Server database monitoring tools enable you to leverage the expertise of the solution provider to deliver monitoring of vital system metrics as well as advice and guidance for the conditions that the tool uncovers. Database monitoring tools can help you proactively manage and address issues before your users encounter performance problems. In addition, database monitoring tools collect historical data that enables you to quickly compare your current server state to previous states and track resource usage trends over time for capacity planning.
Crucial issues that SQL Server database monitoring tools can help you address include:
Buffer pool usage
Missing and unused indexes
System resource usage
Storage utilization and trends
Some of the capabilities you should look for in an effective SQL Server performance monitoring solution include:
You will want to look for a monitoring tool that can monitor physical, virtual, and cloud targets and scale to support your entire infrastructure—from a single SQL Server instance to hundreds of instances.
Your monitoring solution needs to show all the vital SQL Server performance metrics, including long-running queries, queries with high I/O, missing indexes, deadlocks, blocks, and waits, as well as storage and system resource usage.
Although tracking vital metrics is important, it’s crucial that the solution you implement also provide guidance on the normal range for these metrics, as well as possible causes for any discrepancies.
The ability to track and optimize your T-SQL query performance is vital for finding and fixing problematic queries. Your performance monitoring tool should be able to perform root cause analysis by drilling into problem queries to identify the underlying causes of performance problems.
Your performance monitoring solution needs to be able to regularly record and track your SQL Server system performance and environment conditions.
Your monitoring solution shouldn’t impact your production processes and shouldn’t add compute overhead while it's monitoring your systems.
The ability to generate alerts for critical system conditions enables you to take corrective actions to rectify the alert conditions quickly. And the ability to customize alerts enables you to be notified just for the conditions that are important for your environment—allowing you to avoid annoying “alert storms" that notify you about every little event.
When you’re evaluating database performance monitoring solutions, you need to do the following:
Determine your business priorities so that you can confirm if a solution meets your specific needs.
Set up a test environment that’s able to reproduce some of the common performance problems that you’ve encountered in your production environment, as you will want to assess solutions based on their ability to handle your test situations, as well as the vendor’s ability to provide customer support and/or consulting services.
Look at the size of your organization and the characteristics of each solution to gauge its cost-effectiveness for your specific use case.
Join Lori Edwards, SentryOne training manager, for a walk-through of SentryOne—the all-in-one solution that allows data professionals to monitor their SQL Server environment easily, quickly diagnose issues, and achieve optimal performance.
The SentryOne Performance Analysis Dashboard provides unequaled insight into your SQL Server database performance to get to the root of performance issues.
Monitor your most important performance metrics, such as long-running/high-impact queries, deadlocks, blocks, waits, I/O bottlenecks, and storage as well as system resource usage. SQL Sentry is a full-service performance monitoring tool for SQL Server, Azure SQL Database, Windows, and SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS).
Improve the manageability as well as the visibility of your SQL Server index fragmentation statistics. SentryOne Fragmentation Manager allows you to set up a schedule across your entire environment to automate index defragmentation operations.
You can also customize the maintenance schedules for individual instances, databases, tables, and indexes. Execute index defragmentation actions faster and more efficiently with the support of multiple concurrent operations.
Built-in SentryOne Plan Explorer can play an integral part in the performance tuning process. Plan Explorer makes query plan optimization more efficient in a lightweight standalone app, allowing you to investigate poor performing queries in a variety of ways.
Potential trouble areas are highlighted automatically for easy viewing, and you can open multiple tuning sessions simultaneously to compare different execution plans. With the aid of the version history feature, you can even track your query tuning history with comments.
With SentryOne Event Calendar, SQL Agent jobs—as well as other events across your enterprise—are presented in a calendar-style visual display, giving you control over scheduling conflicts that can impact server performance.
Event Calendar also boasts an extensive and reliable notification system, providing detailed alerts and response actions to a variety of event status, runtime, and performance conditions.