In the last year, I've had been contacted by almost every vendor for Database Administration tools for SQL Server to try out there application for monitoring SQL Server in my environment. While interested in giving the applications a look, I really didn't have the time to actually dedicate to working with a bunch of applications and learning how to use them, and I had little interest in putting the time in because I have my own monitoring system that I wrote a few years back on my own. Recently though, it dawned on me that this scenario somewhat fits the lives of most DBA's, where they would love to try out applications that would reduce their work load but they lack the time to be able to do so. What I have decided to do is take each of the applications one at a time and provide a review of each product.
First, I am going to take each application and on my own, install the application and do my best to configure it all on my own. Here I'll be looking at a number of things to include how easy it is to get the application installed and running without any knowledge of the application before hand, what information is being collected, what thresholds are pre-configured and how easy can they be changed, and how fast I can get it up and monitoring the servers in my environment. After I've spent a day with the tool on my own, I'll then make use of support and and see what features exist in the app that I didn't find or realize were there at first glance and provide a review of the support experience. I'll also try and solve any nuisance issues I have with the application while on the phone with support.
I plan to look at applications from multiple vendors to stay unbiased in my reviews including Quest, Red Gate, SQL Sentry, Idera, and ApexSQL. I am not going to specifically endorse any one product, but to instead offer my thoughts on each based on my own experiences having written my own monitoring services for SQL Server over the last two years.
Part of the reason for rolling my own monitoring systems had to do with license costs and the need to get up to speed with monitoring early on without wanting to bring an additional cost to my employer immediately after being hired. I fully believe in adding value to your position and when I started out, being able to write my own services was initially a way to do so. However, one thing I have learned is that there is an ongoing cost associated with maintaining your own custom solution and it isn't readily transferable in the event that you move on in your career (not that I am leaving my current job, just a thought to consider when looking at writing your own system versus purchasing a system to perform the tasks for you).
I know that it will take some time to get through each of the applications and write my thoughts but hopefully this kind of information will help others in the future and it will at least provide a reference I can link to in the forums when people ask questions on monitoring SQL Server in the forums online.
In no specific order, the first application that I'll be looking at is SQL Sentry's Performance Monitor.