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The Rambling DBA: Jonathan Kehayias

The random ramblings and rantings of frazzled SQL Server DBA

Product Reviews: Tools for the SQL Server DBA

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.

Published Friday, June 12, 2009 1:33 AM by Jonathan Kehayias
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Comments

 

Dave Dustin said:

Ok.  Seriously looking forward to this series, because it's something I have been considering doing on and off over the last 18 months, but never had the time.

June 12, 2009 2:19 AM
 

John Sansom said:

Great idea Jonathan.

I have worked with both the RedGate and Quest tools that are avaialble and so am interested to know how the other vendor tools compare.

June 12, 2009 6:26 AM
 

AaronBertrand said:

You should have kept this a secret, now the vendors might have advance knowledge of your pending support calls and treat you differently.  Kind of like a restaurant knowing that the guy at table 3 is a reviewer for the New Yorker.  :-)

June 12, 2009 9:49 AM
 

Jonathan Kehayias said:

Aaron,

I had considered that last night, but after posting this.

June 12, 2009 10:03 AM
 

VicDBA said:

ah ha.....i was looking for something like this. I am currently in the process of reviewing SQL Sentry PA/EM trial version myself!

June 12, 2009 10:29 AM
 

Buck Woody said:

Hey there Jonathan - Had the same thoughts myself. Why not learn and use what we've already paid for? So I put together a project that does just that - check out http://sqlcms.codeplex.com. I'd like your feedback on that. It's just a methodology to use all of the tools you currently have to manage and monitor multiple servers.

- Buck

June 12, 2009 11:09 AM
 

Merrill Aldrich said:

Sweet! I have to submit that, as tempting as it is to "roll your own" monitoring, at this point I always recommend buying a product instead. I think, as Jonathan alluded to, it's better over the long term for an organization to have an off-the-shelf product when people come and go; plus there are great products in the market that have more features than most DBAs would have time to write. It's definitely faster to choose one than to write one.

June 12, 2009 12:05 PM
 

Jonathan Kehayias said:

Buck,

I'll add it to my list.  Thanks for pointing it out.

June 12, 2009 12:16 PM
 

Linchi Shea said:

I don't know Aaron. Last time when we were in a restaurant, you started to tell me aloud that you were working for Zagat when a waiter happened to walk by.

June 12, 2009 3:38 PM
 

AaronBertrand said:

Linchi, had I already consumed several captain and cokes?  :-)

June 12, 2009 10:03 PM
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