SQL SERVER – Monitoring Your Server at a Glance – A Open Conversation with DBAs

A few days ago I was visiting a large Database Shop and I happened to meet quite a few DBAs there. After my session was over we all went to the company’s cafe for a quick coffee. While having a coffee in the relaxed environment, I shared details about my recent vacation with my family. After sharing a quick story of my vacation, I asked the DBAs around me about their own vacations. To my surprise many of the DBA’s have not taken a holiday for quite a some time. Upon asking why they have not taken holiday the answer was simple (and as expected) – due to the job.

Excuse for No Vacation

Here are a few reasons I received from them why they do not take days off from their job.

“I do not want to leave, I do not know the guy who will manage the server after me. He may not know where to look when things go wrong.”

“Forget about days off, almost every other night I have to wake up to fix something on my server, I do not remember when I slept 6 hours without waking up to look at the server.”

“I am new in the job and I have lots to learn. Honestly, when something goes wrong, I have no clue where to look so I take lots of time to figure things out.”

There were quite a few responses in the same line; I realized that DBAs do want to take a break from their work and enjoy time with their friends and family, however, due to some reasons (insecurity, possessiveness, inexperience or just pure love for the job) they are not able to take breaks.

A Key Question and Honest Answer

Here is the key question I asked them back -

What one thing you think you need in your job, to be able to take a much-needed vacation without any stress or worry?”

I got a very interesting answer to my question-

“We need a single screen for all of our systems, which can help us know what a exactly going on on our server at all times.”

A very interesting answer – what every DBA wants is a tool, feature, or a utility that can tell them what exactly is going on in their server every single time, consistently and accurately. I think this is a fair request. I am a DBA and Developer and I know there are challenges in our job. We are often so familiar with our application that it is not possible for other DBAs to know what is going on in our system. When something goes wrong, they all have to run to us as we have the solution from our experience. Sometime I am worried to leave my server alone as I think some developer will deploy a code that will make the server behave slowly or sluggishly.

Honestly, this is not a healthy environment. You need to have transparent system where you know what is going on in your server with a single glance and if you want more information, you should be able to get it by double clicking it. Sometimes there is no out-of-the-box solution for the product itself. We need to depend on third party solutions or experts who know what they are doing.

Here is what I do

As soon we were done with coffee, I immediately opened my laptop and displayed Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise. When I was done displaying various features of the tool, I could see a ray of hope in the eyes of the DBAs. I could sense that they did not know about this product or they have not seen anything like this. Here is the home screen of the Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise.

You can see in the above image there are many sections for various important monitoring areas of SQL Server.

Sessions: This section demonstrates the various details about your sessions like how many sessions are open, how many different computers are connected as well as how many active sessions there are. The one which attracted my attention was details about the response time. This shows the full round-trip response time for of a query representative of general workload.

SQL Processes: This section demonstrates how many total, system, and user processes are. We can also see blocked processes there as well. The best part is that we can right click on any area of this home screen and see further details. I right clicked on User Processes and selected Session Details.

It immediately demonstrated the display of various user sessions and the script which was running in the session.

SQL Memory: This section demonstrates a very vital information about memory – like how big is my buffer or how much of my cache is being used. I also love the section of procedure cache, because we do not often track something this important when we are talking about SQL and memory. Here is the image of my computer’s Cache Size by Object Type which displays various object types and size taken from my memory cache.

Disk Storage: This section talks about IO activities, keeping in mind database workload. We can see details about various data files, filegroups, database count, log files but my favorite section is MAX IO/Wait which is at the bottom of the section. We can see various Wait types and upon clicking details we can see Diagnose I/O Pressure as well.

There are plenty of things to discuss about this tool. There is animated movement of packets, batches, logical reads, checkpoints etc, it just gives us everything we want to know at a glance. If we want to see any further details we can just right click and see more details about that particular object or activity.

Here is the best part – if there is anything where we need to focus or get alerted, Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise will turn that to red and will send email alerts.

Moreover, Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise makes it even easier for DBAs to go on vacation… and still keep an eye on the servers! By using Spotlight Mobile which, by the way is FREE for Spotlight users,  you can monitor the health of your SQL Server environment via the Heatmap, view an alarms list, get alarm details and have the ability to snooze, or acknowledge alarms anywhere, anytime and on any device!

Well, I will stop here today, as this is what I demonstrated in the cafe to my DBA friends. After watching demos, they had promised me that they will download the trial and give this product a shot and see if this can earn them a vacation.

I would like to know your opinion about this project. You can download the fully functional 30-day free version and install it on your machine.

Reference: Pinal Dave (http://blog.sqlauthority.com)

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