Deciphering the SQL Server Performance Mysteries with SQL DM

Deciphering the SQL Server Performance Mysteries with SQL DM sqldm-800x421 Microsoft’s SQL Server is a robust and widely adopted database management system renowned for its scalability, security, and comprehensive feature set. However, like any software, it can encounter performance issues. This post will delve into common SQL Server performance issues, provide native solutions, and then showcase the superior capabilities of SQL Diagnostic Manager for SQL Server (SQL DM) in facilitating a seamless, real-time troubleshooting experience. Let us decipher the SQL Server performance mysteries.

Common SQL Server Performance Issues

One of the most common problems with SQL Server is server bottlenecks. These occur when a resource reaches capacity, slowing down or halting the server processes. Bottlenecks can be CPU, memory, disk I/O, or network-related. For example, a query requiring more CPU resources than available can cause a CPU bottleneck.

Another frequent issue is inefficient queries. Written questions can consume more server resources, leading to slower response times and decreased performance. This problem is often due to suboptimal query design or lack of proper indexing.

Built-in SQL Solutions

SQL Server has many built-in tools to decipher the SQL Server Performance issues; let us see a few of the important ones here.

Server Bottlenecks

SQL Server provides several native tools to help diagnose and resolve performance issues. Dynamic Management Views (DMVs) and Performance Monitor are useful for server bottlenecks. DMVs offer a wealth of information about server state, which can help identify bottlenecks.

DMVs, for example, can help identify the top 5 most CPU-intensive queries. This can be done using a query like the following:

SELECT TOP 5 sql_text.text, stats.total_worker_time
FROM sys.dm_exec_query_stats AS stats
CROSS APPLY sys.dm_exec_sql_text(stats.sql_handle) AS sql_text
ORDER BY stats.total_worker_time DESC;

This query returns the five queries that have consumed the most CPU time since the last SQL Server restart. By identifying these queries, you can discover if any particular query is causing a CPU bottleneck.

On the other hand, Performance Monitor is a Windows tool that can monitor SQL Server’s resource usage, helping track down bottlenecks. Performance Monitor provides various counters to monitor the system and SQL Server’s performance, including Processor utilization, Disk Activity, Memory usage, and SQL Server-specific counters. However, using Performance Monitor effectively requires a good understanding of SQL Server’s performance counters, which can be complex and time-consuming for many users.

Imagine a scenario where an e-commerce website experiences slow transaction times during peak shopping seasons. This could be due to server bottlenecks caused by high traffic. In such a scenario, quickly identifying and resolving the bottleneck is crucial to prevent loss of sales and maintain a good user experience.

Inefficient Queries

SQL Server provides two excellent tools for inefficient queries: the Query Store and Execution Plans.

The Query Store collects detailed performance metrics for all executed queries, making it easier to identify inefficient ones. For example, to identify the top 5 longest-running queries, you can fetch data from the Query Store as follows:

    qt.query_sql_text AS QueryText,
    SUM(rs.count_executions) AS TotalExecutions,
    SUM(rs.avg_duration * rs.count_executions / 1000) AS TotalDurationInMs,
    MAX(rs.max_duration / 1000) AS MaxDurationInSec
    sys.query_store_query_text qt
    sys.query_store_query q ON qt.query_text_id = q.query_id
    sys.query_store_plan p ON q.query_id = p.query_id
    sys.query_store_runtime_stats rs ON p.plan_id = rs.plan_id
    sys.query_store_runtime_stats_interval rsi ON rs.runtime_stats_interval_id = rsi.runtime_stats_interval_id
    MAX(rs.max_duration) DESC;

This query returns the five longest-running queries in your SQL Server instance, which could be the root cause of inefficient query performance.

Execution Plans, on the other hand, can help understand how SQL Server executes a query, enabling developers to optimize their queries better. To get the execution plan for a query, you can use:

-- Your query here

This command returns an XML-based execution plan for the specified query, providing insights into how the query is executed and where potential inefficiencies lie. However, interpreting execution plans can be quite complex and requires a good understanding of SQL Server’s query execution.

Consider a business intelligence application that experiences slow report generation times. This could be due to inefficient queries that take a long time to execute. In such cases, identifying and optimizing the problematic queries is crucial to ensure timely report generation and decision-making.

SQL Diagnostic Manager For SQL Server: A Step Above

While SQL Server’s native tools are helpful, they can sometimes be complex and time-consuming. That’s where SQL Diagnostic Manager (SQL DM) shines, providing a more user-friendly and comprehensive solution.

SQL DM offers real-time performance monitoring. Unlike DMVs, which require manual querying, SQL DM presents real-time, easy-to-understand graphical views of SQL Server performance, making it easier to spot and diagnose problems.

SQL DM also provides customizable performance counters. While Performance Monitor offers a fixed set of counters, SQL DM allows you to customize counters based on your needs. This flexibility means you can monitor the exact metrics you care about, making it easier to identify and resolve server bottlenecks.

For inefficient queries, SQL DM offers an advanced Query Monitor. This feature goes beyond the Query Store by providing real-time monitoring of running queries. It can pinpoint the exact queries causing performance problems, saving you time diagnosing issues.

Moreover, SQL DM provides an Index Analysis feature that simplifies the process of index optimization. It identifies the indexes that can benefit from optimization and provides recommendations on how to optimize them, something native tools do not offer.

Try a free, 14-day trial of SQL Diagnostic Manager for SQL Server


While SQL Server’s native tools provide a starting point for diagnosing and resolving performance issues, SQL Diagnostic Manager offers more robust, real-time performance monitoring, customizable counters, advanced query monitoring, and simple index optimization.

Remember, a well-optimized database is not just an IT accomplishment; it’s a business enabler. Whether it’s an e-commerce platform providing a seamless shopping experience, a business intelligence application delivering timely reports, or a financial institution conducting risk analysis, SQL Server performance impacts every aspect of the business. Therefore, investing in a tool like SQL DM is not just an IT decision; it’s a strategic business decision.

Reference: Pinal Dave (

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Mark Reynolds
    July 28, 2023 1:45 am

    Good info, both examples are same code, first appears to return time rather than CPU

  • Martien van der Gaag
    July 28, 2023 9:48 pm

    Hi Pinal Dave,

    SUM(rs.avg_duration * rs.count_executions / 1000) AS TotalDurationInMs,
    MAX(rs.max_duration / 1000) AS MaxDurationInSec

    Isnt avg_duration also in milliseconds so dividing here by 1000 gives TotalDurationInSeconds instead of milli seconds? I thought SQLServer doesnt record metrics below milliseconds in the DMVs

    Kind regards,


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