I need help to justify new hardware for our SQL Server.

Question

I am a new DBA in my company. My department needs a new server to run SQL Server and we must make a proposal to our owner in order to justify the cost of replacing the old server. I have read every article on your web site, but I still don’t know how to measure our SQL Server’s performance so that I can justify the cost of a new server. I have shown the Performance Monitor charts to the owner, but he insists he needs more accurate data to prove that a new server is justified.

Answer

I can understand your owner’s concern about not replacing a server unless it can be financially justified. As a DBA, I have personally been lucky to work for companies with relatively large IT budgets, and I haven’t been required to fully cost-justify any of the new servers I have requested. But I imagine that most DBAs aren’t so lucky.

What you are asking for is tough to provide, especially with performance numbers. Raw performance numbers can be manipulated to mean anything you want, and because of this, I tend to avoid them for cost-justification purposes. In fact, they really say nothing about whether or not purchasing a new server is cost justified.

One approach to take would be to compare your key performance monitor measurements with the recommendations I make on the web site. If your counters are exceeding my recommendations, then your server is probably suffering one or more bottlenecks, which of course affects performance. You will want to monitor and log performance for each of the key Performance Monitor counters for at least a week, and then compare your average and peak results to my recommendations. I would consider this approach a good first start, although these numbers will not be enough to cost-justify a new server in the owner’s mind.

To convince the owner, you must prove that performance bottlenecks in the server are actually causing user productivity to suffer, which in turn is either increasing costs or preventing your company from expanding revenue. Proving this is not always an easy task. You need to demonstrate that the amount of dollars spent on a new server will result in money saved in the future, or in increased revenue as a result of adding the new server. If you can’t prove this, then you probably won’t get your new server.

To help prove this, I would begin be talking to users and getting their feedback. In fact, a formal survey may be in order. From your research, you may find out that even though your server is suffering bottleneck problems that your users don’t know it because they are satisfied with the current performance. Or, you might not have any bottlenecks, but your users are complaining about performance (I see this a lot). Until you fully analyze your server’s current performance, and your user’s feedback, you won’t know for sure.

The more concrete data you can come up with the better. For example, each of the following would be great examples of proving to the owner that a new server is needed:

  • Order entry operators have to wait over 30 seconds for an order to be saved before they can enter a new order.
  • Order entry operators have to work over-time to keep up with the current level of orders.
  • E-commerce orders are often timing out during busy periods of the day, resulting in lost orders and unhappy customers.
  • Critical reports are taking hours to produce.
  • Decision support reports are causing other user’s connections to be blocked, resulting in long wait times for some transactions.
  • Database backup times are taking so long that you can’t find a time during the day that you can make them without affecting server performance.

These are just some of the many different types of justifications you can find to help justify the purchase of a faster SQL Server. The more of these you can document, the better your chance of getting your new server.

On the other hand, have you done everything possible to your current server to performance tune it? It might be possible to tune your current server so that you don’t really need a new server after all. (This isn’t the answer you wanted, but it may be the best one from a business standpoint.)

Based on what you have told me, I can’t make any specific recommendations. But I do recommend that you try to prove your case based on the benefits the faster server will provide the company, such as how much money a new server will save it, or how it can be used to expand potential new revenue.




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