Power, Productivity, and Performance too — Optimize Your SQL Server with sqlSen
Product: sqlSentry v2.7.
Publisher: InterCerve, Inc.
|sqlSentry Software License(s)|
|SQL Server Instances||$995.00|
|Windows Task Scheduler Instances||$295.00|
|sqlSentry Annual Maintenance*|
|SQL Server Instances||$199.00|
|Windows Task Scheduler Instances||$59.00|
|sqlSentry Quick Start Packs**|
|Quick Start Pack — 5 SQL Server & 5 Task Scheduler Licenses*||$2,995.00|
|Quick Start Pack — 10 SQL Server & 10 Task Scheduler Licenses*||$5,990.00|
* sqlSentry Annual Maintenance is required during the first year. The term begins when the software license is issued; and includes software updates, new versions and tech support.
** The Quick Start Packs include both SQL Server Instance and Task Scheduler Licenses. Each pack includes the first year software maintenance in the package price. Subsequent years will be billed at $199 per SQL Server instance and $59 per Windows Task Scheduler on an annual renewal basis.
- Visually create, manage, and schedule SQL Server jobs and Task Scheduler events for every server in your organization.
- Actively monitor SQL Server jobs and Task Scheduler events for every server in your organization.
- Configure alerts so that you are notified anytime based on the conditions you specify. Alerts include e-mails, pages, etc.
- Identify SQL Server jobs or Task Schedule events that hurt SQL Server performance.
- Chain or Queue jobs to manage priorities or enforce dependencies, even across multiple servers.
- Comprehensive reporting.
The complexity of a DBA’s job increases with the number of SQL Servers he or she has to manage, and the more jobs each SQL Server has. The more servers and jobs there are, the more time it takes to create and schedule jobs, the more time it takes to monitor if scheduled jobs complete successfully, and the more work it takes to ensure that jobs don’t conflict with each other and inadvertently affect performance.
While SQL Server includes the ability to create, manage, monitor, and track the performance of jobs, the available tools are cumbersome if there are lots of SQL Servers and jobs to manage. In fact, this can become the bane of the DBA, as he or she manages, monitors, and troubleshoots hundreds of jobs on multiple servers. Some DBAs spend a good portion of their jobs just maintaining SQL Server jobs. Then the lack of easily managed, reliable notifications with a robust selection of conditions and actions only compounds the issue.
One such company that ran into this very problem was InterCerve, Inc., a Microsoft-centric Web hosting company based in North Carolina. As part of their Web hosting services, they manage SQL Servers for their clients. And like many organizations, as the number of SQL Servers they managed increased, so did their headaches, along with the administrative costs. They looked for a third-party tool to help them alleviate this problem, but they found none existed. But unlike many companies, they decided to write their own, and once they found out how helpful it was, they decided to market it themselves. This product is sqlSentry.
sqlSentry is an enterprise-level SQL Server job automation/scheduling and monitoring tool that makes it easy to manage and monitor SQL Server jobs and Windows Task Scheduler events, from a single console. With proper implementation, sqlSentry can help reduce administration, hardware, and software costs, reduce down time, and improve SQL Server performance.
In this review, we take an in-depth look at how well sqlSentry meets its stated goals.
In this review, here is what we are going to look at:
- What are sqlSentry’s key benefits, and are they actually met?
- What are sqlSentry’s key features, and do they perform as expected?
- How is it architected?
- How does it work?
- Is it easy to install and administer?
- How does it affect performance on production servers?
- Does it meet the needs of the typical DBA?
All of these questions will be answered in this extensive review.
Does sqlSentry Provide All the Benefits Claimed?
The major benefits of sqlSentry can be summed up this way (taken from the publisher’s web site and product documentation):
- Lowers database administration costs.
- Reduces down time.
- Improves application performance.
- Reduces hardware and software investment because you get more out of your existing resources.
So, does sqlSentry fully meet these described benefits? After carefully reviewing and testing the software (as you will see as you read the review), sqlSentry indeed does so.
In this section, we look at the key features the software publisher claims that sqlSentry does. Throughout this review, we verify each one to see if the feature does exist, and if it performs as expected.
- General Features
- Easy to install.
- Easy to use.
- Central management.
- Global and group calendars make it easy to view monitored servers.
- Distributed “agent-less” deployment.
- 100% .NET-based application.
- SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005 support.
- Offers 32-bit and 64-bit version support.
- Unified Event History View allows you to view both SQL Server and Task Schedule events in one place, among other features.
- Supports multi-server job administration.
- Global auditing tracks changes made to jobs or other event objects.
- Offers SQL Agent job scheduling, and optional Windows Task Scheduling.
- SQL Agent jobs can be viewed, modified, added, and deleted from visual interface.
- Jobs/Events can be moved by dragging and dropping on visual schedule.
- Identifies overlapping scheduled jobs/events.
- Identifies long running jobs/events.
- Identifies failed jobs/events.
- Identifies blocking jobs.
- Integrates external data events, such as disk defragmentation jobs or anti-virus scans kicked off by Task Scheduler, into the SQL Agent job calendar so you can visually view all events that affect SQL Server performance.
- Shared resource views allow you to more easily identify scheduling conflicts of shared resources, such as a shared SAN.
- Ability to link any Windows performance counter directly to any job, task, or report to track performance, even when multiple servers or NAS are involved.
- If thresholds to counters are set, an automatic response can be executed.
- SMTP-based, agent-less alerting system.
- Centralized deployment and management.
- Centralized User and Group administration.
- Alerts can be created for SQL Server Agent Alerts, SQL Server Agent Log, DTS Packages, SQL Agent Jobs, Windows Task Scheduler, Reporting Services, SQL Server Maintenance Jobs, and outside events.
- Alerts can be set at Global, Server, or Object (job, task, report, etc.) level.
- Alerts can be based on many options, including failed jobs, jobs that exceed a predefined minimum or maximum runtime threshold, and other options.
- In response to alert conditions, the following actions can be accomplished: send e-mail, send page, execute process, execute SQL, execute job, kill task, log to disk, log to database, log to Event Log.
- Job Queuing and Event Chaining
- Jobs can be sent to a job queue for control, such as for a specific time, to limit the number of jobs in the queue, control job behavior, and more.
- SQL Agent Jobs and/or Window Tasks can be defined using Event Chaining to run based on dependencies and workflows, even over multiple servers.
- Run-time graphs of activity help track trends.
- Performance graphs show how jobs affect performance.
- Conflict Viewer shows overlapping jobs, displaying conflict time.
- List views can be exported to HTML, XML, or CSV format.
- All graphs and calendars can be printed.
Before we look at each of the above features, one by one, let’s learn a little more about how sqlSentry works. This will give us the perspective we need to better understand how all of these features fit together.