Power, Productivity, and Performance too — Optimize Your SQL Server with sqlSen

Test Results

In this section of the review, we look at each of sqlSentry’s key features and see if they perform as expected. We will be taking a close look at the following in the remaining portion of this in-depth review.

  • 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.
  • Scheduling
    • 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 rescheduled by dragging and dropping on a 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.
  • Monitoring
    • 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.
  • Alerting
    • 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.
  • Reporting
    • 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.

Because there are so many features to review, we will be discussing them in groups, like the groups you see above.

General Features

In this section, we look at all of the “general” features of sqlSentry to see if they exist and if they work as claimed.

Easy to Install

I installed sqlSentry several different times on different hardware. Each time, the installation went great, with no problems. Installation is fast, easy, and very straightforward.

Easy to Use

This very subjective claim means many different things to many different people. When I compare sqlSentry to the many hundreds of other programs I have used over the years, and then rate it from 1 to 10, with 1 being very easy to use and 10 being very complex to use, I would place sqlSentry at about a 4. The user interface is very well thought-out, but it is not a snap to master. Many of the features are buried in the user interface and take some time to find. But like most applications that you use after a while, you eventually learn all of the ins and outs of the application, and this is no longer a problem.

Central Management

The sqlSentry Console allows you to administer all of your SQL Servers and Task Managers from a single user interface. You can locate the Console on virtually any desktop or server you want, making it very easy to view and administer all of your servers.

Global and Group Calendars Make It Easy to View Monitored Servers

Essentially, calendars are your view into your servers. They are how you are able to quickly and easily view your monitored servers from a single screen. This is a very powerful tool that is not covered well in this review because of the difficulty of showing everything that it does. You almost need a live demonstration, or to play with it yourself, to see everything they can do.

Distributed “Agent-Less” Deployment

sqlSentry does not require any software to be deployed on monitored servers. Instead, all communication is conducted natively over the network between monitored servers and the sqlSentry “Server” service. Some of the advantages of this architecture include: 1) ease of installation; 2) ease of administration; 3) ease of upgrading; and 4) reduced server overhead as compared to agents that run on monitored servers.

100% .NET-Based Application

Before you install sqlSentry, .NET 2.0 must be installed on the server running the sqlSentry Console or sqlSentry “Server” Service. Monitored servers do not need .NET 2.0 installed.

SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005 Support

sqlSentry can run on either SQL Server 2000 or SQL Server 2005. On the other hand, it can watch instances of SQL Server 7.0, 2000, and 2005, along with Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows 2003 Task Schedulers.

Currently, in sqlSentry 2.7, not all SQL Server 2005 features are fully supported, such as monitoring of SSIS. The vendor says that sqlSentry will fully support all SQL Server 2005 features in later releases. sqlSentry does fully support “legacy” DTS packages and non-SSIS Maintenance Plans that have been upgraded from a previous SQL Server 2000 instance.

Offers 32-Bit and 64-Bit Version Support

While I was not able to test running sqlSentry on a 64-bit platform, it is fully supported. This includes both x64 and Itanium platforms.

Unified Event History

This means that sqlSentry has the ability to show you both SQL Server jobs and Task Scheduler tasks on the same screen. This feature allows you to easily see if any of these jobs overlap, causing any potential contention problems.

Supports Multi-Server Job Administration

sqlSentry interfaces with Master (MSX) and Target (TSX) servers. But if you are using sqlSentry, there is really no need to use Master and Target servers, unless you have a need to automatically push job definitions from a master server to multiple targets.

Global Auditing Tracks Changes

If you work on a team of DBAs, you are probably familiar with the issue of one DBA making a change to a job but not telling anyone. This is not because the DBAs like to cause problems (well, maybe some of them do) but mainly because it takes a lot of time and effort to log every change and then share these changes with other DBAs. sqlSentry has the ability to log modifications made to sqlSentry settings, jobs, alerts, and more. This way, you have a complete record of all changes made. Now, you don’t have to worry about manually logging changes, or even where to store these changes, as sqlSentry does this for you automatically.


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