Essential Tools for the DBA Private Eye, Part One: Database Monitoring Is Elementary

Sherlock Holmes got by on guile and intuition. Rookie!

A database administrator is IT’s equivalent of a private investigator. When things go awry, users look to the database administrator to solve IT mysteries, such as application latency or why the department server is out of storage. And while Sherlock is a gifted literary investigator, if he and his sub-contractor, Watson, were DBAs today they wouldn’t last a week in this budget-strapped, do-more-with-less environment.

Image credit: dynamosquito | Licensed under: CC BY 2.0

DBAs don’t have the luxury of relying on gut feelings nor are they provided a lot of time to collect information and make educated decisions. Clearly, intellect and sound reasoning are required to successfully manage any database infrastructure, but today, along with those natural skills, you’d better be digitally plugged in to every table, cell, application, query string and user to maintain five-9s infrastructure performance.

Roles are Changing

Over the last 15 years, the DBA role has changed drastically. Just as Sherlock Holmes and his trusted sidekick are partially credited with advancing real-world forensic sciences, DBAs in the early 2000s put down the foundation of processes and remediation steps we have in place today. Back then, database administration largely dealt with single-vendor, big-iron enterprise database infrastructure that didn’t feature much flexibility with third-party bolt-on solutions. Flash forward to today and DBAs are responsible for multivendor database solutions but no longer have a resource like Watson to help them manage the environment.

The complexity of structure and the number of specialized databases within even the most mundane environment is at an all-time high. Now DBAs are dealing with virtualization, mobility, nearly countless apps, and users who demand access to database resources from corporate and personal devices.

How do you stay on top of managing all this infrastructure?

DBAs need solutions that help them do their daily job but also help them delegate tasks to teams that can have an immediate impact on an issue. Some simple examples are offloading software issues to the apps group for remediation and calling upon the IT operations group to handle network performance and storage issues.

Performance data is a DBA’s best friend. With tools that provide crystal clear vision all the way down to the resource, user session and application level, a potential issue can be brought to a DBA’s attention and diagnosed before it becomes a widespread problem. Additionally, the ability to look back in time and analyze conditions that existed when a database issue occurred—such as deadlocks, application latency, Microsoft SQL Server agent failures, CPU spikes and I/O bottlenecks—is invaluable and makes DBAs more efficient.

In my next blogs in this series, I will dive deeper into capabilities that allow today’s DBAs to easily incorporate the latest features of database analysis and performance investigation. By the end of this series, you will be introduced to capabilities that would make even Sherlock envious. In the meantime, check out this webcast to get clued in on SQL Server workload mysteries and unlock peak performance.