What's Cool in Spotlight Enterprise Version 12.0

On Tuesday, May 23rd, Spotlight Enterprise version 12.0 was released to the wild.  There are a considerable number of enhancements, both big and small, that are included in this release (for the full list, check out the release notes).  Without diminishing the value of each and every enhancement (many of which came straight from our customers requests), I wanted to highlight those enhancements that I am most excited about.

  1. Linux Support: Jason Hall Loves Linux! For years, I've politely nodded and grinned whenever a coworker wanted to spark up a conversation (fight) around Windows vs. Linux. As a SQL Server DBA, I didn't have much choice where my database server ran, so why even bother.  With SQL Server vNext supporting Linux, I can now join in on the love fest, and Spotlight Enterprise can come along on the ride.  With version 12.0, a new Linux connection type is available, with a home page to diagnose Linux related performance issues, and a set of alarms so that you can be notified when a Linux related problem occurs.  This will allow a DBA, who may be a bit uncomfortable with managing Linux (as I certainly am!) to use a familiar tool when managing SQL Server regardless of which operating system it runs on.
  2. Graphical Plan Viewer: Prior releases of Spotlight provided execution plan details in an XML format, that could then be opened in SQL Server Management Studio for those customers (all of them) that preferred to view the plan graphically.  While Microsoft's plan viewer is certainly better than digging through XML, there are certainly some challenges around quickly "digesting" Microsoft's plan format, especially on large plans.  In Spotlight Enterprise version 12.0, a new graphical plan viewer is included that helps customers visualize plans, while quickly identifying where the high cost operators are.  High cost operators are highlighted in yellow, while trivial (meaningless) operators are hidden by default to simply the plan down to only what matters. Line widths can also be customized to either show the movement of data throughout the plan by either row count, or data volumes.  Below you can see an example of Spotlight's Plan Viewer, vs. Microsoft's.
  3. Scrubbing of Potentially Sensitive Data: For the past few years, Spotlight has given customers the option of uploading some of their collected data to the SpotlightEssentials.com cloud service.  This enabled customers to leverage the Spotlight mobile and web interfaces, as well as provides customers with useful health checks and analysis of their performance data.  While customers generally love the functionality offered by Spotlight's cloud extensions, some were understandably hesitant to upload potentially sensitive information, specifically literals and parameter values contained within SQL Text.  With Spotlight 12.0, customers now have the option of "scrubbing" this potentially sensitive information out of their cloud upload.  Literal values contained within SQL statements are replaced with dummy values.  Hopefully this allows more of our customer base to take advantage of Spotlight Essentials.
  4. Enhanced Backup Monitoring:  This is a relatively small one, but one that customers have been very excited to see.  Monitoring of backups has become increasingly challenging as more and more customers take advantage of Always On Availiability Groups.  Microsoft only stores backup data in the individual instances MSDB tables, and many customers are only backing up one of their replica databases to avoid redundant backups of the "same" database.  In Spotlight's backup alarm, it now checks for an AG's backup preference configuration, and then monitors for backups accordingly.  In other words, if a replica database is not the preferred replica for backup, Spotlight won't alert you that it hasn't been backed up.  This should be a huge help for those customers making heavy use of AG's, and wanting to ensure that they are properly backed up.

There's a much more to this release than the four features mentioned above, but those would be my favorite.  I'd encourage you to check out the release notes to learn more about this new release, and would love to hear your feedback about what you love (or don't love)!