I normally write about specific aspects of the solutions that I support, but I thought I'd try something a little different today. For those of you that don't know, I'm a sales engineer supporting Quest's Database Performance Monitoring portfolio. For people concerned about SQL Server performance, there are two similar solutions within this portfolio: Spotlight On SQL Server Enterprise and Foglight. When I speak to people, there is often confusion as to which solution is the best one for them. I must warn you, I am not going to highlight every difference between these solutions. I'm going to tell you a story about a conversation I had with a customer who was already familiar with our Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise solution.
I Think I Know What I Want
As I mentioned, this customer was an experienced user of Spotlight On SQL Server Enterprise. In his current role, he was using DMV queries to gather data about the performance of his SQL Server instances. While this provided him a lot of data, it wasn't necessarily providing him a lot of information. In fact, he admitted that he couldn't answer the question "what happened?". In addition to this challenge, he is often the person that is contacted by users of the system stating "it's slow". I suspect you've heard these or similar questions and statements. It was a recurring theme during our conversations.
Because of his experience with Spotlight On SQL Server Enterprise, this customer invited us to present the solution to his organization. He invited his CTO and a few other people to the conversation. I found it interesting that the other people are not directly responsible for the performance of the SQL Server instances, but they are frequently contacted when things are "slow". The additional attendees are interested in understanding what is happening and are very interested in making things better. In other words, these folks are what I like to call "agents of change".
I began demonstrating how Spotlight On SQL Server Enterprise can be used to answer the questions: "what's happening?", "what happened?", and "why is it slow?". Everyone began to realize that this seemed to be the solution to address the problems they were experiencing. That's when things started to get interesting.
Maybe I Don't Know What I Want
As we continued our conversation, we started discussing their plans for the future. They have a data-integration solution they are wanting to replace with SQL Server Integration Services packages and they wanted to know if we could monitor those packages. Their CTO asked if they could be alerted to the fact that the present workload was atypical for that time of day. They were often running into scenarios where users were claiming things were slow, but they knew the workloads were no different than usual for that time of day. They wanted to be able to prove (or disprove) this by investigating and comparing workloads during different time intervals. Finally, they wanted to be able to share performance information with people that weren't necessarily technical. I told them I believed Foglight is a better solution for them.
We Can Help You
Their current concerns about SQL Server performance would be addressed by both Spotlight On SQL Server and Foglight. However, Foglight provides the additional capabilities for them: monitor SSIS packages, baseline workload activity and be alerted to derivations beyond the baseline, deep understanding of current and past workloads, compare workloads over various time intervals, and customized visualizations of performance data that can be shared with other people. Foglight would not only address their present concerns, but also help them achieve the improvements they wanted to make in their organization. In the end, this customer decided to trial both solutions and decide for themselves which is most appropriate. I think this is an excellent strategy for them and I hope to be able to help them reach their decision.
For those of you trying to decide, I would encourage us not to debate Spotlight vs. Foglight. I would encourage us to have conversations about your current challenges and the positive changes you would like to make within your organization. Let's not limit ourselves to thinking about differences between two solutions. Let's talk about making things better.