Good Performance Management Reduces Costs, Minimizes Risk to Database

Performance bottlenecks have the potential to effectively cripple an entire organization, which can spell disaster for the enterprise. The lengthy downtime caused by poor database performance interrupts business continuity and reduces end-user productivity, and can cause a direct, negative impact on the organization's bottom line.

The negative financial impact of a bottleneck is not just the result of reduced end-user productivity and potentially decreased income for the enterprise, however; it also stems from inefficiency-the time it takes multiple IT staffers to manually search out the source of the problem and resolve it. Even customers can be affected by an organization's database performance issues, which can result in lost business and confidence in the organization, as well as damage to its reputation. Complicating the job of today's DBA is the current economic climate, which, in many organizations, requires IT to ensure business continuity while keeping costs down. Leaner budgets and reduced headcount only compound the cost of a bottleneck.

The most common causes of performance bottlenecks include scalability issues, and the constant change and overwhelming explosion of data that take place in database environments daily. Because the success of the business is tied to IT productivity and efficiency, it is imperative for IT to have a good performance management solution in place. DBAs must have the capability to proactively diagnose and resolve bottlenecks and other issues that threaten performance, but this is an extremely difficult task when they must use a manual process and do not have a clear view of the entire database environment.

Why Performance Management?

The basic goals of performance management are to improve performance, reduce costs and minimize risk. A good performance management solution will provide a reliable IT infrastructure, and take the guesswork out of database tuning and troubleshooting by giving a clear view of the whole environment. It will allow DBAs to protect the environment from potential bottlenecks, respond quickly to poor performance, and prevent problems from impacting end users.

SQL Server and Oracle environments both benefit from a performance management solution that provides an objective enterprise-wide view of the database, so that DBAs can easily see performance bottlenecks and quickly isolate their root causes. They need the ability to monitor the entire workload on the database, including the number of sessions, CPU, disk activity and waits, and to collect metrics around the clock to get the best view of overall database health. They also need to have access to both real-time and historical analyses of exactly what happened when a problem occurred to better detect potential problems and proactively plan corrective action.

Reducing Costs With Performance Management

The benefits to having a good performance management solution are many-mostly due to getting the DBA ahead of performance problems-but reduced cost is right at the top of the list. A smoothly running database that is proactively monitored, tuned and gets issues resolved quickly keeps the enterprise up and running. The business does not lose money due to excessive downtime. In addition, fewer people are needed to manage the database, search for the sources of problems and resolve issues when they can see the whole environment all the time. Lower headcount means less cost, and less time spent searching out the root cause of a problem also means less overtime and comp time. Good performance management also serves as preventive maintenance. It keeps the existing database functioning longer and defers expensive hardware upgrades.

The Importance of Cross-Platform Capabilities

Most companies today rely on multiple database platforms to run their businesses. Performance management tools with cross-platform capabilities will save money for the business by requiring just one investment to serve multiple platforms.  In addition, solutions that work the same way to provide similar benefits for different platforms can save DBAs training and deployment time because they don't need to learn how to deploy and use a completely new product for each platform.

Cross-platform performance management solutions that foster greater team productivity and efficiency, demonstrate their value quickly and offer a measurable ROI are increasingly important. Besides performance management, an enterprise using multiple platforms needs to have functionality across platforms in the areas of backup and recovery, high availability, space and capacity management, development and administration.

Free Tools

There are a number of free performance management tools currently available, including out-of-the-box Microsoft SQL Server and Windows solutions such as Task Manager, Performance Monitor, SQL Profiler, System Dynamic Management Views (DMVs) and SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

The benefit of using them is that they are free. However, they can be cumbersome. To detect and diagnose performance issues in the database, a DBA would have to look at all of them. For instance, Task Manager and Performance Manager each can provide a variety of SQL Server diagnostics, but they offer very limited reporting options. Performance Manager offers database-level monitoring, but no alerting or historical analysis.

SQL Profiler can show exactly which queries are running slow, but only if the DBA can get the trace setting correct. SQL Server Management Studio will show a wealth of information if DBAs know which DMVs to look at and how to query them, but gives no historical view of database performance to detect trends.  SQL Server Reporting Services is a native reporting tool that produces some real-time reports in SQL Server 2005 and 2008, but realistically only a fraction of the reports DBAs need.

Some companies try to develop their own in-house solutions to supplement the free native tools, but this often means DBAs have to continually work on them to make them complete enough for their needs, reducing the time they can spend actually administering the environment.

The point is that reliance on free tools means a host of tools are required to diagnose and correct issues. Because these tools provide only some pieces of the puzzle, DBAs must try to put the whole puzzle together when a bottleneck occurs, often taking the time of several people and still decreasing productivity and continuing to make the entire troubleshooting process inefficient and time-consuming.

What to Look for in a Complete Performance Management Solution

A complete performance management solution will enable database administrators to proactively diagnose and resolve bottlenecks and scalability issues before end users and service levels are affected. The solution should be non-intrusive and able to capture all activity 24 hours a day. It should offer comprehensive work load analysis for both real time and historical performance diagnostics; action plans that provide analysis and recommendations for improving the overall performance of the database; and enterprise-level reporting of performance suitable for all levels of the organization.

A good tool also will automatically store data for long periods of time, and, of course, it should immediately alert DBAs to any potential problem in the environment. If DBAs have all of these capabilities, they can maintain both operational integrity and end-user satisfaction, while avoiding costly production slowdowns.

Successful performance management of your SQL Server and Oracle environments means a good outcome for the enterprise. It means less downtime and more uptime, translating to more productivity and, thus, more revenue earned for the business. It means reduced IT costs because fewer people are required to manage and search for the sources of database problems. It means higher efficiency, fewer problems and better adherence to service level agreements, which will inspire more enterprise-wide confidence in IT, and keep the organization's performance issues from having any effect on customers.

A successful performance management strategy is good for the enterprise, and good for IT.