This is an article from the July 2006 issue of DM Review's Extended Edition. Click on this link for more information on DMR Extended Edition or to download this entire issue in a PDF format. 

REVIEWER: Geoff Hiten, senior database administrator for MFG.com.

BACKGROUND: MFG.com is an online marketplace servicing the manufacturing community. It uses its proprietary technology to intelligently connect buyers with suppliers of manufacturing services while facilitating the collaboration, quoting, due diligence and analysis processes.

PLATFORMS: MFG.com operates on Dell hardware and Microsoft operating systems. MFG.com uses Microsoft SQL Server, Macromedia (now Adobe) Cold Fusion, Adobe Flash/Flex, Apache Web services and a proprietary software application to drive our Web site operations.

PROBLEM SOLVED: sqlSentry immediately allows me to see multiple SQL Server job schedules and interactions on multiple systems, giving a clear picture of the timing and sequencing involved in the overnight processing and data transfer. I am able to adjust schedules to avoid resource contention. Instead of leaving buffer time between jobs, I can sequence them tightly and also add advanced alerting notification for job hangs and failures. The outcome is a more dependable process that is easier to manage within a shorter time window. The organization's data analysis group is now able to meet its data delivery commitments to the business-decision leaders. A key benefit has been the addition of an extra open hour of data warehouse processing time by eliminating unnecessary wait times between variable length tasks.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Traditional DBA tools for SQL Server job management make it very difficult or impossible to avoid job scheduling issues that lead to resource contention and, ultimately, application performance issues. Using an Outlook-style console, sqlSentry dramatically increases the ability of DBAs to view the current state of job activity on any server, capture the full impact a job or combination of jobs are having on server and application performance, and make scheduling changes to minimize issues caused by resource contention. From one console, sqlSentry allows me to set a wide variety of response actions to any job status, runtime or performance condition, and its centralized management eliminates the need to touch each server. In addition, full MAPI-less alerting features are also provided for Windows Task Scheduler, Reporting Services and other event sources outside of SQL Server.

STRENGTHS: The complexity of our SQL Server enterprise and the volume of our job stream make timely data transfers from the production database systems to the analysis systems a challenging and burdensome task. sqlSentry allows me to see a clear picture of the server schedules and level the server schedules with drag-and-drop ease. I spend less man-hours reviewing overnight job logs and/or researching job failures. In addition, I have seen an increase in server performance and capacity. New agents are not needed on each server - sqlSentry talks to the native SQL Server scheduling agents and makes them work much better.

WEAKNESSES: sqlSentry is designed to simplify complex SQL scheduling situations. While I can make immediate improvements to my systems using this tool, it does require some practice to obtain the full benefits. The time requirement isn't extensive and is certainly much less than doing the same tasks without sqlSentry, but this is not an "install and forget" magic fix.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Before I found sqlSentry, I was using a collection of hand-built scripts and complex spreadsheets to track SQL job scheduling. Since I started using sqlSentry, I have not found a competing product that addresses the same problems. InterCerve has continued to improve the product based on customer feedback.

DELIVERABLES: Deliverables of the product include event performance graphs, Windows performance counters, Windows task or Reporting Services reports and performance data. Event runtime graphs, which provide both historical and aggregate views, are available. sqlSentry logs provide details of all activity monitored and responses taken, including any property changes that are made to watched objects. sqlSentry can generate emails, pager alerts or take other actions using event status, runtime or performance information.

VENDOR SUPPORT: InterCerve is very responsive, and customer support was never an issue. As with many current products, there is an interactive key process with the vendor, but the turnaround on this process is among the fastest I have experienced.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is complete and easy to understand.

sqlSentry
sqlSentry
16415-D Northcross Drive
Huntersville, NC 28078
(704) 895-6241
www.sqlsentry.net


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