Database performance: which tools and which functions to consider

Database management systems are at the heart of modern applications. Ensuring optimal operation of these systems is imperative for all businesses that support them. Database performance management tools help ensure a continuous business process by helping DBAs to reduce or even prevent performance degradation . However, before investing, it is necessary to have a comprehensive and solid understanding of the key functions, and therefore to properly evaluate the products of the market.
If you plan to implement such tools, there are three types of solutions available to you: those that guarantee maximum performance at the system level, those that manage performance at the base structure level, and that help maintain its efficiency and data, and those that take into account the performance of SQL code and applications and detect opportunities for optimization.

To help you choose, let’s review the primary functions that should be examined first.

What do the different performance management tools have to offer?

Database management and monitoring tools . These solutions deal with the internal mechanics of the RDBMS as well as the parameters related to the resources and the system. These tools allow you to continuously monitor and report the status of the databases and give DBAs the opportunity to set up standard levels that, once reached, send alerts. These solutions typically include dashboards that display key metrics and defined milestones, and provide an interface for modifying them. It also allows you to configure the performance reporting processes.

A good RDBMS performance management tool should also provide indicators on the use of database resources, such as the use of memory and CPU for example. More advanced tools emit optimization recommendations, calculated from the measurements taken on the system.

Because most database implementations do not involve just one database, the system scan provides the DBA with a consolidated view to administer multiple instances from a single interface. Automatic discovery of instances as well as configuration and installation wizards are some of the features.

Tools for monitoring and managing the structures of databases . These tools help identify, analyze and repair problems related to database fragmentation and resource utilization. Database analysis solutions monitor, review and report on storage aspects (indexes, tablespaces) and analyze options for improving resources.

They also automate the analysis and management of available disk space to solve problems related to lack of storage, fragmentation of data or the size of objects. In this case, alerts can be sent to the DBA.

Many of these tools can correct such problems by allocating additional storage resources or defragmenting the data. The latter process is usually composed of several processes, which must be orchestrated. Some advanced tools make it possible to reorganize the structure of the databases so that they remain operational.

SQL monitoring. These tools control SQL statements while they are running, so that the DBA can find potentially problematic programs and SQL code. For example, an SQL monitoring tool can sort SQL statements by CPU usage, to make it easier to adjust, and focus on those that consume the most resources. The tool can also couple SQL statements to certain programs, stored procedures, or types of users.
After identifying potentially problematic instructions, performance management tools can also be used to examine access patterns. These include the methods that will be used to navigate the database and access the data. These tools simplify the refinement of SQL from graphs, or via wizards to optimize performance and make recommendations to modify the SQL code.

Some performance management tools also have the ability to simulate production environments to perform tests. Test environments often do not have the same resources as production systems.

What you need to know

When evaluating basic performance management tools, it is important to consider other criteria:

The number of RDBMS managed. A heterogeneous management tool can manage multiple RDBMSs within a single interface while a homogeneous tool takes into account a single RDBMS.
IT departments, with a primary base, or when each DBA is specialized in a given technology, can consider homogeneous tools, because they offer a more complete functional field than heterogeneous tools.

For those with more than one base, but a limited number of DBAs, a heterogeneous tool is able to offer the same functionality for each database, making it easier for DBAs. In addition, this type of tool can hide differences between basic and simplify performance management.

History and indicators. While it is imperative that performance management tools be able to identify and solve problems, it is also critical that they be ready to monitor and analyze (and compare) indicators over time. Most of the tools that monitor databases, their structures and SQL can store the performance history.

Keeping your performance history allows you to identify trends over time. With a performance metrics log, you can check and compare performance levels. Added to this is the ability to create a benchmark performance – to confront different levels and variations.

Cost and support. The cost of performance management tools varies depending on the type of solution, the publisher and its pricing methodology. Some vendors of heterogeneous tools charge the basic tool as well as each supported RDBMS. Others are based on the size of the instances; others on an annual subscription. Support is usually offered 27/7, online or by phone. It is relevant to check the responsiveness of each supplier in this case

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