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Review of SQL Sentry (Lite)

By Leo Peysakhovich,

Introduction

After my publication Monitoring Failed Job Steps in SQLServerCentral.com, I got an email from the representative of a company called InterCerve asking me to evaluate SQLSentry tool that the company produces.  

What is SQLSentry?

SQLSentry is an SQL Server Job Management Tool that combines scheduling, monitoring, alerting and reporting capabilities. It has 5 main functional areas:

  • Scheduling: Intelligent Outlook-style calendar view of a server’s job schedule
  • Monitoring: Detailed job monitoring using Windows performance counters
  • Alerting: Eliminate SQL Mail from your enterprise instantly for all jobs and server alerts
  • Queuing: Prevents job conflicts by setting up job dependencies with the queuing capability
  • Reporting: Comprehensive charts and graphs for all job performance measures

The tool comes in 2 flavors:  with and without .NET v1.1 Framework. I tested version without .NET v1.1 Framework.

Environment

I download the Lite version (the only version available for download) from the company’s site SQLSentry.net. This is not a full version but has enough features to give you a good prospective about the software itself. It made up of two parts, database where data reside and a front end. Database can be created on any SQL Server machine and front end can be installed on any user computer (in most cases DBA computer). I used my personal computer running Windows XP professional to install front end and SQL Server 2000 Developer Edition with SP2 for the database component.

Installation

The installation process was very simple. But there are some details you need to keep in mind while performing installation. SQLSentry requires its own database. It can be any database on any SQL server (even on local machine. But I would not do it in the corporate environment. ). You need to have admin rights to be able to install the tool. So, I created a database first. Then the installation was simple and smooth. I installed 30 days free trial version. In order to get the Validation Code product should be registered. Validation Code was sent to me by SQL Sentry Sales Team very promptly. As I mention, trial version works only for 30 days and it has limited set of functionalities.

Using SQL Sentry

Let’s describe the interface and some features. I was not using any documentation or help manual trying to understand the interface. Basically, it looks naturally and does not require any special explanation. I quickly looked at all screens and found that the screens can be navigated very easy.

SQLSentry Console allows you to see and navigate through all SQL Servers and Server Groups on the left hand side (similar to the view in SQL Server Enterprise manager). You can see all the jobs and maintenance plans.

I like the intelligent Outlook-style calendar view of a server’s job schedule. It allows to see the jobs scheduled. It also allows you to see what happened and/or will happen based on your choice within 10 min, 1 hour, 4 hours, daily, 5 days, or a week from chosen date on one screen. SQLSentry gives the choice of various filters for the jobs view. But the best point that it has the ability to show job conflicts (not supported with Lite version).

When choosing the particular job the right button mouse click allows you to make the next selection: Watch Job, Properties, Start Job, Stop Job, Enable/Disable Job, Delete, and Show History.

For the most cases such as view property or create new job SQLSentry brings up native Microsoft’s interface that DBAs are using in SQL Server Enterprise Manager and the same happens with the performance monitor where SQLSentry is using standard Windows built-in performance monitor, but it conveniently integrated into SQLSentry.

I like the other tool’s features and reporting capabilities as well. It shows run time history and run time aggregates based on interval type.

One of my assignments was at a place where we had to deal with a large number of independently running jobs. Interaction between these jobs created a lot of mutual lock-out, and analyzing interdependencies has been a real painful exercise. I needed to write quick-and-dirty procedures to help with this, but the bulk of the data was still obtained manually. I certainly wish a tool like SQLSentry was available for me back then!

I am not going to discuss every screen neither publish the screen shots in the article. You can look it on SQLSentry.net WEB site. Especially, when I don’t have full enterprise version and the downloaded Lite version does not allow me to navigate through many product features.

But I can make some remarks as to what, as a DBA, I would like to see or improve upon.

Many companies already have some sort of Network/Server Monitoring tools such as NetIQ or more basic ones. Even monitoring integration is kind of important for the SQLSentry for it may be somewhat difficult to convince some managers to for this functionality. (In my company, for example).

Second point, in a lot of cases as a DBA I am not looking to manage the jobs from external tool that basically using SQL Server Enterprise Manager. I can do it directly in Enterprise Manager. But mostly, I am looking for an analyzing capability, ability to view jobs on all servers at the same time, view reports, setup alerts to control failed or long running jobs and so on.

And if it were a choice to buy the tool with various flavors then, probably, SQLSentry will be more attractive for more companies and will be more salable.  

The other small changes I would like to see:

  1. Specify Job names in all dialogs. For example: instead of ‘Would you like to delete the job’ - ‘Would you like to delete the job JOB1’.
  2. Confirmation question for the job when I start it. For example: ‘Would you like to start the job JOB1’.
  3. It would be nice to have incorporation of snapshots of all processes/connections and commands running at the time while SQLSentry monitoring jobs. It will allow better and more precise analysis of a jobs performance.
  4. I didn’t find indications that a job is scheduled to run based on an alert. That is very significant for me because we have lots of jobs associated with alerts.

Technical support

I did not really test the Technical Support of SQL Sentry as I was doing quick review of the trial version. But I get some emails from the Technical Support team with proposal to help me if I need it. The downloaded tutorial, installation guide, and documentation were written clearly and have enough information for any required issues. In addition to installation notes and documentation there is a section with FAQs on the WEB site.

Company offers online support as well. I didn’t research for the other support possibilities.

Conclusion

In general I like the tool and would like to have it for the SQL Server job analysis purpose. A full version, in my opinion, is reasonable to have only if a DBA is required to manage multiple SQL Servers (more than 4-5) or if SQL Server has multiple (20+) jobs that must be synchronized and analyzed for proper scheduling or performance. It will be even more attractive if companies will have an ability to choose from 2-3 various option bundles.  For the pricing information it is best for each reader interest to contact the vendor directly.

Ratings

            Category                     Rating             Comment

            Easy of Use                  5                      Basically is not required any documentation

            Feature Set                   4                      Great job. But some features should be added (see in article)

            Lack of Bugs                5                      Did not find any bugs during my short review

            Value                           N/A                 Since price was not obtained a value rating is hard to give

            Technical Support         N/A                 Not tested, but seems very professional

            Documentation             5                      Good hands on tutorial and documentation.

            Performance                 4                      Some screen refreshing issues

            Installation                    5                      No problems

            Learning Curve             5                      No issues. Takes few hours to start working with product

            Overall                         4                      Need a choice to buy the tool with various flavors

Product Information

WEB: www.SQLSentry.net.

SQL Sentry Information Guide: http://www.SQLSentry.net/SQL_Sentry_Info_Guide.pdf

Total article views: 4371 | Views in the last 30 days: 2
 
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