Back in my days as a SQL server DBA, I didn't have many third-party tools at my disposal. I remember having a monitoring tool with licenses for only three or four SQL server instances. Whenever there was a problem with one instance that wasn’t currently being monitored, I would have to stop monitoring another instance and switch the license over. This was perfectly fine according to the license agreement, however, it caused me to lose history and, of course, was not very efficient at all while I sometimes had to wait to see the problem happen again.
I was allowed to purchase a backup tool for all my 40 or 50 SQL Server instances. I proved to my manager that this backup tool would save SAN space because of the built-in compression (before backup compression was included with SQL Server) and pay for itself in no time. That was a great investment which made my job easier.
DBAs can spend a lot of time writing scripts, and I was no exception. Many of these scripts were specific to the job and workload, but others could have been replaced by free or purchased tools. I remember writing a script to compare the data in tables between two databases in preparation of an upgrade. I’m not sure I knew that there was a tool available that could have been purchased to automate the work for me instead, but I bet that it would have been less expensive in the end compared to how much time I spent.
I’ve recently had discussions with some friends about tools for maintaining indexes. Many of us started out by writing our own index maintenance scripts, modifying them whenever we needed to add some new options. The trick is keeping the scripts organized and synchronized across all the instances. And, of course, so much time was spent writing and testing. Luckily, there is a free tool for optimizing indexes (and other maintenance) written and maintained by Ola Hallengren (@olahallengren) that most of us use now that has just about every option you could ever need.
As DBAs become more involved with areas like DevOps and hybrid data centers, they will need even more tools for tasks such as source control and provisioning. They may be tempted to write scripts to do everything, but the right tools can do a better job in many cases. Even though managers may balk at the expense, tools will save time and money and allow the DBAs to focus their efforts where their expertise is really needed.