Great Performance Engineering Tool
Steve Strelzyk | TrustRadius Reviewer
Updated April 29, 2020

Great Performance Engineering Tool

Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Overall Satisfaction with SQL Sentry

We use SQL Sentry to help us identify performance issues and remediate them quickly. In addition, we use it to alert on blocking and deadlocks.
  • I like the way that the graphs on the dashboard can be selected and synchronize to show how each are related.
  • The ease at which problematic SQL can be identified by spikes on the dashboard make this tool invaluable to a Performance Engineering team.
  • We have a number of installations across different environments and solution lines. The tool needs to be able to switch between them within the tree view instead of needing to connect to a different installation from the file menu
  • We receive frequent timeouts when looking at the Top SQL tab on our busiest SQL servers with a lot of history. Something needs to be done on large repositories
  • On one solution line, we resolved 3 lingering deadlocks that were part of the system for a long time on the first day we installed the tool.
  • On another team, we have proactively identified that fixed several cases that created production outages.
We installed SQL Sentry on a system where performance testing identified poor performance. On the first day, we identified three deadlocks that were the root cause of the performance issue. This was a few days before a very large and critical production release. The deadlocks were fixed and we doubled the number of concurrent users that the application could support.
AppDynamics strength lies in showing how the tiers of an application are performing. It shows some things that are good at a macro level for SQL, but it lacks the ability to dig into root cause as well as SQL Sentry. Spotlight and Foglight are also good tools in the space. There was an established user base on SQL Sentry that preferred to not switch.
SQL Sentry is very useful in production and performance testing environments for identifying and fixing slow performing applications. It is difficult on very high volume instances with a lot of history.

SQL Sentry Feature Ratings

Performance dashboard
10
Intelligent alerting
Not Rated
Top SQL
9
Historical trend data
9
Virtualization support
Not Rated

Using SQL Sentry

60 - This is a mix of users from software developers, architects, managers and support staff. We have three distinct platforms within our health and benefits portfolios that all rely heavily on this tool. It is also used by our performance testing team in conjunction with other application monitoring tools to provide the best value.
5 - The support requirements to keep this tool running are extremely low. The minimum required footprint is really just one server depending on the load and number of servers being monitored. Our DevOps team is able to handle this within their team. They perform the initial installation and handle upgrades as well as license expansion.
  • Application Performance Tuning/Engineering
  • Performance Test Monitoring
  • Deadlock analysis
  • Blocking Monitoring and Alerting
  • We needed to use the tool to provide additional evidence of unauthorized access
  • We have used the tool to provide historical evidence of long running backups when our SQL Agent History is purged.
  • We are considering of Extracting the Performance data from the tool into our Reporting and Analytics repositories for predictive analytics on server capacity as well as failure.
  • Faster root cause analysis during production outages
  • Better platform stability when developers proactively look at poor performing queries in lower life cycles.
This tool is invaluable within our organization. With the recent financial impacts to businesses across the globe related to Covid-19, we were asked if we could reduce licenses to cut costs. When we pointed out the business value that the tool brings and the risks that would be taken by not having the tool, the decision was clear. We looked elsewhere to makes cuts.

Evaluating SQL Sentry and Competitors

  • Product Features
  • Product Usability
  • Prior Experience with the Product
  • Existing Relationship with the Vendor
  • Positive Sales Experience with the Vendor
i have used many other tools in this space(Idera and Quest to name a couple). I felt that the user experience of how the information was presented was far superior to both of those tools. In addition, the time it takes to get the information I need was much shorter with SQL Sentry.
I wouldn't change a thing. Our evaluation process is very thorough. We look at the overall value to our organization through live trials. We will continue to follow this process to land at the best tool that meets our needs. Like many organizations, we constantly look at available technology. As people, products and technology change, we have found this approach to be the best. Today that process keeps us on SQL Sentry.

SQL Sentry Implementation

Overall, implementation of this tool is very easy. Anyone with entry level server administration skills and basic sql server skills can get you up and running.
Change management was minimal - Since the tool does not have an agent to be installed on the monitored system, it becomes painless to upgrade and can be done within normal business hours. We do not need downtime to monitor new servers or perform upgrades. We did learn that some advanced planning is needed due to security management via group policy. The service account running the monitoring service needs to be a local admin on the machines. Our group policy pulls users out of the local administrators group on a regular basis. So we just need to get the account added to the proper security group prior to adding a new target for monitoring. That is not a tool limitation though.
  • Firewall Rules in some cases that were blocking WMI
  • Group Policy pulling service accounts out of local admin groups
  • Putting too many targets into a single installation without the right number of monitoring services.

SQL Sentry Training

Generally speaking, the tool is easy enough to pick up without training. I'm sure I could have learned some things via training that I needed to research on my own.

Configuring SQL Sentry

There are lots of ways to configure the tool depending on what you are looking to accomplish. Out of the box, the default configuration is good enough for cover 90 - 95% of your needs. If you are looking for configuring the tool for advanced monitoring and alerting, it can be done. It just takes a little more time.
I recommend that beginners go with the defaults and learn as you go in most cases. The vendor has outstanding support and technical evangelists that can help you with your particular situation.
No - we have not done any customization to the interface
No - we have not done any custom code
No additional information at this time.

SQL Sentry Support

Thankfully, we have not needed to submit many support requests. I believe he have less than 5 cases in the last 4 years. However, when we do need support, the team is there for us.
ProsCons
Quick Resolution
Good followup
Knowledgeable team
Problems get solved
Kept well informed
No escalation required
Immediate help available
Support understands my problem
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
None
Yes - It depends on the situation and the tool. For many enterprise grade products we frequently pay for premium support
We were using the tool to find evidence of unauthorized access to one of our production systems. The number of times the call of interest was made was much lower than we expected. We thought that there was a problem with the tool capturing information and submitted a case. The SQL Sentry team got back to us very quickly and advised us that the tool was capturing and storing everything per its design. We learned that there is a default minimum duration before a call is stored in the SentryOne database.

They explained what we would need to change if we wanted to capture more or all of the calls. They were also very forthcoming in telling us that lowering the number could have negative impacts on the monitoring service.

Using SQL Sentry

For our organization, we find this tool to be the best for our needs in the Performance Engineering space. We love how quickly we can identify queries that need tuning and fix deadlocks. The user interface is simple to figure out. We would love to see the Sentry One client be more flexible to allow a single instance to show information from different repositories. We have three different installations of the tool for three different platforms. All three end up on slightly different versions at times, and that requires that users need to connect to a different machine to run the client since it has to match the back end repository. It would be preferable if it functioned more like SQL Server Management Server that is forward and backward compatible to a degree.
ProsCons
Like to use
Relatively simple
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Well integrated
Consistent
Quick to learn
Convenient
Feel confident using
Familiar
None
  • It is very easy to spot times when performance issues were occurring
  • The "highlighting" of data in multiple graphs within a selection makes it easy to correlate information
  • Fixing deadlocks is so much easier using this tool.
  • It is sometimes difficult to hover over certain lines in a graph to see the values. (i.e. Memory)
  • It is sometimes difficult to see results over long periods of time. We frequently run into SQL Timeouts and no data if our data range is too wide

SQL Sentry Reliability

We are running 25 instances through a single monitoring service and it is able to keep up. We are finding that this many instances in our environment is about as many as can be handled. We will need to deploy additional monitoring services. Luckily, there is no additional licensing costs to deploy additional monitoring services. For us, it's just an additional Azure VM.
The system is working perfectly in capturing data, but we do experience issues with SQL Timeout when viewing results in the remote clients. This may be due to the fact that our monitoring service is consuming most of the CPU, and it is the same server that is hosting the SQL Repository. We could probably fix the issue by separating the SQL instance from the monitoring service.
In most cases the pages load very quickly. In our particular case, we need to do some movement of services to separate our monitoring service to separate infrastructure from the repository. When we first started with SQL Sentry on 5 licenses, we did not have any issues. Since we have now grown that to 25, we are experiencing some challenges. We do not believe this to be a tool problem.

Integrating SQL Sentry

The ease of integration is unknown as we have not attempted it yet.
  • None yet
We currently have AppDynamics and New Relic. We have not done any direct integrations, but we do use all three tools together for looking at separate data points.
  • App Dynamics
  • New Relic
We do not know if this is supported, and we need to do more research.
WE have not used any of these technologies
No advice to give as we have no integrations.

Relationship with SentryOne

The sales team is extremely responsive. We frequently shoot emails over for quotes as potential needs arise, and we often get a response same day. They are very flexible as well when we needed to extend a trial beyond the expected time frame. They work well if our Accounts Payable team to get invoices submitted and they offer many payment options.
Their sales, support and technical evangelists are great to work with. They are willing to offer suggestions and help at any time.
I don't get involved on the terms negotiations, but I have not heard anything bad from the team that does.
Nothing other than be a good customer. They are more than willing to help any of their customers regardless of size or purchased license count. Don't make unreasonable or unrealistic requests. Think about how you want your customers to treat you and pay that forward to SQL Sentry. You won't regret it.

Upgrading SQL Sentry

Yes - Nothing unexpected. The upgrades were simple to perform.
  • In one case an upgrade was done to fix a known bug
  • Some fixes are to address performance.
  • Would love to see the client interface function more like SSMS when connecting to sites. (i.e. Allow multiple sites connected at once)
  • Would love to see forward and backward compatibility with the Sentry One client