Sql Sentry, a power tool for DBAs
Kevin Dickover, PMP | TrustRadius Reviewer
Updated May 23, 2020

Sql Sentry, a power tool for DBAs

Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Overall Satisfaction with SQL Sentry

We use SQL Sentry Performance Advisor on both MSSQL Server and Analysis Services. It allows us to go back and investigate performance events that occurred outside of the normal workday and correlate what was happening on a server to other servers that it was connected to at the time. Over time it has allowed us to address specific recurring performance problems that we might not have been able to easily track down.
  • PA focuses attention to problem areas when in the moment and helps get us to quicker problem resolution. Trapping execution plans for long running queries has been particularly helpful as has the insight into disk activity.
  • Running PA in both QA and production has allowed for more efficient benchmarking of changes due to go to production and resolution of possible performance problems.
  • PA does not replace a DBA but it does help them to be more focused and efficient in a number of situations.
  • I would like to see the UI be more responsive, particularly when looking at historical records.
  • Capture of execution plans is sometimes unpredictable and I would like to see that more often
  • Reporting of job runtimes over history is difficult. Pulling baselines and exporting for multiple jobs would be very helpful.
  • Dropping anomalous job execution times from stats would be helpful when exceeding maximum runtimes is important
  • We have found and corrected for badly constructed queries that were invisible to us in the overnight process
  • We have found users running badly constructed queries to SQL Server Analysis Services and stopped them
  • We have made reports of bad user behavior factual and backed by data when discussing them with senior leadership rather than the anecdotal reports that we previously had. This allowed us to correct behavior.
We had a job that ran overnight that started to go long and sometimes fail. PA history showed blocks and bad execution plans that allowed us to look for ways to correct the job. Eventually we rewrote the job so that the parallel executions that were causing the job to fail were eliminated.
Other tools in the SQL Sentry Suite helped determine the purchasing decision. In particular the SQL Sentry Event manager product allowed us to easily connect and visualize the overnight process. Previously the overnight process was schedule driven and prone to fail as a result of upstream dependent job failures. Moving to an event driven model brought a great deal of stability to the night.
SQL Sentry Performance Advisor is good at monitoring your system over time and allowing you to go back to previous problems to compare what was happening then to what is happening now. It is also good at reporting on harder to trap errors occurring in your system, memory pressure events in analysis services spring to mind here.

I've have heard of people trying to replace DBAs with this tool, that is a bad idea. This is a tool for DBAs, not a replacement.

SQL Sentry Feature Ratings

Performance dashboard
7
Intelligent alerting
7
Top SQL
9
Historical trend data
9
Virtualization support
Not Rated

Using SQL Sentry

15 - Sentry One users are typically DBAs and developers. We use it to monitor systems in production, evaluate development efforts and orchestrate overnight processes. For our organization the orchestration tools are the differentiate the product from other tools in the market.
5 - Database administrators and data developers get the most benefit out of Sentry One. In the absence of a network operations center, the light, fairly complete trace allow for us to know what happened while we weren't watching. Understanding the information presented and why it is important require an understanding of SQL server and Azure databases
  • Monitoring SQL servers
  • Orchestrating processes
  • Projecting growth
  • Finding inefficient processes
  • Orchestrating shared scalable storage on analysis services
  • Growing our orchestrations of processes
  • More able to recover overnight process with limited intervention
  • Less overnight support required
At this point Sentry One is fairly embedded in our organization. We rely on it to support developers, DBAs and manage unattended processes. Sentry One has stabilized the worst defects we have experienced and are enhancing the platform in ways that our useful to us.

Evaluating SQL Sentry and Competitors

  • Price
  • Product Features
  • Product Usability
The most important factor was the chain feature. When we were evaluating the product, we compared it to other DBA support tools, the monitoring features were very similar to many others on the market. It was the only tool that allowed us to rework complicated and fragile SSIS packages that were failing regularly.
Other products now allow for reasonably priced job management. This would make them more competitive and we would probably set up a test environment to run all of those products competitively. Ideras tools in particular are now more worth considering. However, familiarity and trust in the existing product is keeping us on the platform.

SQL Sentry Implementation

Understand your user base and work out security in advance. Setting up users may have been the hardest part of implementation. After that teaching the UI to IT professionals was rather easy. Setting up appropriate alerts is an ongoing process, what you get out of alerting is rather equal to what you put into it.
Change management was minimal - Not many, the tool is used by DBAs and On Call support personnel. It required minimal training and was easy to get set up and going. Initially we spent a great deal of time testing upgrades but over time the upgrades have worked easily as a next / next/ finish change and they have become routine.
  • Deciding which server to target
  • Working out appropriate read only security

SQL Sentry Support

The main platform is very well supported. Requests for help with customizing alerts and monitors have been rapidly and thoroughly responded to. Our use of the chain feature seems to be out of the ordinary and our defect reports there while understood and taken seriously, tend to be lower priority than defects in the main platform. They will work diligently to give us a workaround but correction in the standard release is a little slower in the chain feature.
ProsCons
Good followup
Knowledgeable team
Problems get solved
Kept well informed
No escalation required
Support understands my problem
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
None
Yes - Some have been. Others have taken a very long time to get corrected. At least one defect that we have reported some time ago (years at this point) remains uncorrected and we need to run a custom service to ensure that the chain feature works as expected. I have no idea when or if this will ever be resolved.
When were we having a terrible time with the chain feature, we were in regular contact with the architect of the feature and received multiple custom builds of the product until we were able to have a stable chain again. The defect was revenue affecting for us and was treated that way by Sentry One.

Using SQL Sentry

As a general rule, out of the box use of the product is very easy. With little to no experience in the platform, we were up and running with it inside of 3 days. New developers and DBAs in the organization can get a grip on how to use monitoring features inside of half an hour.
ProsCons
Like to use
Relatively simple
Easy to use
Well integrated
Consistent
Quick to learn
Convenient
Feel confident using
Familiar
None
  • Monitoring servers
  • Creating an event chain
  • Understanding the state of a monitored system in the past
  • Customizing an alert with multiple filter conditions