Database Performance Management Solutions

Performance management, from a database perspective, is comprised of three basic components:

  1. Monitoring a database system and applications accessing it to find problems as they arise. This is typically referred to as performance monitoring.
  2. Analyzing performance data (logs, trace records, etc.) from the system to determine the root cause of the problem.
  3. Assembling a corrective action to implement a fix to the problem.

Database performance software can aid in all three areas. But some simply monitor systems or fix problems, while others deliver combined functionality.

Database performance management software can also be broken down by the type of database performance issues it addresses. Database performance problems can be arise in any of the following three areas:

  • The DBMS itself, which must interact with other system software and hardware, requiring proper configuration to ensure it functions accurately and performs satisfactorily. Additionally, there are many database system parameters used to configure the resources to be used by the DBMS, as well as its behavior. This includes important performance criteria such as memory capacity, I/O throughput and locking of data pages.
  • Database schema/structures. The design of databases, tables and indexes can also impact database performance. Issues include the physical design of the database, disk usage, number of tables, index design and data definition language parameters. How the data is organized must also be managed. And as data is modified in the database, its efficiency will degrade. Reorganization and defragmentation are required to periodically remedy disorganized data.
  • SQL and application code. Coding efficient SQL statements can be complicated because there are many different ways to write SQL that return the same results. But the efficiency and performance of each formulation can vary significantly. DBAs need tools that can monitor the SQL code that’s being run, show the access paths it uses and provide guidance on how to improve the code.

Database performance tools can identify bottlenecks and points of contention, monitor workload and throughput, review SQL performance and optimization, monitor storage space and fragmentation, and view and manage your system and DBMS resource usage. Of course, a single tool is unlikely to perform all of these tasks, so you may need multiple tools (perhaps integrated into a functional suite) to perform all of your required database performance management tasks.

Without proactive tools that can identify problems as they occur, database performance problems are most commonly brought to the attention of the DBA by end users. The phone rings and the DBA hears a complain that is usually vague and a bit difficult to interpret… things like “my system is a bit sluggish” or “my screen isn’t working as fast as it used to.” In such cases, the DBA needs tools that can help uncover the exact problem and identify a solution. Database performance management tools can help to find the problem as well as to put together and deploy a solution to the problem.

A lot organizations use more than one production DBMS. Frequently, the same DBA team (and sometimes even the same excact DBA) will have to assure the performance of more than one DBMS (such as Oracle and SQL Server… or Db2 and MySQL). But each DBMS has different interfaces, parameters and settings that affect how it performs. Database performance tools can mitigate this complexity with intelligent interfaces that mask the complexing making disparate components and settings look and feel similar from DBMS to DBMS.

There are many providers of database performance management tools, including the DBMS vendor (IBM, Microsoft and Oracle), large ISVs like BMC, CA and Quest and a wide array of niche vendors that focus on DBA and database peformance software.

What database performance tools do you use and recommend? Share your expeiences with us in a comment here on the blog.


I'm a strategist, researcher, and consultant with nearly three decades of experience in all facets of database systems development.
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