Database tools are helpful to enable organizations to effectively manage the performance of applications that access database data... and to help manage the DBMS itself. Some DBMS vendors provide embedded options and bundled tools to address database performance management. However, these tools are frequently insufficient for large-scale or heavily used database applications. Fortunately, many third-party tools will effectively manage the performance of mission-critical database applications. Tools that enable DBAs to tune databases fall into two major categories: performance management and performance optimization.
Many different types of performance management tools are available.
- Performance monitors enable DBAs and performance analysts to gauge the performance of applications accessing databases in one (or more) of three ways: real time, near real time (intervals), or based on historical trends. The more advanced performance monitors are agent-based.
- Performance estimation tools provide predictive performance estimation for entire programs and SQL statements based on access paths, operating environment, and a rules or inference engine.
- Capacity planning tools enable DBAs to analyze the current environment and database design and perform “what-if” scenarios on both.
- SQL analysis and tuning tools provide graphical and/or textual descriptions of query access paths as determined by the relational optimizer. These tools can execute against single SQL statements or entire programs.
- Advisory tools augment SQL analysis and tuning tools by providing a knowledge base that provides tips on how to reformulate SQL for optimal performance. Advanced tools may automatically change the SQL (on request) based on the coding tips in the knowledge base.
- System analysis and tuning tools enable the DBA to view and change database and system parameters using a graphical interface (e.g., cache and/or bufferpool tuning, log sizing).
In the performance optimization category, several tools can be used to tune databases.
- Reorganization tools automate the process of rebuilding optimally organized databases. Databases can cause performance problems due to their internal organization (e.g., fragmentation, row ordering, storage allocation).
- Caching tools work to buffer frequently used data in memory which can be accessed faster than secondary disk storage. These tools can augment the performance of the DBMS cache or, more commonly, integrate with the disk storage subsystem.
- Compression tools enable DBAs to minimize the amount of disk storage used by databases, thereby reducing overall disk utilization and, possibly, elapsed query/program execution time, because fewer I/Os may be required. (Caution: Compression tools can also increase CPU consumption due to the overhead of their compress/decompress algorithms.)
- Sorting tools can be used to sort data prior to loading databases to ensure that rows will be in a predetermined sequence. Additionally, sorting tools can be used in place of ORDER BY or GROUP BY SQL. Retrieving rows from a relational database is sometimes more efficient using SQL and ORDER BY rather than SQL alone followed by a standalone sort of the SQL results set.
The DBA will often need to use these tools in conjunction with one another—integrated and accessible from a central management console. This enables the DBA to perform core performance-oriented and database administration tasks from a single platform.
Many DBMS vendors provide solutions to manage their databases only; for example, Oracle provides Oracle Enterprise Manager, IBM offers Data Studio for DB2, and Microsoft provides SQL Server Management Studio for this purpose. Third-party vendors provide more robust options that act across heterogeneous environments such as multiple different database servers or operating systems. One example is Dell's Toad product family (there are others).
In general, it is only a good idea to use the DBMS vendor solution as your only management tool if your shop has just a single DBMS. Organizations with multiple DBMS engines running across multiple operating systems should investigate the third-party tool vendors with heterogeneous support (perhaps in addition to the single solution tools).
We will take a closer look at some of these types of tools, with a focus on DB2 for z/OS, in upcoming blog posts.