Monitoring and Troubleshooting SQL Server Performance in .NET

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Monitoring and Troubleshooting SQL Server Performance
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Lesson 3: Using the Database Engine Tuning Advisor
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The Database Engine Tuning Advisor (DTA) is the greatly enhanced replacement to the Index Tuning Wizard tool that shipped with previous versions of SQL Server. DTA plays an important role in an overall performance solution, letting you leverage the query optimizer to receive recommendations on indexes, indexed views, or partitions that could improve performance. Hackers have developed sophisticated algorithms for breaking into secure systems, but the most time-honored approach and the one that has a 100 percent success rate is the brute force attack. DTA applies the same concept, taking a workload file as an input and then exhaustively testing each query against all possible permutations of indexes, indexed views, and partitions to come up with the best possible solution. This lesson will explain all of the options available in DTA and how to integrate this powerful tool into your performance-tuning work.
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After this lesson, you will be able to:
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Build a workload file. Configure DTA to analyze a workload. Save recommendations from DTA.
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Estimated lesson time: 45 minutes
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If DTA fails to start
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There have been many reports of DTA failing to start and displaying a C++ compile error. This is a known issue related to incompatible registry settings that older applications might have added. If you cannot get DTA to start, see the Microsoft article Bug Details: Database Engine Tuning Advisor (at http://lab.msdn.microsoft.com/productfeedback/ViewFeedback.aspx FeedbackID=631e881c4b0f-4c5c-b919-283a71cea5fe) for information about how to fix the problem.
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Real World
Michael Hotek I have been doing performance-tuning work in SQL Server for well over a decade. What I have heard for too long from too many people is that performance tuning is an art form. That could not be further from the truth. Composing the next number one hit, painting a masterpiece, or building an original
Lesson 3: Using the Database Engine Tuning Advisor
piece of furniture is an art. Performance tuning is nothing more than the application of knowledge based on a set of rules to produce a result. Although processor utilization, amount of memory available, and disk I/O can affect database query performance, SQL Server s query optimizer plays a critical role in the performance of any query. SQL Server is a piece of software that is written based on rules. The optimizer applies a defined, but not documented, set of rules to determine how to gather the data that a query requests. We can only deduce these basic rules by understanding how data is organized in SQL Server as well as inspecting showplans to see the query paths that various queries have taken. From these pieces of information, we can start to apply the rules of performance tuning. At many organizations, gathering and analyzing data to determine where the performance issues are is the first hurdle. The second hurdle is in understanding what to do about the issues to improve performance. Although many performance issues require changes to the code that is executing, many more can be solved simply by adding indexes, dropping indexes, or changing indexes, which is where DTA plays an important role in any environment. It enables you to get at core issues related to indexing without having to spend large amounts of time on analysis. One of the first things I do at a customer site when dealing with performance issues is to start Profiler and begin capturing queries. I can then take that Profiler trace and feed it directly into DTA. Using the trace I give it, DTA simply takes each query and applies the rules of the optimizer in a nearly exhaustive manner. It uses the query costing values to determine whether a particular query could benefit from having indexes or indexed views created for it or whether partitioning the table would improve performance. The index recommendations let me zero in on particular areas as well as particular queries that I need to look at. In many cases, running DTA regularly and using its recommendations can help avoid or mitigate performance issues. Although running DTA doesn t eliminate the need for further analysis, as I will describe in subsequent lessons in this chapter, it can at least keep your phone from ringing off the hook with users upset at the responsiveness of a system and let you spend more time doing even deeper analysis to accomplish even better performance.
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