Cloud-Based SQL Server Performance Monitoring: Fact Versus Fiction
Dispelling the misconceptions
Database administrators (DBAs) are highly skilled individuals who are required by their organizations to have an eye for detail, an awareness of what is happening, and the need to retain control. It is no surprise that DBAs are reluctant to relinquish control of the very systems that help them keep their workloads healthy and allow them to meet their key performance indicators. Software as a service (SaaS) has, for some time, proven its worth by reducing cost of ownership and eliminating low-value maintenance activity. Seeding control in some areas can deliver large rewards elsewhere. This strategy can be a struggle at first, but DBAs very quickly realize huge benefits in leveraging their skills and experience to solve bigger problems
Some DBAs insist that having performance monitoring tools on-premises gives them more freedom to customize it in order to meet the specific needs of their systems. But all these activities take time, and most DBAs have little desire to complete them.
Recently, more DBAs seem open to exploring the benefits of cloud-based monitoring for their on-premises and cloud workloads. Some of the more attractive benefits they cite include automatic updates and extended storage capabilities, which allow DBAs to track trends. These features not only improve SQL server database performance, but they also free up the DBA’s time and the organization’s money for other high-value endeavors.
Despite the increased acceptance, there are still DBAs out there who are holding onto fallacies about SQL server performance monitoring in the cloud. Let’s dispel some of the misconceptions.
Fiction: The cloud is not as secure as on-premises performance monitoring
When someone asks me whether the cloud is secure enough for performance monitoring, I counter with my own question: Does your organization currently use any other SaaS applications?
DBAs tend to live in their on-premises SQL server databases, and they don’t look around much. It’s possible they are not fully aware of how far their company has waded into cloud adoption already.
Once DBAs consider how much sensitive data their organizations already entrust to the cloud — including sales, customer, and employee data — they start to relax.
The proliferation of SaaS applications has done an excellent job putting security at the top of everyone’s list of priorities. SaaS development organizations are hiring specialized security staff, conducting regular audits of security best practices and infrastructure, and implementing an unprecedented level of scrutiny.
Although the perception is that a SQL server performance monitoring solution housed in the cloud is less secure, the reality is that there is much more protection and scrutiny on that code, that environment, and that storage than there ever was before.
Fiction: Unsecured data will be uploaded to the cloud
Another common misconception is that moving SQL Server performance monitoring to the cloud also puts your data in the cloud unsecured. This puts your organization at risk for major legal trouble.
With performance monitoring in the cloud, you are storing metrics, counters, and similar types of data fragments, not personally identifiable information, so the implications are significantly different. The only way data could inadvertently end up in the cloud because of a performance monitoring tool would be if you scanned the SQL in the database and a poorly written SQL statement embedded a data fragment in the code that was uploaded.
Although code slipping out is unlikely, some SaaS performance monitoring solutions include the ability to strip out any data fragments embedded in the code. And you can always desensitize the data so it is purely performance-related.
Fiction: Cloud-powered database performance monitoring tools can only monitor cloud workloads
Many people still believe that cloud-based monitoring solutions are only for cloud-based workloads. SaaS monitoring tools are able to take and ingest data from both the cloud and on-premises workloads. “Cloud-based” simply refers to where the tool is deployed, not what it monitors.
Having a SQL server performance monitoring tool that can monitor both types of workloads while an organization completes its cloud migration is a distinct advantage. In a hybrid environment, DBAs can monitor the on-premises workload for a period, then look at the performance data over time to see what boundaries it has. After deploying the cloud-based workload and monitoring it for the same period of time, it is easy to compare the two workloads side by side over time to determine whether they are equivalent, and then make adjustments as needed.
Fiction: Moving to the cloud makes it difficult to meet SLAs
When you move your SQL server performance monitoring to the cloud, there is little risk of not fulfilling SLAs because an outage in one data center prompts a failover to another huge data center, and you can spin up a new version in seconds.
When your performance monitoring solution is on-premises, you are limited to your own resources and your own expertise. Although you may be monitoring mission critical systems, performance monitoring itself isn’t usually considered mission critical, so you won’t get the kind of investment that will give you the top-tier availability you get in the cloud.
Fiction: Configuring cloud-based performance monitoring tools is complex
Many DBAs believe that setting up and configuring SQL server performance monitoring in the cloud is complicated because you have to navigate firewalls. The reality is quite the opposite.
Because you are not setting up servers and databases, when you implement a cloud-based SQL Server performance monitoring solution, all you have to do is configure a few basic firewall rules, and you are up and running. It’s all preconfigured.
With a cloud-based system, the time sinks disappear because the system is maintained, automatically updated, reliable, and scalabile.
In contrast to some lingering misconceptions, monitoring SQL Server performance in the cloud is secure, easy, cost-effective, and an overall good business decision. To those who are still on the fence about switching to a cloud-based solution, all I can say is, rather than running out and doing lots of research, spend 30 minutes installing a cloud-based performance monitoring tool, and you will see the benefits immediately.