Self-aware Instances

I like the idea of limited self-awareness in our systems.

I’ve been seeing lots of monitoring solutions written up lately. I saw this blog from Phil Darmanin on SQLServerCentral and we have had numerous articles written over the years on building monitoring solutions. The build vs. buy debate is one that companies regularly have, and if time is an issue, my company, Red Gate, sells a great solution in SQL Monitor that’s worth checking out.

However most of the solutions I see use a similar architecture. They have a central monitoring server that reaches out to all other servers and gathers information from them, which is rolled up into a database for reporting. That’s fine, but in many cases there isn’t a ton of testing or error handling built into home grown solutions, and when they fail, you lose data for the day. You also either go into fire-fighting mode to get things working, or you just drop data for a few days.

However I’ve had a different approach in the past. I’ve typically had a set of monitoring scripts that I’ve deployed to each instance, having them run on a schedule that gathers all the data on settings, changes, backups, jobs, etc. for that instance. I then have a central server that just reads that data from each instance, so if I have an issue with my rollup process, I still have the data on each instance. For this Friday, I wanted to ask this question of you:

Do you like the idea of architecting processes to be more self aware and distributed, or do you prefer some central process that reaches out to control everything?

It’s an interesting debate, and one that reminds me of an MIT competition years ago. Early in the 90s, there was a competition where different professors were trying to build robots to navigate a space. One team used a central CPU with complex instructions that controlled the legs and eyes and made decisions. The other used smaller, less powerful controllers in each leg and eye and had them “learn” to work together. Both worked well in different ways, but the latter approach always struck me as a more interesting one.

For your SQL Server, or application code, which approach to you prefer and why? Let us know this Friday.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcasts

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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