Database dev and admin made pleasurable

Database development and administration are complex tasks, particularly when you’re working with various flavors in a mixed environment. Quest Central 4.0 eases the process, by giving developers useful tools to produce efficient code before they produce a database, and by giving administrators tools to help track problems.

Quest Central provides graphic administration for DB2, Oracle, and SQL Server databases. By delivering a single interface for all these databases in a mixed environment, it abstracts the details of each brand. But this isn’t really where Quest Central shines; many products on the market offer the same functionality.

Rather, Quest Central stands out thanks to its interface, with its built-in SQL editor that allows you to write and edit stored procedures, views, and ad-hoc queries. The interface’s tabbed panes enable you to easily make changes to code and view results and execution plans. The SQL editor also has auto-complete functionality, easily customizable code templates, and statement history. The I/O statistics display boasts a bar graph that shows statement statistics graphically. Unfortunately, execution plans are displayed on different panes, which makes it difficult to compare queries as part of a batch.

For fine-tuning queries, Quest Central’s SQL Tuning Lab is simply extraordinary. You can manually rewrite different versions of a query and see the difference in query cost. (Query cost is relative to system resources: the fewer the resources used, the lower the cost.)

Alternatively, you can set Quest Central to automatic mode, from which the solution will test different versions of your code to determine which is most efficient.

Quest has integrated Benchmark Factory and Data Factory into Quest Central, which will give developers ample reason to fall in love it. Benchmark Factory allows you to simulate different user loads against your database. It is completely agentless and allows you to create many different scenarios at a time. You may create your own workloads from scratch, or capture a live one from SQL Profiler.

Data Factory allows you to create data from predefined lists or to auto-generate it, if you prefer. It can populate the database or create flat files to be ported to another system.

Quest Central relieves admins from having to look at rows and rows of numbers. Instead, it creates maps of databases and allows you to see how fragmented it is. Not only is each type of structure assigned a different color, but you can select from many ways to view your fragmentation as objects, file groups, or pages. Users can even set threshold sensitivity.

After you view a map, Quest Central can create reindex scripts for you. From these scripts, you can either modify and run them, or you can schedule a job to run them during off-hours.

Quest Central’s database analysis tool allows you to define snapshot periods for all your servers and collects performance statistics for you. It also creates graphs and analyzes the data. You can easily narrow the stats down to a specific timeframe or choose to isolate specific performance metrics.

On the downside, the cost may be a stumbling block for some companies. The solution starts at US$1,495 per server running Microsoft SQL Server; at US$6,552 for DB2; and at a hefty US$11,800 for Oracle. That expense may be difficult to justify, even with Data Factory and Benchmark Factory.

Despite its price tag, Quest Central 4.0 is a tremendous tool for developers and admins. Its intuitive features amazed me with their powerful functionality. If you can justify the investment, the more you use this tool, the more you will love it.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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