Troubleshooting your database system when it’s having problems is no longer enough. With the recent onslaught of audit requirements, database administrators (DBAs) must stay on top of system and query performance on a regular basis in order to keep up with their environment as changes occur.

With the 2.1 release of Speed Coefficient, Imceda Software Inc. has greatly increased its graphical SQL Server trace tool’s performance, adding features that extend Coefficient’s baselining and troubleshooting capabilities well beyond those of Microsoft Corp.’s SQL Profiler. Without a doubt, this is the most useful trace tool I have ever seen.

Coefficient uses the same trace mechanisms that SQL Profiler does. In fact, a trace performed in Coefficient will produce the same trace files that one in SQL Profiler would. But unlike SQL Profiler, Coefficient loads the trace files into a database and aggregates the queries and their execution stats to give you an accurate, detailed picture of what’s going on within your database. It even picks through the miscellaneous SQL calls you would ordinarily have to pick through by hand.

Coefficient installs very easily; a few clicks and you’re done. Furthermore, it requires only a client-side install; nothing is needed on the server side.

After I installed Coefficient, I traced a server under very high user load. The process proved simple. You can configure Coefficient to trace in either Express or Advanced mode. Express mode asks for minimal input, then it quickly gets you on your way.

Advanced mode allows you to fine-tune every aspect of your trace; I was able to include and exclude users, programs and different trace elements, as well as set an amount of time for the trace to run. Coefficient also comes with a plethora of default trace templates and it allows you to define your own.

You may also choose to have Coefficient automatically analyze the data after a trace is complete. You can customize Coefficient’s predefined analysis templates to provide the level of detail you require and to filter out all but the specific problems you’re looking for. You may, for example, choose to see only those queries that use more than a certain amount of the CPU or that run over a certain time, or you may choose to see only security information or deadlocks.

As the analysis engine runs, it shows you what it’s doing every step of the way, which is especially helpful if a trace takes longer than expected. This feature is a significant improvement on the last version, in which the analysis wizard simply told you that it was “analyzing data.” Now you can easily be certain that your trace is making progress.

Coefficient’s tracing and analysis capabilities are standard; its true power resides in its reporting. Coefficient generates easy-to-read charts and tables. In a simple frame view, you can select subject areas and drill down deeply into details.

Coefficient also provides intelligent analysis. Its SQL Health section analyzes server workload and tells you how your stored procedures should be performing given the workload involved. The procedures that need attention are marked in red.

Coefficient does have its limitations. It doesn’t compare two separate traces, nor does it have a central repository. The tool also doesn’t allow for easy customization of the front end, nor does it allow you to schedule recurring traces. But Imceda says it will add these features and other ones later this year.

Overall, Coefficient does a much better job than the competition, and it’s definitely worth the investment while it’s still young.

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