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SQL Sentry Then and Now

With the release of SQL Sentry 2023.3, I look back at the past 18 years I have worked with the product to admire where it is today versus then. It’s been an incredible experience with a lot of moving parts, but no matter what market forces or acquisitions happen along the way, the core intention of “Improving the lives of Microsoft DBAs everywhere” has stayed the same. This is a two-part blog post: below, I’ll talk about our history and where we’ve come from. In the next post, I’m excited to talk more about the great work happening to help our customers now. 

SQL Sentry Then

In 2005, I began a support role with a new company for a product called SQL Sentry. Microsoft hadn’t released SQL Server 2005 yet, so SQL Server 2000 was the most commonly deployed version in the market. My first responsibility was to assist current customers of SQL Sentry v1 to upgrade to SQL Sentry v2.0. At that time, SQL Sentry provided two main feature sets: an Outlook-style calendar view of SQL Agent Jobs and SMTP-based email alerting for the execution of those jobs. This was before Database Mail, and simply receiving an email alert on a job failure with native tools meant setting up SQL Mail, which was dependent on MAPI. *Shudder I shudder because SQL Sentry wasn’t developed from a desire to make tools for SQL Server. We began as a custom development company with a SQL Server hosting division. We were struggling to manage and monitor our growing farm of SQL Servers. We had pains, looked for a solution on the market, didn’t find one, and set out to develop our own. Most DBAs at the time needed a more centralized way to view and monitor SQL Agent Jobs across a large, dynamic SQL Server environment. They also needed more reliable alerting related to those events, with a centralized way to configure and manage it all. We knew they needed this because we needed it, too.

SQL Sentry Was Born

It was at the PASS Summit in 2004 that SQL Sentry first made its public appearance and set out to answer the question, “If we feel these pains and need a tool like this, maybe other SQL Server DBA’s find value in it as well” From there, you can guess how things went; the rest is history. The reason I took you on this little trip down memory lane - aside from the fact that I’ve been doing this long enough that children born that year are now old enough to vote - is to make the point that every feature built into SQL Sentry was from direct feedback we captured from DBAs and Developers working with SQL Server. We’re feeling those pains, too, so we ensured what we built was as efficient and effective as possible without adding to the performance problems on your server.

SQL Sentry Growth Plans

As the customer base continued to grow, we looked to many more needs from our users. Beyond scheduled events, we needed centralized visualization and alerting for the general performance of our SQL Servers. This included identifying individual queries that were running long and/or consuming heavy resources. We also needed to develop it in a way that was as lightweight as possible. The tools on the market that provided these insights were heavy-handed in their collection of server and query data. A performance monitoring tool shouldn’t contribute to your servers’ performance issues. It's an ongoing involvement with and contributions to, the SQL Server Community that played a large role in SQL Sentry acquiring the customers and recognition it did over two decades. We became experts at listening to Microsoft DBAs, contributing to community discussions, and integrating solutions into our product.

Virtualization of SQL Server

Next came the virtualization of SQL Server. I remember over five years time, my customer conversations went from “Virtualization is a great idea, but doesn’t make sense for SQL Server” to “Most of our SQL Servers are virtualized running on VMWare or Hyper-V”. SQL Sentry consulted community experts and added support for guest-level virtualization metrics, along with VM host monitoring. We then could continue to deliver a complete picture across the entire technology stack that impacted our users.

History Repeats Itself – Cloud Technology Emerges

It’s funny how history seems to repeat itself. By 2015, I was in the same conversations, but instead of “virtualization”, customers were starting to run SQL Server in “the cloud.” As new platforms emerged and data estates become hybridized across on-premises with multiple cloud vendors, we evolved to support that journey as well.

SQL Sentry and SolarWinds

Then, the pandemic happened, followed quickly by an acquisition of SQL Sentry by SolarWinds. Not just SQL Sentry but our entire industry faced a lot of uncertainty. As the dust settled, much had changed. The pandemic took a major toll on the SQL Server Community. Names changed, people moved on internally here at SolarWinds, and the community is just now starting to rebuild and recover. Through it all, SQL Sentry simply wasn’t as strong of a presence as it once was. Many long-time friends began to question if SQL Sentry was long for this world and if it was part of the SolarWinds product strategy at all. I’m here to tell you the answer to the above is an emphatic YES! Not only is SQL Sentry still the same great Microsoft Data Platform performance monitoring solution, but we’re also hard at work building enhancements to modernize the look and feel of the product based on customer feedback. The 2023.3 release of SQL Sentry is our moment to shine as a part of our new home here at SolarWinds. I’m proud of where we’ve been and have so much gratitude to the community that brought us this far. We can’t wait to show you what’s next. Read more about what we’re working on today in SQL Sentry Want to see SQL Sentry Portal in action? Try the online demo tool
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Steven Wright
Steve (@SQL_Steve) is a fourteen-year veteran of SentryOne, and has held roles in Solutions Engineering, Quality Assurance, Product Management, and Advanced Analytics prior to assuming…
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