Configure a SQL Server Standalone Performance Monitoring Instance

SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition has enough combined features that you can now centralize monitoring your SQL Server instances from a single point. What this allows you to do is to enable pro-active performance monitoring of your SQL Server infrastructure so that you can identify trends and alerts in common areas that require monitoring such as query performance, server capacity and resource utilization.

This is not meant to replace more feature-rich off-the-shelf products that monitoring the health of SQL Server with specific designs that allow DBAs to take SQL Server performance monitoring to the next level. But that being said, here is a common set of steps that you can take to enable centralized monitoring with SQL Server 2008 R2:

  1. Determine how many instances you are going to monitor centrally from this monitoring SQL Server instance. If the number of instances is greater than 25, then you may want to buy the SQL Server license for this monitoring server as Data Center because the UCP feature which I’ll touch on in this posting, requires Data Center to monitor more than 25 SQL Server instances centrally with UCP. At minimum, you will require Enterprise Edition so that you can use MDW (also explained below) which is required at each monitored instance, too.
  2. The hardware for the monitoring server does not need to be the beefiest of your iron in terms of RAM or CPU. This is a monitoring server, not a database server for OLTP or DW workloads. That being said, you will centralize data collection of performance stats across your instances here, so this server will need disk space.
  3. The out-of-the-box (with SQL Server EE) features that we’ll use to make this work are Utility Control Point (UCP) , Management Data Warehouse (MDW) and Central Management Server (CMS). CMS is available in ALL editions of SQL Server 2008. I’m not going to go any further in this post about multi-server management and central management of your servers. I’ll stay focused on monitoring SQL Server. I’ll leave you with a promise to follow-up with a similar entry on how to MANAGE SQL Server centrally with CMS, DAC & PBM. Let me just say this: centralizing your monitoring on a single instance like this helps to set you up for centralizing management, too. So this becomes another added benefit to this technique and approach.
  4. Let’s start with MDW on your central monitoring instance of SQL Server (2008 R2, of course). In SSMS on the Management folder, right-click on “Data Collection” and select “Configure Management Data Warehouse”. You will run through the wizard here to set up the MDW collection database on your central instance.
  5. Next, configure MDW on each instance that you want to monitor. When you run through the wizard on the monitored instance, you want to set-up the data collectors to collect stats on that instance and send the data to the centralized MDW database. Do not just default to setting up each & every instance of SQL Server to collect and send to MDW. The reasons for this include that not every instance that you have in your environment will be Enterprise Edition and you also need to understand that based on the # of instances & stats you collect and the collection interval will effect the amount of data being stored and retained in the MDW centralized database. This can result in very large MDW databases. Be sure to automate the purge history job for the data warehouse.
  6. Now configure UCP on the central monitoring instance. To get to the configuration tool for UCP, choose View | Utility Explorer in SSMS. You will see the set-up option now in SSMS for UCP. Once you’ve walked through the wizard to set up the local centralized UCP instance, you can now enroll instances into the UCP. This is done from the central server in the Utility Explorer. Select the Managed Instance node, right-click and select Enroll Instance. Be aware that these instances must be SQL Server 2008 R2. In the NOTES section below, I’ll point you to some ways that you can use MDW for SQL Server instances other than 2008 R2.
  7. Lastly, Central Management Server (CMS) will allow you to create groups in the central monitoring server’s SSMS where you can run queries and access the remote instances from a single SSMS instance. Why this is important to centralized performance monitoring is because with CMS, one thing that you can do is to run DMV queries across all of your monitored instances from that single central instance with one single query execution. This will allow you to get results back from a number of instances around missing indexes, long-running queries, buffer size, etc. by running 1 query.


Here are my examples of how to configure MDW to collect through a pull mechanism instead of the classic push data collector mechanism so that you can collect stats from SQL Server instances that are not SQL Server 2008 instances.

Here is where I talk a little bit about actually using these tools on your monitoring instance once you have it up & running.


6 thoughts on “Configure a SQL Server Standalone Performance Monitoring Instance

  1. Thanks for the post, which guides me setting up both MDW/Data Collection and UCP on the same central monitoring instance. But after configuring MDW/Data Collector (step 4 and 5 in the post) and coming to step 6, I could not pass validation requirements in the “Create a UCP” wizard. Disabling the Data Collector and excuting “exec msdb.dbo.sp_syscollector_set_warehouse_database_name NULL” and “exec msdb.dbo.sp_syscollector_set_warehouse_instance_name NULL” did not help. would you help me out? Thanks!

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