So, how can we demo this thing?
In the beginning there was a product, and it was a good product for the testers had decreed it so, and nobody argues with a tester. But then comes the inevitable question of how can somebody test it out without risk. Red Gate prides itself on the tools being easy for people to trial before they buy, and no cut down trial for you sir, oh no, for you sir only the best will do – a fully functional trial – suits you sir.
The problem comes when you get a tool that has to be configured to use your live servers in order to trial it, the average dba has better things to do than trial products in this way. This makes actually seeing what the tool feels like to use a bit difficult, you could rely on product videos (quality varies and you always have that sneaking suspicion it has been rehearsed for days) or bite the bullet and commit your time to perform the install to see for yourself. Neither solution is particularly attractive.
Now SQL Monitor has an architecture that lends itself well to a demo, there is a back end database for storage, a base monitor for actually doing the monitoring and a web UI front end which requests data from the base monitor. So the team set one of their number on working out a solution, the inestimable Philip Wise.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could show this working on a real site, a really big site, a famous site. As it happens we have such a beast available to us – what about letting people see what it looks likes when we monitor SQL Server Central. There is an element of showing our dirty laundry in public but let’s be honest and let people make up their own mind.
Obviously we don’t want people to be able to modify the alerts on the live system so some modifications had to be made to make the web UI be read-only and not need a password entry. Then we needed to work out where to host this. We decided on EC2 primarily because it was easy to set-up (the testers had been using it for large scale testing of SQL Monitor), allowed the user to install full programs on the system and provided a load balancer so that we could have a couple of actual SQL Monitor installs.
The data from SQL Server Central is actually replicated into local databases on EC2 from the actual live monitoring system in the SQL Server Central DMZ, this is actually working quite well and although we have seen a hiccough once it recovered quickly.
Having the load balancer in place has meant it’s easy to take one server out of the pool perform updates on it and switch it live with one click being able to switch back to the old system should there be a problem or just go ahead and update the old system and bring it back into the pool.
The result – go on try it yourself if you don’t believe me
This has meant we have a fantastic demo site available world-wide for a next generation monitoring tool for little initial outlay. Will the site remain on EC2 in the long term, not sure, the cost is not insignificant in comparison to static hosting so we’ll see how things develop.
All in all a great tool with a great demo “in the cloud”. Neat.
First published on Simple Talk on November 23, 2010