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SolarWinds Updates Plan Explorer to Boost SQL Query Performance

With so much hype around AI, generative AI and cybersecurity, it can be tough to generate excitement around something as ubiquitous as databases. But without that foundation, none of today’s tech – not to mention the bleeding-edge tech of tomorrow – would be possible.

“It’s not the most glamorous thing, but it’s like plumbing – you don’t want to notice it. If everything’s running smoothly, then whatever you build on top of it will be solid,” said Kevin Kline, senior staff technical marketing manager and database technology evangelist, SolarWinds.

To that end, SolarWinds recently announced new enhancements to Plan Explorer, a cost-free tool for analyzing query performance in Microsoft SQL environments. Plan Explorer is natively integrated with SQL Sentry, which SolarWinds gained through the acquisition of SentryOne in 2020.

Since acquiring SentryOne in 2020, the company has prioritized expanding its database offerings, and the new Plan Explorer enhancements are the latest addition to this strategy, Kline told ChannelE2E. 

The Plan Explorer tool helps database teams find the root of query problems in Microsoft SQL Server. By combining the Plan Explorer tool's detailed query plan analysis with the comprehensive monitoring and diagnostics of SQL Sentry, database administrators and developers can achieve a more effective approach to managing SQL Server performance, SolarWinds said. This dual approach helps ensure immediate query performance improvement and long-term SQL Server performance, stability, and efficiency.

Gartner said that 70% or more of database problems come from SQL code,” Kline said. “You have to be able to see what the SQL statements are to get to the root cause of issues and fix them. That’s where Plan Explorer comes in. All [relational databases] RDBs have a query optimizer that creates an execution plan, which is what Plan Explorer does. It finds problems so you can see very clearly what the issue is – like, ‘This is using the wrong join algorithm,’ or ‘The way the dev wrote this is causing issues,’ and then you can quickly address it.”

The enhancements to Plan Explorer include compatibility with SQL Server 2022, enhanced visibility with plan guide indication, streamlined deadlock investigation and a revamped start page for a more intuitive user experience. The new Plan Explorer start page also includes easy access to documentation, industry events, and information about other SolarWinds solutions.

Plan Explorer provides insights by graphically delivering query execution plans in comparisons, as well as color and layout options for diagrams. It also has a number of performance-tuning capabilities:

  • Runtime metrics unavailable in SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) 
  • Index scoring and histogram analysis 
  • Live query profile with resource charts 
  • Wait statistics with links to the SQLskills wait type library 
  • Full query call stack for dynamic SQL and iterative queries 
  • Session history, versioning, and comments 
  • Unique analysis and visualization of deadlocks

The feature enhancements are part of the company’s ongoing investment in its database solutions, which SolarWinds sees as a significant differentiator in the market, Kline said.

"We are specialists in this area, so we have very deep database expertise,” Kline said. “We know Plan Explorer is a beloved free product for the modern DBA, and we remain committed to investing in these products to make DBAs lives easier.”