Do You Know How Many SQL Servers You Have?

by Oct 16, 2020

It’s a pretty straightforward question that many database teams may have difficulty answering. For multiple reasons, it may become necessary to get a handle on how many SQL Servers are in an environment and where the instances are located. In a complex IT landscape that may include several cloud providers and on-premises data centers, it may not be possible to gather the required information when it is needed without a dedicated software solution.

IDERA’s SQL Inventory Manager offers an efficient and reliable means of keeping tabs on many aspects of your SQL Server environment, including how many instances exist and where they live. We will talk more about this tool in a bit, but first, let’s look at why you need to have this information available in the first place.

Why Perform an SQL Server Inventory?

There are several reasons that IT management or a database team may need to have detailed knowledge of their SQL Server environment. The failure to obtain this information can result in financial issues, capacity problems, and security vulnerabilities. While the genesis of these problems may be far beyond the reach of the database team, they may be tasked with cleaning things up once issues are discovered.

SQL Server sprawl – The ease with which new instances of SQL Server can be implemented makes the problem of server sprawl a reality in many organizations. Rather than shut down unused instances and making them available for reuse, it is more expedient for developers to stand up a new database. This practice can quickly lead to an explosion of unmanaged instances spread across an organization’s cloud provider’s infrastructure.

Shadow IT – The term Shadow IT refers to users implementing IT solutions that bypass enterprise software management policies. The existence of cloud providers has made it a trivial exercise for a developer to take advantage of available resources and use systems, including SQL Server instances, that have not gone through the normal approval process.

Over time, these systems can become embedded and fill an important role in the activities of specific departments or users. It may not be possible to simply identify and shut down Shadow IT systems which can lead to some serious problems.

  • Systems that are not managed at an enterprise level may present additional security vulnerabilities that can expose sensitive corporate data to misuse.

  • Data loss can be an issue with Shadow IT systems if they are not part of the enterprise backup and recovery plans.

  • Capacity planning cannot be efficiently carried out if there are unknown systems using enterprise hardware resources.

Compliance – Compliance can come into play on several fronts. Unknown systems may lead to non-compliance with both vendor licensing terms and regulatory standards, either of which can result in unexpected financial penalties.

Server management – What should be simple issues such as ensuring SQL Servers are backed up and patched can become a nightmare when there are unidentified systems in the environment. 

As you can see, there are valid reasons for performing an SQL Server inventory to identify resources so potential problems can be addressed before they occur. It’s impossible to take the necessary steps to protect and manage an environment if there are unknown systems lurking about. 

Obstacles That May Get in the Way of an Inventory

From the perspective of a responsible member of the database team, it seems like a no-brainer that conducting regular SQL Server inventories is a good idea. If you are said DBA, you may get some pushback from a few different directions. Fortunately, you can address these attempts to thwart your efforts fairly easily.

  • Complaints may be heard from Shadow IT users who don’t want to give up their unapproved solutions. There is an evolving stance that some CIOs are taking toward Shadow IT that may minimize these concerns. It is possible that the previously unapproved solutions can be incorporated into the enterprise environment once they have been discovered and their utility verified.

  • Scanning the environment for new SQL Server instances can cause issues with the security team responsible for monitoring system intrusion. These concerns can be addressed by scheduling scans at specific times to alleviate unnecessary alerts.

  • It may be hard to convince management that spending on SQL Server inventory control is a justifiable business expense. That is until you explain the costs associated with a failed license audit or a data breach caused by unknown and unsecured development systems that are using copies of production data.

Once the realization is made that conducting a periodic SQL Server inventory is in order, all that’s left is deciding on the best application to provide the information you need.

Using an Effective Inventory Management Tool

SQL Inventory Manager is an effective tool for monitoring and tracking your physical and virtual SQL Servers wherever they are housed. It provides a vehicle from which to perform SQL Server discovery, inventory, health checking, and light alerting on a subset of performance metrics. An IDERA Webcast is available that takes a deep dive into the features of the tool and walks the viewer through some real-world examples of situations that demonstrate the importance of the information it provides.

Here are some of the benefits that can be enjoyed through the use of the tool.

  • Discover all SQL Server instances in your environment.
  • Manage the server spawn that can easily affect organizations using SQL Server.
  • Categorize servers with tags for enhanced identification and support.
  • Report on health checks, licensing, and chargebacks.

A web-based and agentless graphical user interface adds to the flexibility of SQL Inventory Manager and makes it easier to identify issues quickly. If your organization makes use of SQL Servers, you may be surprised at what you find out about your environment with this tool. Then you can concentrate on what to do about it.