With both a free and PRO version, Plan Explorer builds upon the graphical plan view in SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) to make query plan optimization more efficient. It is a lightweight standalone app that contains many of the plan analysis features introduced in SQL Sentry v6, and does not require a collector service or database.
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See more of the plan on your screen thanks to our zoom controls and optimized layout algorithm. You can quickly identify the costliest operators through intuitive color coding. The Plan Diagram focuses on specific resource utilization by showing operator costs by I/O or CPU. It also displays the number of rows or total data size on operator exchange arrows and shows the expensive sub-trees by displaying cumulative costs instead of per-node costs.
The Statements Tree allows you to sort by any column, making it easier to focus on a specific metric without having to find it in the graphical plan. You can easily spot statements with the highest costs, duration, CPU, I/O, and row counts and quickly see discrepancies in actuals vs. estimates. You can compare different statements using a variety of revealed metrics, including key lookups, scan operations and missing indexes. If you are using Plan Explorer PRO, you can also see the entire plan tree for estimated plans and the full query call stack for actual plans.
The Plan Tree shows the hierarchical representation of the query plan. You can quickly spot costly scan operations and discrepancies in actual vs. estimated row counts. You can also immediately see imbalanced thread distribution in parallel operations. Another advantage is that you can review metrics like execution counts, data size, rebinds/rewinds and other costs per operation. If you would like a sortable representation of the Plan Tree then you can use the Top Operations tab.
The Join Diagram tab showing the underlying tables even when complex and nested views are involved. You can quickly visualize the relationship between tables involved in the plan and easily reorganize the layout using drag and drop.
The Query Columns tab shows every column being used in the plan, and its associated operation and index. It also shows whether columns are used for sorting, grouping or filtering. You can quickly spot scan operations, key lookups and actual vs. estimated discrepancies with color coding. You can also easily identify candidate columns for index changes to eliminate key lookups and scans.
The Parameters tab shows all query parameters and their compiled values. You can quickly spot potential plan issues due to parameter sniffing. With actual plans, you can also compare compiled and runtime values.
The Expressions tab shows simplified and expanded expressions that are used in the query. By looking at the tab, you can discover implicit conversions that you may not have spotted otherwise.
The Table I/O tab shows the I/O against each table and worktable involved in the plan as well as the scan count per table. It also shows the logical, physical and read-ahead reads, separated by in-row and LOB data, per table. These features allow you to spot potentially redundant operations.
The Plan Explorer SSMS add-in allows you to jump directly to Plan Explorer from SSMS by simply right-clicking an execution plan and choosing the "View with SQL Sentry Plan Explorer" context menu option. The add-in works with Management Studio for SQL Server 2005, SQL Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server 2014.
The layouts panel allows you to easily manage bigger query plans. With the easy-to-use toolbar, you can rotate, stretch and flatten your plans. You can also zoom in or out as well as apply a cost filter, which will remove operators if their cost is less than the specified value. If you don’t like viewing your query plans in the default layout, then the panel allows you to easily change to a different layout.
Plan Explorer PRO allows you to maintain a history of different versions as you fine tune your query. You can step forwards and backwards to compare different versions of your query within a single session. You can also revert back to any version of the query with a single click. Another advantage is that you can add contextual comments to any version of the plan and then save and share your work with other users, even if they are using the free version of Plan Explorer.
Plan Explorer PRO allows you to use multiple tabs to open multiple query tuning sessions in a single Plan Explorer instance. You can also pull a tab off the main interface or tile tabs vertically or horizontally with a Visual Studio-like docking interface. You can easily compare two or more plans or sessions side-by-side.
The Wait Stats tab is supported when generating actual plans against SQL Server 2008 and above. It allows you to quickly correlate and compare different types of waits that result from query or schema changes. You can also see where time was spent for your batch when generating an actual plan.
You can see the full tree and actual runtime metrics for all nested statements, aggregated to the calling statement. You can also easily trace the source of statements from dynamic SQL, conditional logic, loops and nested procedure calls. This allows you to identify nested statements or iterations that are outliers in terms of any performance metric.
With Plan Explorer PRO, you can open and troubleshoot deadlock files (.xdl) from any source. This helps you investigate many details about processes involved in the deadlock using the synchronized grid view. It also helps you track the sequence of events and other critical information in the graph view.
Plan Explorer helps you quickly get to the root of tough query tuning issues by making it obvious where issues exist in your execution plan. From highlighting expensive operations to allowing you to sort by any metric in most grids, you're never more than a click or two away from pinpointing a tuning opportunity. In Plan Explorer PRO you can open and compare multiple plans at the same time within one window, and quickly review changes due to different versions of your query.
Plan Explorer exposes many details about the operators in a plan that either aren't available or are very cumbersome to obtain otherwise. With actual execution plan generation you can see runtime metrics such as Reads, CPU and Duration, as well as thread distribution in parallel operators, all without manually setting statistics options or digging into a plan's properties. In Plan Explorer PRO you can even view actual wait stats when you generate an actual plan.
With Plan Explorer you can share .sqlplan and .queryanalysis files with colleagues. In Plan Explorer PRO you can share your entire session, including revision history and comments – even if your colleagues are using the free version.
SQL Sentry software undergoes intensive regression, scalability and overhead testing in our internal test lab of over 100 SQL Servers. It is then real-world tested in one of the largest SQL Server hosting environments in the U.S., until it is deemed stable enough to release to the public... no matter how long it takes. After release, our integrated, automated exception reporter gives us a perpetual feedback loop with our customers, who are continually surprised to receive a response from a real human usually within hours of submitting an exception.
While other SQL Server monitoring tools have stagnated, SQL Sentry has continued to push the envelope, introducing several industry firsts such as our patented SQL Server disk analysis, unrestricted historical performance reporting, comprehensive deadlock analysis, performance event calendars, intelligent wait analysis, and many more cutting edge features.
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In this white paper, SQL Server MVP Kevin Kline discusses the most common problems facing IT teams who focus their performance troubleshooting activities solely on wait statistics. This can serve as a useful and effective template for performance troubleshooting which you will be able to use over and over again whenever SQL Server performance is called into question.
Over on SQLPerformance.com, Erin Stellato of SQLskills.com has a blog series where she looks at different methods that can be used to track automatic updates to statistics. In her first post, she went through 3 options that are available in SQL Server: SQL Trace, Extended Events, and snapshots of sys.dm_db_stats_properties. In this post, she discusses how Plan Explorer and Performance Advisor make it easier to track automatic statistics updates.
Back in 2010, we first released SQL Sentry Plan Explorer, a free application for query tuning through deep but intuitive execution plan analysis. The following year, I created a demo kit for Plan Explorer, responding to numerous requests for demos to help people share the tool (without having to come up with their own problematic queries and interesting plans). The kit was designed to give people better insight into the advantages of our tool, and to help them share its virtues with colleagues, user groups, and the SQL Server community at large.
Have you ever worked with a query plan that was so large and unwieldy that it was next to impossible to make any sense of it? It can be a frustrating endeavor, for sure. Plan Explorer has always done some things that can help with these plans, such as color-scaling costs and vertically compressing subtrees. Even so, when you're zoomed out to 10% and still only fitting a quarter of the plan on screen, color-scaling won't buy you much.
It's hard to believe that we released the first version of Plan Explorer almost two years ago! The acceptance it has seen by the SQL Server community during that time has been amazing, and tremendously gratifying for all of us here at SQL Sentry. From the start we've had many requests for additional features and functionality. Many of those went directly into the free tool. For others, it was obvious that some serious heavy lifting and/or an increase in the support requirements would be involved, making them not well-suited for a free tool.
I’ve seen the question a few times now: “How do I compare two plans side-by-side in Plan Explorer?” Management Studio allows you to view multiple graphical plans that are visible simultaneously, either by generating plans for every statement in a batch, or by generating plans in separate query windows and then splitting the panes. However, at least in my estimation, a lot of the other metrics and properties are more valuable when performing comparisons.
Today we released a new build of SQL Sentry Plan Explorer. The build # is 6.2.34 and you can download it from the usual location. The updates in this release include a new "Check for Updates" feature accessible via the Help menu, other new additions to the Help menu, plan diagram tooltips which now indicate whether the operation is ordered and a new theme in place for all grids which is more consistent in both appearance and functionality with the grids in Event Manager / Performance Advisor.
Jonathan Kehayias of SQLskills discusses the advantages of using Plan Explorer. He shows one of his favorite execution plans in SQL Server Management Studio and compares it to what it looks like in Plan Explorer. He also walks through the different features of Plan Explorer.
Paul Randal of SQLskills shows how to analyze what's using space in tempdb, and provides an overview of how to use SQL Sentry Plan Explorer in the investigation. Immerse yourself in SQL Server with the SQLskills Insider newsletter.
During this 1 hour webcast, Brent Ozar and Tim Ford provide an overview of what each DBA should consider with SQL Server query plans. Aaron Bertrand shows the capabilities within SQL Server Management Studio and then demonstrates how SQL Sentry Plan Explorer can make query plan analysis so much easier.
Watch more Plan Explorer videos at: SQLSentry.TV
Much of the great functionality in Plan Explorer is free, however there are additional features available in Plan Explorer PRO. The PRO version is licensed per user; future version upgrades will be provided at a discount for current users. There is no annual maintenance for Plan Explorer PRO, and support is available via our knowledge base and online support forum.
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Plan Explorer FREE
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Plan Explorer PRO
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Plan Explorer is a single installation file containing both the FREE and PRO versions and SSMS add-in, which allows you to jump directly to Plan Explorer from SSMS. Upon launching the application or at any point after, users will have the capability to activate a 15-day trial of Plan Explorer PRO to evaluate the additional features. A license key can be entered to upgrade or Plan Explorer will convert to the FREE version after the 15-day trial.
.NET 4.5 MUST BE PRE-INSTALLED to install and use SQL Sentry Plan Explorer. Download .NET 4.5 here.