Aireforge Studio Community Edition

It’s no secret that the SQL Server community is one of the best technical communities going. The amount of free content out there is amazing, from great blogs on almost every feature available, to direct access to experts via #sqlhelp on Twitter, or on the SQL Server Community Slack channel (join here) and the free events like SQLBits and SQLSaturday.

There’s also loads of great free scripts and programs out there like sp_whoisactive, Ola’s maintenance scripts and the awesome dbatools project, and now there’s another free tool to add to your armoury; Aireforge Studio Community Edition.

Free & Unlimited

Our instance comparison tool, Compare, and our multi-server scripting tool, Script, have always been free; but limited to 2 instances of SQL Server. Starting with v.1.1.7, this limit was lifted, so you can now use it against an unlimited number of SQL Server or Azure SQL Database instances. Since then we’ve also added, Estate, our RDP / SSMS manager and Checks, our lightweight health check module; both are also free and unlimited.

Screenshots

Estate

Organise servers into tags, colour code them, change the columns on the overview and even launch Remote Desktop Manager (RDP) and SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). Any changes here will be instantly propagated out to your colleagues, if you’re using a shared profile. This is especially useful for servers with complex names or when ensuring that all members of the team share a single view of the estate, using tags, notes and colours to reinforce the purpose of each server.

Checks

A lightweight health check module that can analyse hundreds of servers in minutes, or seconds if you choose individual checks over the full scan. The default health checks are designed to find the most common and most worrying issues, but it’s also possible to create your own custom health checks.

Compare (inc. CLI)

The original instance comparison tool and obviously the best, starting life as OmniCompare in 2015. Now Aireforge Compare, it’s able to quickly scan and display the differences between hundreds of servers.

Most users will only compare two or three instances, but we wrote this to maintain large replication environments, where every subscriber needs to be perfectly synchronised with each other. Another great use case is synchronising availability groups, especially agent jobs and users.

Compare currently ships with 45 checks, each one customised for specific versions of SQL Server. Like health checks, you can even create your own custom comparisons.

Configuration Snapshots

Snapshots enable you to create a point in time record of the instance, which can then be shared with colleagues or saved for reference purposes. Use cases include: attaching the snapshot to health checks, performance reviews or with each release, creating a record of the state before and after.

Four ways to use instance snapshots

OmniCompareCLI.exe

Yes, it hasn’t been renamed yet but the OmniCompare CLI enables developers to automate the comparison within Aireforge Compare. Add a check for server objects into your deployments scripts or automate a comparison against a snapshot, highlighting any unexpected configuration changes.

Script

The Microsoft Central Management Servers (CMS) and Remote Desktop Manager are great, but they’re lacking functionality and haven’t had much attention in recent years or are no longer maintained. So, given that Aireforge users already have their estates loaded into their profiles (which can be shared), we thought it made sense to build a scripting module into Aireforge Studio too.

Optimize (free trial)

This module isn’t free, so we won’t talk about it for too long, but you get a free 14 day trial of it with Community Edition. Basically, it’s an advanced health check and best practice analyser which not only gives you the scripts to fix your issues, but also points you to some of the great articles that we talked about at the start of the blog. This not only increases your knowledge but helps to make a more informed decision about the changes the application recommends.

Photo by William White on Unsplash

Four ways to use instance snapshots

Instance snapshots can be invaluable to anyone working with servers. From tracking differences over time, to change deployment, here are some ideas on how they can help you. Then, discover how you can use the free tools in Aireforge Studio to implement them.

Tracking differences over time

By taking a snapshot of your servers’ configuration at the right moment, you can use it as a baseline for comparison in the future. This is helpful when:

  • You’re taking a holiday and you want to know what happened while you were away.
  • You want to capture the ‘before’ of a client’s servers prior to a health check. You might add this to a report to show the improvements you’ve made.
  • There’s a change freeze and you’d like extra reassurance nothing has been amended by accident.

Change deployment

When you’re deploying changes:

Take a snapshot prior to any changes to use as a configuration back up. Then, when you’re making changes, you can test them against an exact recreation of your servers, helping to minimize mistakes when you go live. You can also do this during performance tuning.

When someone else is deploying changes:

With a snapshot, you’ll be able to see any impact others’ changes may have had on your servers by comparing a pre-changes snapshot with post-release servers.

Remote troubleshooting

Working with servers that you don’t have access to? Get your customer to capture a configuration snapshot, then use this for analysis, comparison and more. This way, you’ll get the information you need, save support costs and reduce turnaround time.

Golden configuration template

When you’ve got a server into an ideal state, you might use a snapshot of it to:

  • Share configurations with colleagues as an example of best practice.
  • Use as a reference or template for future server setup.
  • Use as future reference for the same server if it experiences performance issues later down the line.
  • Create example files to distribute with your software to aid installations.

How Aireforge Studio helps

In Aireforge Studio’s Compare module (totally free), you can capture and save a snapshot. Then, use it for comparison against the same servers (for comparing server differences over time), comparing against other servers (useful when using your server as a golden template, or for viewing and sharing.

Taking a snapshot

From the Compare tab, check the server/s you want to take a configuration snapshot of.  Press the ‘Snapshot’ button, then choose ‘All comparisons’ or ‘Selected comparisons’ (depending on whether you want to snapshot all configuration or just a subset).

Snapshot button

You will then be prompted to save the snapshot to file. That’s it! You can now use this saved snapshot to compare against any of your servers within Aireforge Studio.

Using a snapshot

To compare the snapshot against the same servers captured within it, go straight to the next step. To compare against other servers, select those you wish to compare against first.

Press ‘Load’ and select the snapshot to open. If you recently took the snapshot, it will appear on the drop-down menu.

snapshot 2

Next, a dialog will be shown to let you choose what to do with the snapshot:

Loading snapshot dialog
  • Compare with same servers: compares the contents of the snapshot against the current state of the same servers.
  • Compare with currently selected servers: compares the contents of the snapshot against the currently checked servers on the Compare tab.
  • View only: simply opens the snapshot for viewing, without taking any new snapshot.

When comparing the snapshot against any servers, the comparison will be against the current state of the servers. You will now be presented with the comparison results or a view-only snapshot file.

All of the functionality in this post is free. Download yours at aireforge.com

Image courtesy of https://unsplash.com/@makariostang

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