Best Techniques for Database Performance Tuning

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In the digital age, the world of business largely runs on data. In terms of revenue, the size of the globaldata center market is projected to grow to about $273 Billion by 2026. Databases are a key pillar of this market. This is because for data to be easily accessible to those who need it, database systems should be running smoothly and always available. 

However, in reality, many administrators often find it challenging to guarantee efficient running and constant availability of databases. Not that it’s impossible, but one requires much time, the right techniques and constant effort to achieve impeccable database performance.

There are many reasons why databases may fail to perform well. Generally, we have consistently observed that achieving exemplary performance can be difficult primarily because of issues like poor query design and bad indexing, among many others.

As long as database systems are not performing optimally, they will generate plenty of problems for your organization. For instance, your organization may suffer reduced productivity and efficiency.

So, how do you deal with the challenge of poor database performance? Well, you can only be motivated to fix issues related to database performance if you have a good view of the techniques that do the best job.

We explore some of the techniques that we rate highly for tuning database performance.  

What is database performance tuning?

Database performance tuning is a process that involves optimizing database systems to boost performance and efficiency. 

For database administrators to achieve maximum performance, they must implement the right adjustments in database system parameters such as configuration, indexing, and the design of queries.

A key component of data, especially for large corporations, is the data center. In this respect, it’s important to understand the major types of data centers and how they differ — hyperscale and colocation data centers. If you are concerned about data center migration, we also have a comprehensive guide around the essentials of migrating a data center, as well as the complete data center migration plan.  

How database performance tuning benefits businesses

Database performance tuning improves data integrity. The available data becomes more accurate and consistent. That is possible since database performance tuning can identify and fix issues such as data duplicates, errors, and inconsistencies.

Moreover, an optimized database system can allow efficient handling, storage, and retrieval of the ever-increasing volumes of data that businesses generate. A properly optimized database system spurs the efficient execution of queries, and this then yields faster response times.

The best techniques for database performance tuning

There are various standard practices and techniques that a business can utilize to enhance the speed and responsiveness of databases.

Remember, though, the approach the database administrator will take to enhance database performance will hinge on the specific nature of the performance issue. 

Subsequently, here are the best techniques database administrators can rely on to achieve database performance tuning.

1. Increase the memory available for databases

According to a recent study published on Statista, about 30% of business-to-business (B2B) companies expect to increase the money they spend on database management systems.

This desire to spend more is driven by the need for data-driven decision-making. Businesses want to better leverage data-driven customer insights for strategic business growth.

One of the reliable ways a database administrator can deliver better-performing databases is by availing sufficient memory.

You can know whether your database has enough memory allocation by checking the number of the system’s page faults. A higher number of page faults can mean that the hosts are running low on memory.

2. Perform data defragmentation

You are most likely to encounter slow queries and retrievals if your company is using legacy systems, and we know many companies use these systems. This problem is as a result of fragmentation, where data is scattered and non-contiguous in terms of storage.

Fragmentation arises when a lot of data is added to or deleted from databases. As a result, over time, there is a higher risk of being confronted with data that is scattered all over. Fragmented data interferes with the ability of a query to locate and avail the information sought.

Data defragmentation is essential as it results in better grouping of relevant data and, therefore, enhances retrieval. It also speeds up I/O ((input/output) operations.

3. Use the latest database versions

If your business depends on an outdated database version, the database can become highly susceptible to slow performance issues. Companies that use MySQL databases experience this challenge the most when their databases get outdated. 

The latest database versions often perform more effectively than out-of-date ones. Ensure that you are constantly on the lookout for the latest available versions.

4. Review database access

Here, you want to examine how applications interact with the database. Start by using database monitoring tools to identify slow-performing queries. Look for queries that take a considerable amount of time to execute or are executed frequently.

For instance, suppose you run an e-commerce platform that has a product listing page that loads slowly. A review of the database access may reveal that the SQL query retrieving product information is not optimized. It could be fetching more data than necessary or lacking proper indexing.

To address this, you could optimize the query by selecting only the required columns and ensuring that relevant indexes are in place.

This targeted review of database access can lead to tangible improvements. If only one application or service has database performance problems, proceed to review its distinct metrics so you can discover the underlying cause.

Metrics are very important in IT. You might want to check the comprehensive IT metrics worth tracking for the wider IT ecosystem. 

5. Improve indexing

This simply means optimizing the data structures used to locate and retrieve information from databases. Remember indexes act like a roadmap. They allow the database engine to find data efficiently without scanning the entire database. So, optimal indexes mean that files will be discovered easily. 

For example, consider an e-commerce database where product searches are common. The product section of the database might be queried frequently based on the «category» and «price» components. Creating better indexes on these can significantly speed up search queries. In this case, the database engine can quickly narrow down the subsets that match the specified criteria.

You can also consider making use of index tuning tools to help in the location of underutilized or missing indexes.

6. Take advantage of statistics 

Statistics are crucial for making informed decisions. Regularly updating these statistics ensures that the database engine can generate optimal execution plans based on the current state of the data.

For example, in a graph database that stores interconnected nodes and edges, up-to-date statistics might involve information on the following:

  • Distribution of node types
  • Number of connections
  • Other relevant graph-specific metrics.

When these statistics are current, the database engine can make better decisions when traversing relationships or querying patterns.

Learn the difference between graph databases and relational databases, as well asrelational vs non-relational databases

7. Avoid using SELECT * in the wrong contexts

This applies to SQL (Structured Query Language). Instead of fetching all columns in a table, specify only the columns needed for a particular query. Trying to retrieve unnecessary data puts additional load on the server and consumes more network bandwidth, which leads to reduced overall performance.

To implement this technique, review your queries and replace SELECT * with a specific list of columns required for the task at hand. This not only reduces the amount of data transferred but can also take advantage of existing indexes more efficiently.

For instance, consider a scenario where an e-commerce application retrieves order information for display on a webpage. Instead of using SELECT * to fetch all columns in the orders table, specify only the essential columns like order ID, customer name, and order date. 

This targeted selection minimizes the data transferred and improves query performance. This is especially useful when dealing with large tables or in situations where only a subset of columns is needed for a specific operation.

8. Use a powerful CPU

Always ensure that the hardware hosting the database has a high-performance CPU. Consider factors such as:

  • Number of cores
  • Clock speed
  • Architecture

These factors play an important role in meeting the specific requirements of your database workload. 

You can also optimize CPU utilization by configuring the database server settings to take full advantage of the available processing power.

An example of an essentially CPU metric you need to monitor is CPU Ready.  This is the time it takes for a virtual CPU or machine to remain queued, waiting for the physical CPU to execute its command. 

If the CPU ready time is high, it means your CPU is excessively committed. Thus, you need to upgrade to a CPU with faster processing speed to boost database performance. 

A CPU-ready time is healthy if it is between 0-50 ms. But, if it is over 500 ms, it might signal a performance issue. If the CPU-ready time value exceeds 1,000 ms, it indicates problems requiring immediate attention.

If your CPU-ready time, summed in milliseconds, is converted into percentages, check the image below to understand what each range of values may indicate.

Source: ManageEngine

To simplify this method further, let’s just say that If your organization still uses legacy systems and obsolete hardware, then this is an obvious sign that you simply need to upgrade to a modern, powerful CPU.

9. Optimize queries

This is a fundamental technique in database performance tuning. It basically involves refining the structure and execution of database queries. The aim here is to minimize the time it takes for queries to manipulate and retrieve data.

Some of the methods for query optimization include ensuring crafting efficient queries or commands, and leveraging execution plans.

For example, in a scenario where a search operation in a graph database is slow, optimizing the query might involve reviewing and refining the traversal logic, ensuring that the necessary graph patterns are efficiently matched.

In a traditional database, you can achieve query tuning by adding missing table indexes in databases. Table indexes allow you to fetch database information more efficiently. 

Still on traditional databases, inefficient SQL queries have long been known to be a major issue that leads to poor database performance. So please ensure that your SQL queries are properly optimized by understanding aspects such as when to write a join or a subquery or even when to use IN or EXITS.

10. Use database performance tools

These are specialized solutions that focus on monitoring and analyzing  database queries and transactions.

Response time of queries and resource utilization are some of the vital metrics that these tools collect and analyze. The insights received help to identify and prioritize areas requiring tuning.

The right tool for your database will depend on the type, complexity, and size of the database.

One such tool is DPA by SolarWinds. This multi-dimensional solution for database performance tuning supports Amazon Aurora, MySQL, and Microsoft Azure SQL databases, among others. 

DPA relies on response time analysis to optimize queries, which boosts general database performance. It thus provides vital insights that inform resource provision.

Moreover, you can also use this tool to integrate with SRM. This will allow you to get a much more extensive understanding of the performance of the database.

You will receive relevant, contextualized information regarding storage objects of the databases that the tool monitors.

End users are demanding more, and databases are key!

End users in this current, fast-paced digital world are ever demanding that they get 100% from the systems they use. The role of databases in meeting these expectations becomes increasingly vital. Why?

Databases are the backbone of any service that organizations provide digitally. They store, retrieve, and manage data. This process directly influences the speed and responsiveness of user interactions.

Therefore, the performance tuning techniques we have discussed here serve as the linchpin for user satisfaction.

A well-tuned database is the key to unlocking a smoother user experience. Whether it's a customer quickly finding the desired product on an e-commerce site or a healthcare professional accessing critical patient information promptly, the efficiency of these interactions hinges on how well the underlying database performs.

So you must ensure that your databases can handle the escalating demands of data processing. They must also guarantee that end users experience applications at their optimal capacity. In this symbiotic relationship, performance tuning should be a fundamental routine in your company.

Before you go, please spare a few minutes and familiarize yourself with the best practices to prevent data loss.

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