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Does SQL Sentry Plan Explorer work as advertised and is it legitimate? Are there any gotchas or something to be concerned about?

It looks like it shows the hot path in color commpared to SSMS's nightmare of a view for the estimated execution plan.

My concerns is - does it modify any data maliciously or otherwise?

edit: I had just heard of it and never heard of the company before.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 5 '11 at 13:27

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I have heard a lot of good things about it from some folks like Brent Ozar, Paul Randal, and others at SQL Skills. I imagine @Aaron Bertrand may have some insight as well :) –  JNK Aug 4 '11 at 17:47
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Perhaps you should elaborate how you plan to use it and what do you expect from it. –  Remus Rusanu Aug 4 '11 at 17:59
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Plan Explorer is pure awesome. Excellent product. It is wise to be wary of unknown third party tools, but this one is legit. And incredibly useful. (And, FWIW, that particular vendor has a good reputation as far as their knowledge of SQL Server and carefully designing tools for low-impact.) –  onupdatecascade Aug 4 '11 at 22:25

5 Answers 5

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I use it. It isn't malware.

On the SQL Server forums its one of three useful tools/SSMS plug-ins that are widely used (and thus implicitly reviewed) by the community.

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Full disclosure: I work for SQL Sentry and the entire concept of giving Plan Explorer to the community was one of the motivating factors in my accepting their job offer last year.

Plan Explorer simply presents plan information better than SSMS. Why are you suspicious that it is going to modify data or do anything malicious? What would a reputable company gain from doing anything like that? You can read this blog post from Greg Gonzalez (SQL Sentry's President and CEO) that explains how Plan Explorer came about.

When you're looking at a plan, it does nothing at all to your server or your data. It is just interpreting XML and presenting it a little differently. You can read the product page for some of the features, and the user guide where we describe how we improve on the SSMS functionality.

In fact the only way you can get it to do anything to your server is if you generate an estimated or actual plan. And here is what happens in either of those cases:

  • If you generate an estimated plan, it does exactly what Management Studio does when you have a query window and click "Show estimated plan." It sends the Command Text input and retrieves the plan XML output from SQL Server. It also prompts you for credentials every time (unless you opened the plan with the new SSMS add-in that I blogged about yesterday).

  • If you generate an actual plan, the query you specified is sent to the server and executed, and while the plan XML and runtime metrics are retrieved, the query results are simply discarded and not returned to the Plan Explorer UI. You are prompted here as well for credentials, unless you used the add-in, which puts you in the correct connection context.

It's very concerning that you would assume that a free tool must be doing something malicious or would have any reason to modify data. Can you explain your thinking here?

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+1 I only have one comment to make: Given the current state of the intertubes I would consider someone that is afraid of malicious freeware not only sane, but actually wise. I never tried the plan explorer, but I do hope is distributed as a code-signed package ;) –  Remus Rusanu Aug 4 '11 at 21:21
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Sure, but you could ask the same questions of every single piece of software you ever use. I'm not saying it's stupid to ask these questions, I'm just challenging the thought that there would be any advantage for a software company to do so. Could we do dumb things that degrade performance on a server? Sure, anything is possible. But if you're nervous about that, you can treat it like any suspicious software - install it on a workstation that can't connect to a production server, and only ever feed it XML files. If it brings down your workstation from parsing XML files, I'll buy you lunch. :-) –  Aaron Bertrand Aug 4 '11 at 21:39
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+1 I've been using the tool since I saw Aaron demonstrate it at SQL Saturday 67 in Chicago last March and I have nothing but good things to say about it. It's a very useful tool and I've never had any negative experiences with it. –  Joe Stefanelli Aug 4 '11 at 21:55
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+1 - Yes, it works, but you do have to bring your own expertise. I'm very much against installing software on production SQL Servers, period - don't install it there - but it's perfectly fine on your workstation. (It's on mine, heh.) –  Brent Ozar Aug 5 '11 at 13:48
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To be clear, I wasn't suggesting installing the application itself on production servers - I think the concern was about connecting to production servers regardless of where the application itself it installed. –  Aaron Bertrand Aug 5 '11 at 13:55

It does not do anything to your data (malicious or otherwise). SQLSentry is a very reputable company.

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Plan explorer is a great product, especially for the price, that I use often. SQL Sentry is a great company that wouldn't release mal-ware.

Plan Explorer simply gives you a much, much better way to look at a saved execution plan. You don't need server access to use it, you just need someone to save the execution plan so you can look at it. I've used it to look at execution plans for clients when I don't have any access to their network or SQL Servers. They just email me the plan and I tell them what they need to fix.

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SQLSentry is a reputable company. Their eponymous monitoring software fas won several Readers' and Editors' choice awards from industry publications. It is the primary tool I use as DBA for a hosting provider. I also routinely advise my customers to use Plan Explorer...something that would not be good business if it were malware. It really is just presenting data that is already available via SSMS in a more useful format.

Denismcd

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