I believe most of the IT people who administer servers already know about Process Explorer. This is a great 3rd party tool that Microsoft took under its umbrella and made it an “official tool”. What some people may not know is that the guys who made Process Explorer also make a lot of other tools – the Sysinternals Suite. One little tool of big interest for anyone doing virtualization is RAMMap.
RAMMap will show all the RAM of the system and will point a finger at who is using what. In case of virtualized servers with a lot of memory, you want to be sure of how that memory is being used. And that the ballooning driver of the virtualization host platform is not interfering with your guest server (this is specially important). Chek this topic: http://forum.sysinternals.com/rammap-driver-locked_topic23326.html
With this tool we discovered that the “Driver Locked” was eating half of our memory in a high-volume SQL Server, then we called the VMware admin guy and he configured the “Memory Limits” of each VM to “Unlimited”. After that the SQL server started to run without memory issues.
Other great tool that I wanted to mention in this post is SpaceMonger, from SixtyFive. It is not directly related to databases, but as most DBAs know: you gotta know where your data files are. This tool helps you to find the biggest file on any drive in your Windows box, and huge files are the ones with a database inside them. This tool also helps you find folders with a lot of garbage, usually hidden in a lot of other small folders, but eating that precious space needed for the database growth.
I use the old, free version of the program, but you may go ahead and buy the newest one if you really need this kind of information all the time. For me the old version is fine because once I know where things are in the servers, I try to delete everything that is not database-related (or at least move all that stuff to a separate drive). There is a catch however: the old version of SpaceMonger is not hard-link aware, so it will list the files on any hard-link as real files, even though they may be on another drive. But if you are using hard-links on Windows (and in DB servers!) you must know that you WILL face problems, sooner or later. This thing is not as seamless to the OS as it is on Linux world. Please be advised: use only “letter-type” drives on windows, preferably dedicated drives (or LUNs), each assigned to a specific task (data files, log files, tempdb files, all-the-rest-files).
And to end the post, a little picture of ProcessExplorer, we could not let it out.