If you have ever needed to monitor a value in SQL Server, or follow the trend of anything that can be expressed in a numerical value – then creating a custom performance monitor counter could be just what you need….

For this example, I am going to use a query that calculates the size of the USERSTORE_TOKENPERM cache in SQL Server.   This was an issue in SQL Server 2005 before SP3.  The details of this are outlined in the following kb article:

FIX: A gradual increase in memory consumption for the USERSTORE_TOKENPERM cache store occurs in SQL Server 2005
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/933564

This issue has now been resolved, but it provides a perfect use and example of using a custom performance counter.

The query for finding the size of this cache is taken from the kb article and is below:

select sum(single_pages_kb+multi_pages_kb) 'total memory for tokeperm' from sys.dm_os_memory_clerks where type = 'USERSTORE_TOKENPERM'

We take the value returned by this query and store it in a variable as below:

declare @cache_size int;

set @cache_size = (select sum(single_pages_kb+multi_pages_kb) from sys.dm_os_memory_clerks where type = 'USERSTORE_TOKENPERM')

Now that we have the size of the cache, we use the first of 10 special stored procedures called sp_user_counter1 for our first counter.  There are 10 sequentially numbered/named stored procedures up through sp_user_counter10 to allow you to have 10 unique custom performance monitor counters.  Now, to update our counter, we simply call the stored procedure with our value:

declare @cache_size int;

set @cache_size = (select sum   (single_pages_kb+multi_pages_kb)from sys.dm_os_memory_clerks where type = 'USERSTORE_TOKENPERM')

exec sp_user_counter1 @cache_size;

Then we can execute this piece of code every few minutes inside a SQLAgent job to continually update our new counter. 

Next, we need to find the User Settable object and our counter in Performance Monitor:

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Then, add that counter and we see our graph… The size of my cache is not changing here, so the line remains flat…

image

To show the graph reflects our value, we’ll 1/2 the value manually to see the line drop by adding the following to our TSQL code just before updating the counter:

set @cache_size = @cache_size / 2;

And now our graph is reduced by 1/2 as expected:

image

There are many possibilities for this cool, but little-known feature in SQL Server.  However, use caution when executing queries that update this value – don’t create a large memory or I/O intensive queries that will degrade server performance every time it runs.

More information on the User Settable object and counters is available here:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms187480(SQL.90).aspx

-Jay