AWS RDS Performance Tuning Solutions and Tool

By Staff Contributor on August 5, 2020

Amazon Relational Database Service (AWS RDS) is a web service specifically designed for dealing with relational databases in the AWS cloud. The purpose of AWS RDS is to make relational database management and setup much easier. It can help you to provision the infrastructure capacity you need for installing database software and to automate many of the administrative tasks included with managing a database, including software patching and managing backups.

However, even with this management service operating, you still need to keep an eye on database performance to ensure any issues are discovered quickly. Without monitoring your database, you can end up with bottlenecks and service issues capable of majorly impacting end users or service delivery.DNS_DPM_Banner_Square_200x200

I recommend using a performance monitoring tool such as SolarWinds® Database Performance Analyzer (click here for more) to carry out database SQL query performance monitoring, analysis, and tuning. With proper performance tuning, you can ensure issues arise less frequently, your database has fewer bottlenecks or errors, and performance is faster overall.

Why Is AWS RDS Performance Critical?
AWS RDS Performance Tuning
What Metrics Should You Monitor?
What Tools Should You Use for AWS RD Performance Tuning?
How to Choose a Tool for RDS Monitoring

Why Is AWS RDS Performance Critical?

AWS RDS performance matters because databases form the backbone of your IT infrastructure, providing data for your devices, services, applications, and storage. Slowdowns in how data is saved, changed, or deleted can quickly ripple through the entire system. This causes frustration for your employees, potential service delays for your end users, and major losses in both productivity and revenue. The efficiency gains (or losses) in how your IT infrastructure operates can have much larger impacts than you expect.

AWS RDS is available for many kinds of database instances, including:

  • Amazon RDS for MariaDB
  • Amazon RDS for MySQL
  • Amazon RDS for Microsoft SQL Server
  • Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL
  • Amazon RDS for Oracle

For each of these, you need to monitor the database engine for slowdowns. For example, for AWS RDS Oracle performance, you can perform monitoring and tuning by looking at wait times, loads, hardware metrics, checking SQL statements, and more.

Keeping track of these performance issues can make a big difference in how efficient your organization is and I highly recommend approaching the process of AWS RDS performance tuning with this in mind. Let’s take a look now at what performance tuning is and some to help you carry it out.

AWS RDS Performance Tuning

Database performance tuning is the process of optimizing and improving performance, either to remedy current issues or in anticipation of expected issues. Part of the process involves regular and comprehensive monitoring of database performance metrics, so you know what you’re working with, and see where you want to get to.

What Metrics Should You Monitor?

When you’re approaching AWS RDS performance monitoring, there are several different metrics you could examine, and they can get a bit overwhelming. However, there are some core metrics you need to keep track of—without measuring these you won’t be able to tell if your database is healthy or not:


The first thing to look at is the availability of your database, whether there’s an outage or if your database is experiencing latency. This can also include monitoring for a general, slower trend downwards in terms of availability.

Cluster Health

If you’re working with a distributed database, you also need to check each instance and the whole cluster for health metrics. If you look at each instance alone, you might not spot larger problems. Apply higher-level approaches and policies, so you can approach issues in both a holistic and granular way.

Scheduled Maintenance

Something many people don’t consider is the impact of maintenance on performance. If you haven’t scheduled your AWS RDS maintenance properly, you might try to update databases during a high-load time. This could cause flow-on performance impacts or create an outage.

Resource Usage

The next thing to check is resource usage. If your database simply runs out of resources, this can definitely cause slowdowns. This could include table size limits in MySQL, hitting the maximum number of database connections allowed per instance, or capacity constraints if you’re working during demanding times.


You should always monitor for errors, both system-related and human-based. Your database error log will be available in the RDS console or through whatever third-party tool you’re using, and these errors can show you any problems occurring inside the database. Human error is also a factor, and you should always be monitoring for configuration changes made mistakenly. If you change an element in your database schema or cluster, monitor the database to see whether it had any unintended consequences.

Performance Limits and Scalability

The bigger your applications and databases get, the more likely they are to reach performance limits. You’ll need to be aware of how your IT infrastructure is scaling and allocate more resources as you grow. Monitoring and optimization can also help to ensure you get the most out of the resources you have.

RDS-Specific Metrics

You also need to monitor RDS-specific metrics, including read/write rates. You can fix many of these issues with the use of indexes, caches, table locking, key constraints, and replicas. Keep tabs on system metrics including CPU, memory, and disk usage—their limits will be shown in the AWS console or in one of your tools.


See what slow queries you have in your query log. You can find which statements are taking the most time and try to optimize around those issues. For example, if you have a statement executing a full table scan, you could improve this by adding an index.


Last, look at your instance types and instance counts. If you have many small instances, you can start trying to switch to larger ones. However, you’ll still reach a point where you have the largest instances available, at a high cost. You can also review whether you need the instances you have, or if you can scale down. Scaling automatically based on need is a good way to manage instance size. In addition, consider adding read replicas and shards to manage the number of instances you have and keep tabs on how large your clusters are getting. Larger clusters are complex and can add additional bottlenecks.

You should monitor and optimize all of these metrics and issues to help the performance tuning process. By checking your system health metrics carefully you can plan for capacity changes or growth, and by keeping tabs on SQL queries and errors you can spot issues potentially causing performance problems. For example, if you have large database tables, you can apply indexes to speed up read/write queries or optimize other SQL queries by using SELECT fields rather than wildcards.

Finally, by managing your database instances themselves in size and number, you can ensure your database system doesn’t sprawl out of control and cost you in terms of money and performance.

What Tools Should You Use for AWS RD Performance Tuning?

One of the difficulties of monitoring performance is you need to collect and aggregate performance information from several different parts of your infrastructure. In a large enterprise, it’s simply impossible to perform this process manually, and you must use database performance monitoring tools to ensure you’re up to date.

Amazon provides its own tool called Amazon RDS Performance Insights, but this only monitors database load. This means other factors potentially impacting performance may be overlooked. Monitoring and tuning performance requires oversight over several different aspects of database function. I recommend two different SolarWinds tools to help you with AWS RDS performance tuning, though they both fill slightly different roles.


The first is SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer (DPA). DPA has several features making it an ideal choice for database performance tuning and monitoring, including for AWS RDS. First, it allows you to monitor all database instances from different engines, including Amazon Aurora RDS, MySQL, MariaDB, SQL Server, or Oracle RDS instances. This means if you have multiple database instances with different engines, you can still monitor and tune them from the DPA central dashboard. This decreases the amount of time and energy spent switching between different tools to keep track of everything.

This tool is pre-configured to work with AWS RDS, which means you can start DPA and within seconds deploy in AWS and start monitoring. DPA aggregates all on-premises and cloud installations into one central location. This allows you to set up and get started quickly and means your deployments and combinations of installation can be flexible, scalable, and easy to use.

DPA provides 24/7 monitoring, including both real-time and historical analyses. This allows you to keep a clear eye on baseline or historical performance and see how real-time performance compares. If you have changed configurations to tune performance, you’ll be able to see their impacts right away. The analytics capabilities are also powerful: with one-second snapshots of load and other metrics, you can drill down into each metric to view more information. Combined with smart analytics you can diagnose issues quickly before database performance problems take down your whole IT environment.

Finally, DPA includes several tools specifically for tuning purposes, including graphs to display which SQL statements are performing poorly, wait times for your applications, and events or specific wait-time occurrences capable of causing bottlenecks and impacting performance. The table tuning advisor shows information in bar graphs, so you can see which problems need immediate attention. With anomaly detection and machine learning, DPA can easily alert you to what needs fixing.

I also recommend taking a look at another tool, SolarWinds Database Performance Monitor (DPM), if you’re using an open-source database or a NoSQL database. DPM provides a SaaS model of database performance monitoring, and it has some overlap with the features of DPA. This is a cloud-based platform designed to monitor your system metrics, with smart analytics and adaptive fault detection technology. If you’re interested in a SaaS solution, DPM might be your best choice. You can try a free trial of it here for up to 14 days.


How to Choose a Tool for RDS Monitoring

If you want something basic to ensure you have some kind of performance monitoring tool in place, the Amazon RDS Performance Insights may be enough. However, this isn’t enough for a typical enterprise, as you’ll need to check on significantly more metrics than just database load. There are also numerous free and open-source tools available if you’re looking for something for a home project or a small business.

For medium- to large-sized businesses or enterprises, take a look at SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer (DPA). You can also find a free trial of DPA here, so you can test out whether it works for your enterprise. If you’re looking for a SaaS option, or if you aren’t using AWS RDS (or switching away from it), check out SolarWinds Database Performance Monitor (DPM) for all of your NoSQL and open-source databases.

There are many different options on the market, but these are the ones I believe will give you the best approach to performance tuning for your AWS RDS.

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