Full Automatic Tuning: SQL Server 2026’s Most Killer Feature

This post is a response to this month’s T-SQL Tuesday #100 prompt by the creator of T-SQL Tuesday himself, Adam Machanic.   T-SQL Tuesday is a way for SQL Server bloggers to share ideas about a different database or professional topic every month.

This month I’m going down the science fiction route and pretending that I’m writing about a new SQL Server feature in 2026.

Fully Automatic Tuning

I was really excited when automatic tuning capabilities were first introduced in SQL Server 2017.  I couldn’t wait to say so-long to the days where I had to spend time fixing basic, repetitive query tuning problems.

And while those first versions of automatic plan choice corrections were fine, there was a lot left to be desired…

Fortunately, Microsoft has fully leveraged its built-in R and Python services to allow for advanced automatic tuning to make the life of SQL Server DBAs and developers that much easier.

On By Default

Perhaps the coolest part of these new automatic tuning capabilities is that they are on by default.  What this means is that databases will seem to perform better right out of the box without any kind of intervention.

I think the fact that Microsoft is confident enough to enable this by default in the on-premise version of SQL Server shows how confident they are in the capabilities of these features.

Optimize For Memory and Data Skew

While the first iterations of automatic query tuning involved swapping out query plans when SQL Server found a regression in CPU performance, the new automatic plan correction is able to factor in many more elements.

For example, instead of optimizing for CPU usage, setting the new flag  OPTIMIZE_FOR_MEMORY = ON  allows SQL server to minimize memory usage instead.

Also, with the addition of the new  “Optimized” cardinality estimator (so now we have “Legacy”, “New”, and “Optimized” –  who’s in charge of naming these things???) SQL Server is able to swap out different estimators at the query level in order to generate better execution plans!

What time is it?

Another new addition to automatic plan corrections is SQL Server’s ability to choose an appropriate execution plan based on historical time-of-day server usage.

So if a query is executing during a lull period on the server, SQL Server is intelligent enough to realize this and choose a plan that is more resource intensive.  This means faster query executions at the cost of a more intensive plan – but that’s OK since the server isn’t being fully utilized during those times anyway.

Making use of hardware sensors

As the world continues to include more data collecting sensors everywhere, SQL Server makes good use of these data points in 2026.

Tying into the server’s CPU and motherboard temperature sensors, SQL Server is able to negotiate with the OS and hardware to allow for dynamic CPU overclocking based on server demands.

While this option is not turned on by default, enabling dynamic overclocking allows for SQL Server to give itself a CPU processing boost when necessary, and then dial back down to more stable levels once finished.

This obviously won’t be a feature used by everybody, but users who are willing to trade off some stability for additional analytical processing performance will love this feature.

How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Automatic Tuning

At the end of the day, we are our own worst enemies.  Even with the latest and greatest AI technology, we are capable of writing queries so terrible that even the smartest machine learning algorithms can’t grasp.

While SQL Server’s automatic tuning features work wonderfully on the boring and mundane performance problems, there are still plenty of performance problems that it leaves for us to troubleshoot.

And I love that.  Let the software optimize itself and maintain a “good enough” baseline while letting me play with the really fun performance problems.

I’m sure these features will continue to evolve – but so will we, working on new problems and facing new data challenges.

Thanks for reading. You might also enjoy following me on Twitter.

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What I Do When I’m NOT Writing SQL

This post is a response to this month’s T-SQL Tuesday prompt created by Aaron BertrandAdam Machanic created T-SQL Tuesday as a way for SQL users to share ideas about interesting topics every month.  This month’s topic is “Your passions outside of SQL Server”.

Getting away

I spend most of my days in front of a computer.

While this is great because I love technology, a few times a year I like separating myself from all forms of semiconductors. I do this by going camping.

I highly recommend watching this week’s video on YouTube – I was able to include way more photos and video clips there!

Camping is a mental reset where I can focus on activities that are completely opposite of what I do every day. It involves different challenges and skill sets, and provides a literal breath of fresh air when compared to working in a typical office environment.

How did I come to enjoy sleeping on the ground and learning to survive with only 20lbs of gear? Let me describe three distinct eras in my camping evolution.

I didn’t grow up camping

High school Bert’s first camping trip in Vermont

My family never went on camping trips. I always enjoyed the outdoors, but I never learned any basic outdoors skills like you might learn in scouts.

My friends during high school came from similar upbringings. We didn’t know anything about building campfires or sleeping in tents, but we wanted to learn.

So, during the summer before college we decided we’d drive up to Vermont, rent a campsite at a state park, and learn to live outdoors.

While an immensely fun trip, our skills were lacking since we basically ended up eating ramen and sleeping in our cars (because our incorrectly set up tent gushed with rainwater during the middle of the night).

We kept at it though, going back every summer, until we managed to figure out how things should work. After a few trips we were no longer eating just ramen and not needing to sleep in our cars anymore.

Have tent, will travel

My outdoor skills improved as I continued to camp through my college years; I learned to cook food over coals, stay dry during the harshest rain storms, and light fires with a single match instead of half a can of camping stove fuel.

During this time I also realized that could travel almost anywhere and have my accommodations cost less than $20 per night PER CAMPSITE.

I must have been thinking “the water is too clear and warm for this New Englander”

This meant my friends (and future wife Renee) spent college spring break camping through the Everglades and the Florida Keys. We spent our days kayaking, zip lining, and eating key lime pies before returning to our ocean front campsite for the evening. I think in all that trip cost us less than $400 per person for 9 days of fun, including gas for the minivan.

Ultra cheap vacation to Yellowstone National Park

Ultra cheap vacations continued and I now graduated to cooking single pot meals and foil packet dinners. My car was still parked nearby but I wasn’t having to sleep in it at night.

I even ventured back to Vermont and proposed to Renee there while camping (she said yes even after three days of no showers. That’s when I knew she was a keeper).

Backpacking and gourmet food

Everything we need, carried in and carried out.

Camping eventually evolved into backpacking – instead of having a car a few feet away with a cooking stove and cooler of cold food, now I was learning about how to go into the wilderness for days with everything I would need carried in on my back.

Backpacking is truly exciting. You get to go and see places only accessible by a long hike on foot. The trips require more planning, both in terms of hiking routes, food preparation, water scouting, wildlife management, etc…. all things that invigorate my researching, detail oriented personality.

Living out of a backpack also means that you can easily fly to locations and still have a cheap vacation. I got to see beautiful National Parks like Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Shenandoah all because I knew how to fit everything I need to survive into a carry-on and personal item (except for stove fuel, bear spray, and pocket knife …some things you just have to buy on location).

Not only is visiting these places cool to begin with, but camping overnight in them means you get to see the park early before any car driving tourists arrive and you get to stay out way longer after they all leave the park to go grab dinner.

By this point my car is parked miles away from where I am sleeping and my food game has stepped up. Although I am limited to carrying everything I need in a pack, we frequently dine on pad thai, pizza, and cinnamon rolls.

After a long day spent hiking…
… these are the only foods I need to eat.

Who says you need to be roughing it while camping?

Thanks for reading. You might also enjoy following me on Twitter.

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