Increase Business-critical Database Performance with All-NVMe Storage

Today’s SQL Server Situation

Microsoft SQL Server continues to be dominant within the established relational database management market. And traditional RDBMS is still a leading database approach in terms of familiarity, installed based, and spending. Closer to home, we see SQL Server as our #1 workload on both the HPE 3PAR Storage and HPE Nimble Storage installed bases after only VMware VMs. On HPE Nimble Storage, SQL Server alone occupies more storage arrays than Oracle, Citrix, DB2, SAS, MySQL and Splunk combined!

The newest version of the database system, SQL Server 2019, presents new opportunities for savings with features like ‘Big Data Clusters’. But also new areas of complexity for some IT teams including running within containers, Kubernetes container management, having built-in Apache Spark, the PolyBase feature, and the potential to use it within a data lake or platform for AI/ML.   

The implication for customers is that new deployments can vary widely by usage (e.g. OLTP vs. OLAP) and there’s a need for the underlying Infrastructure to be optimized based on the use objective (Performance, Capacity, Availability, Cost…)  Customers should seek out guidance related to the targeted solution to ensure deployment success.

What makes HPE stand out in the SQL Server Infrastructure market

First of all, HPE ensures SQL Server workload availability. It’s the only vendor with an unmatched 100% availability guarantee on enterprise-class data storage. This is coupled with the unique HPE InfoSight that uses Predictive Analytics to ensure uptime. In addition, HPE Storage provides hybrid cloud data protection and mobility features that span on-premises and cloud.

Secondly, HPE makes SQL Server faster with leading all-flash, Storage Class Memory, NVMe media, and now All-NVMe storage arrays. This helps databases and applications run faster, lets users work faster, and enables businesses to create value and innovate faster.

Finally, and maybe more importantly, HPE has a breadth of platform solutions for SQL Server. This complete line of storage solutions for SQL Server broadly meet customer needs from mission-critical to entry level, with gradients for levels of performance, availability, usability, scale, and economics.

Breadth of solutions for the range of Database challenges

Don’t take my word for it – here’s the rundown of the industry’s broadest range of SQL Server infrastructure solutions – from the most mission-critical, scale-up environment to mid-market and departmental offerings:

  1. SQL Server 2019 on HPE Alletra 9000 and HPE Primera Storage – Large enterprise business-critical SQL Server. Provides 100% guaranteed availability, highest levels of performance
  2. SQL Server 2019 on HPE Alletra 6000 and HPE Nimble Storage – Enterprise/mid-market SQL Server. Provides six 9s availability guaranteed, easier data mobility and protection
  3. SQL Server 2019 Big Data Clusters on HPE Storage – Scale-out SQL Server environment, serves as platform for a data lake. Manage relational and Big Data together, from across the organization
  4. SQL Server 2019 on HPE Nimble Storage with Storage Class Memory – Acceleration for demanding online transaction processing (OLTP), powered by Intel Optane SSDs. High-performance read cache for faster queries. Testing shows more than a 50% decrease in latency
  5. SQL Server 2019 on HPE SimpliVity – Enterprise-grade hyperconverged speeds up application performance, improves efficiency, resiliency, and restores VMs in seconds.
  6. SQL Server 2019 on HPE MSA Gen6 – Entry-level/departmental SQL Server. Simplicity, speed, affordability, and enterprise-class reliability.

Testing the new All-NVMe Storage

HPE is bringing to market all new, All-NVMe storage platforms, and we were fortunate to get early access to run performance tests with our SQL Server test tools.  First, about the environment.

We conducted our own internal testing using the Microsoft Data Warehouse Fast Track (DWFT) tool in a couple separate runs during March and April, 2021 in Ft Collins, CO and Houston, TX.

For compute we had the ProLiant DL380 Gen10, and on it was Windows Server 2019 along with SQL Server 2019. The server had four 32Gb Fibre Channel connections to the storage.

The storage array was the new HPE Alletra 6070. On it was the database (10 volumes) and tempDB (4 volumes).

A little about the DWFT tool – our motivation behind using this tool was to maintain consistency with performance tests we’ve been running now for almost the last decade.  It’s a familiar tool for customers and partners.  However, we’re seeing how it’s become dated in its ability to provide useful results because its been outpaced by the workload itself as well as the surrounding technology.  A specific issue is regarding the new SQL Server 2019 feature, Memory optimized tempDB.  We saw the same thing happen with the JetStress tool which had been used for many years on Microsoft Exchange, yet with the latest version of the application, the tool can’t report on the MetaCache database.

So, we ran our originally planned DWFT tests of the HPE Alletra 6070 vs. the same stack on the HPE Nimble AF80. However, based on the results I’m about to share, we recognized the need, as well as the opportunity, to re-do some testing which will better portray the benefits of the new platform.

SQL Server on HPE Alletra 6000 All-NVMe Flash Storage
Initial testing proved increased levels of enterprise database performance of the HPE Alletra 6000 All-NVMe Flash Storage system.  We demonstrated greater lab-verified app performance vs. earlier generation All-Flash system using the traditional Microsoft Data Warehouse Fast Track tool.  However, as addressed earlier, you can expect even greater real-world performance gains, which we’ll show in future, follow-up testing.

Proven performance gains:

  • +30.4% Measured Query throughput (Queries/Hr/TB)
  • +29.4% Relative throughput
  • +28.3% Measured Scan rate Physical (MB/Sec)

These are all Column Store measures, and indicate enhanced performance when working with large volumes of data as found in a data warehouse deployment.  We saw less compelling results in the Row Store metrics, but we feel this was more an issue with the test tool than the product being tested.  The DWFT results under-report the enhancements of the new Alletra platform, thus our plan to re-do the test with contemporary tools such as HammerDB, VDBench and TPC benchmarks. We expect to show significant performance gains with all-NVMe storage for data warehouses, transactional data processing and all types of business-critical databases.

3X Improved Database Price/Performance

Despite the muted performance data, we did get a compelling result when it comes to the Price/Performance of the new platform. We first looked at the cost of the old vs. new systems.

The original HPE Nimble AF80 system that we tested has a list price of $682,500. In contrast, the new HPE Nimble Storage All NVME Flash 6070 was only slightly more, with an estimated list price of $748,187, and note, this includes the related Data Services Cloud Console subscription. The new system cost was only up 9.6%.

Going back to our performance testing, we know we saw an over 30% gain. Specifically this came from the HPE Nimble AF80 system performance of 1,927 queries/Hour/TB vs. the HPE Nimble Storage All NVME Flash 6070 performance of 2,512 queries/Hour/TB, resulting in that 30.4% improvement.

So putting that together, for only a 10% additional investment, you’ll realize 30% increased performance, or a 3X Price/Performance gain with All-NVMe!

Make your move now to SQL Server on HPE Alletra 6000 Storage

HPE offers a broad range of Database Consolidation and Migration Services through HPE Pointnext professional services. They can provide the initial advice to help ensure a successful SQL Server deployment, as well as a HPE Database Migration service to deliver a smooth migration or fast database consolidation. Finally, HPE Pointnext provides support and ongoing training and readiness services to keep your Microsoft SQL Server environment operating efficiently and effectively.

Also on the way are new SQL Server “as a Service” offerings through HPE GreenLake.

Be aware of important upcoming dates:

  • SQL Server 2016 reaches the end of Mainstream support in July 2021
  • SQL Server 2012 reaches end of Extended support July 2022
  • SQL Server 2017 reaches end of Mainstream support Oct 2022

Regardless of your version of SQL Server, you will realize new levels of performance with the latest SQL Server on our newest HPE All-NVMe Storage.

Check out the new webpage for the HPE Alletra storage systems. The page is now live and loaded with information and resources on this exciting new storage platform. <Link to HPE Alletra on the web>

HPE Storage Solutions let the good times roll at Microsoft Ignite with expert talks, new offerings

Though I’d rather be writing this blog over a coffee and beignet in New Orleans, I’m still thrilled to be sharing the news about our HPE Storage Solutions for Microsoft, and specifically what’s new for the Microsoft Ignite audience. As we all know, this year’s Microsoft Ignite is taking place on the Web rather than the Crescent City, but our Solution team is still treating it like it’s our annual “Mardi Gras”. With that in mind, here’s what new for our HPE Storage Solutions for Microsoft. Let the good times roll!  

Throw me somethin’, Mista!
HPE is an official sponsor of this year’s Microsoft Ignite show, which runs September 22-24.  Along with the presence within the online venue, HPE has created its own web presence to supplement things, our “Virtual Booth”, due to all the related activities and content we had available.  This pandemic has accelerated digital transformation across the company’s customer base, and in response HPE is stepping up the number of solutions to help these organizations achieve new ways of working and serving their end-customers, especially in the cloud.

A key part of HPE-at-Ignite presence will be a series of Expert Videos. Storage team experts will deliver a few of these sessions, coverings topics from new a SQL Server solution built on a newly re-engineered storage platform, to Hybrid cloud data expansion, to Big Data HCI.

The HPE Microsoft Ignite 2020 Virtual Booth landing page is the place to watch these video sessions, as well as get the latest Microsoft Storage Solution resources including technical whitepapers, solution briefs and other online assets.

Starting with Microsoft Ignite week and beyond, we’re also rolling out more expert video content that couldn’t fit on the Landing page. These sessions are being delivered through the HPE Storage BrightTalk channel and are spanning topics from SQL Server Big Data Clusters, to Storage Class Memory, Highly Available Windows File Services, Hybrid Cloud data mobility, and Microsoft VDI. These sessions are supported by our strategic partner, Intel.

Who Dat HPE MSA Gen 6?
The company recently broke the news on the newly updated HPE Modular Smart Array (MSA) storage, which features a new architecture, ASIC, chipsets and health monitoring capabilities. The product team shared the key details in that HPE MSA Gen6 Announcement, for this storage product that is reaching new levels of ease-of-use plus price/performance. I’d like to highlight what it means for our Microsoft storage solutions, which I covered in more detail in the SQL Server on HPE MSA solution release blog.

The higher levels of performance from the Gen6 platform will translate directly into more transactions for SQL Server databases, more apps hosted across your Hyper-V environment, and even greater Microsoft workload consolidation onto a single array. The new Tiering 2.0 algorithm alone delivers up to 45% more app acceleration than in the previous generation system.

Other enhancements will increase workload availability, such as MSA-DP+, an advanced RAID-based data protection feature which protects data and enables faster rebuilds, and the Health Check tool which makes it easy to help ensure optimal system operations.

HPE MSA storage has traditionally been used for entry-level and departmental SQL Server database environments. We expect this to continue, especially where organizations require on-premises control of their data and the hands-on ability to ensure services levels.  There are also new realizations shared on a Solution team member’s blog regarding the benefits of a single RAID-protected Storage array versus having to maintain multi-node clusters of HCI systems for the same workload and data capacity.

Innovation that takes the (King) cake
The solution development hasn’t stopped at HPE since the last Microsoft Ignite event. The Storage krewe has led a parade of new offerings to meet the needs of our broad Microsoft workload customer base:

Nimble Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub – Need more data capacity for your Azure Stack Hub but don’t want to buy a whole new one? The HPE Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub brings flexibility to the tightly defined Azure Stack Hub architecture, letting you just expand data capacity plus get the benefits of enterprise SAN data services.

Windows Admin Center (WAC) Extensions – We’ve rolled out a number of WAC Extensions to expand the visibility and manageability of our storage products within the WAC dashboard. These include Windows and Azure Stack HCI extensions for the HPE Apollo 4200, as well as Storage Extensions for the HPE Primera and HPE 3PAR storage platforms.

HPE InfoSight for Hyper-V – Breakthrough new HPE Storage AI capability that brings cross-stack analytics parity for Windows Hyper-V VMs that was previously only available for VMware ESX environments.

Accelerated SQL Server on HPE Nimble Storage – Takes new NVMe SSD caching approach to increase performance for OLTP and other demanding apps. Lab verified benefits of Storage Class Memory powered by Intel Optane SSDs show back-end latency reduced as much as 50%. Similar lab validated solution also available for HPE 3PAR storage.

SharePoint 2019 & Skype for Business Server 2019 on HPE Storage – Upgrade your SharePoint and Skype environments on-premises to the latest Server 2019 versions to modernize your infrastructure and take advantage of the latest in content collaboration and portal technologies.

SQL Server Big Data Clusters (BDC) – A single scale-out solution for both relational and Big Data, built on HPE Storage and the latest data center technologies including containers and Kubernetes. Manage more data from across the enterprise with your existing SQL Server tools and expertise.

In addition to these HPE Storage Solutions for Microsoft releases over the past year, there are even more in progress, including expanded testing and technical publications for the SQL Server BDC PolyBase feature, SQL Server leveraging HPE Primera storage enhancements, and SQL Server realizing new levels of performance with persistent memory (PMEM).

Get (the party) started
So if you haven’t already, definitely get registered for Microsoft Ignite. Then mix yourself a Hurricane or Sazerac, and go straight to the HPE Microsoft Ignite event Virtual Booth site to join the party with all our event activities, on-demand content and technical resources.

And don’t forget our Storage news of the show, how the new HPE MSA Gen6 Storage can be the life of your party for Microsoft workloads – with more application performance, yet simplified management that fits any IT budget. Learn more at: the SQL Server 2019 on the new HPE MSA Gen6 solution Blog