All treats, no tricks for Microsoft workloads on HPE infrastructure

[note: this never got posted by HPE in time for Halloween, so here it is – the original blog – enjoy] It’s a spooky time of year. But even as little ghouls and goblins fill the streets, your data center has become a little less scary – and more under your control. Organizations have consolidated business applications on storage arrays for decades. But with new decisions regarding cloud computing, there’s worry that running multiple workloads on-premises has somehow gotten more difficult.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Companies can still realize the “treats” of running multiple business applications on shared storage – such as high levels of performance, economic savings, and technical familiarity – without really any new “tricks” to worry about.

In fact, our HPE Storage solutions for Microsoft team just published some new testing showing exactly this: That multiple Microsoft business workloads can be run together on the same infrastructure resources, while realizing high levels of consistent performance.  And, thanks to ongoing technology advances, realize simplified management, even higher levels of availability, automated problem detection, along with on-prem security and hands-on control.

Fang-tastic new applications from Microsoft

The software developers in Redmond continue to evolve and improve upon their leading business applications, which helps them maintain dominant market shares across so many of their products. We tested a few of them, in order to show how typical, popular applications perform together on the same infrastructure stack. But just as important is that a mix of workloads – with different performance profiles and requirements – can run side-by-side and still deliver high, consistent output.

In the new whitepaper, the solution engineers ran Windows Server 2022, Microsoft Exchange 2019, and the latest SQL Server with databases performing both Transactional as well as Analytical workloads.  Here’s a quick review of what’s new in these applications:

  • Microsoft Exchange 2019 – Still the newest version of this leading business email package, this version of Exchange introduced the Metacache Database which improved performance by leveraging flash storage for a cache that speeds access to frequently used data. There are also enhanced Security features, as well as specific improvements in Data Loss Prevention, archiving, retention, and eDiscovery.
  • Windows Server 2022 – This new operating system brings with it advances in multi-layer security, plus hybrid capabilities with Azure. Also notable are improvements in scalability being able to run up to 48 TB RAM, 64 sockets, and 2048 logical processors. And specific improvements in areas such as Hyper-V live migration help enhance overall system availability, usability, and economics.
  • SQL Server 2022 – The current version of SQL Server was still 2019 at the time of this testing, but it’s useful to note that a new version of this leading enterprise database is about to be released, SQL Server 2022.  The new release will be especially Azure cloud-enabled, supporting Azure analytics capabilities with on-prem data, as well as bi-directional HA/DR to Azure SQL. This, plus continued performance and security innovations and new as-a-service consumption models, will drive IT to continue to refresh their most important transactional and analytical data on-prem with SQL Server.

“Boo-tiful” performance on HPE infrastructure

The mixed application testing centered on consolidating a SQL Server OLTP (HammerDB TPROC-C) workload and a SQL Server OLAP (HammerDB TPROC-H) workload in the same dHCI solution and showing how they both could realize consistent performance as multiple workloads are added. These databases would represent a company’s transactional system, say an online shopping system running alongside analytical databases for research and reporting. So we tested not just two different database environments, but two that are used very differently, and that demand different resources from the infrastructure – one more IOPs intensive vs. the other being more throughput-intensive.

To this workload mix was added two Exchange VMs that represented a typical email environment for this same small to midsized enterprise, supporting hundreds of mailboxes with simulated usage patterns. The chart below plots these multiple workloads in use, showing how over time, the system is still able to accommodate the needs of all the applications without showing much in the way of spikes or changes in overall performance. Other charts and data in this same report show consistent, sub-millisecond latency measured at the host, over this same time frame, while a mix of different workloads are powered up.

Caption: Multiple applications run while performance remains relatively consistent

Ghouls just want to have fun

Another dimension of the study was to illustrate how disaggregated Hyper Converged infrastructure delivers superior performance, always on availability, and is simple to scale both storage and compute without any downtime.

HPE Nimble Storage dHCI was the platform used for the analysis, and is a converged infrastructure offering that combines HPE Nimble storage arrays with HPE ProLiant DL servers, along with set-up and management software.  This product has been shown to deliver latencies as low as 200 microseconds for applications and VMs, and it comes with a 6-nines data availability guarantee that covers both the applications and the VMs – not the storage alone.

The power behind this high system availability is HPE InfoSight – it’s an AI-enabled monitoring program with more than a decade’s worth of data from across the HPE Storage installed base, enabling it to identify and notify of anomalies and predicted failures within customers’ systems.  

The promise of “disaggregated hyperconverged infrastructure” is to provide the performance and flexibility of separate IT resources with the management convenience of hyperconverged infrastructure. Scaling and upgrading of either compute, storage, or both, is simple and efficient without downtime; resiliency is built in with hardware redundancy and the ability to tolerate three simultaneous drive failures. It’s been found that this approach provides operational flexibility beneficial for mission-critical data bases and data warehouses.

It takes teamwork to make the scream work

IT teams can confidently refresh their traditional infrastructure environments on-prem, and continue to run a diverse mix of business applications, expecting great, consistent performance across all their enterprise workloads.

Specifically, we’ve proven that a mix of virtualized Microsoft mixed workloads running on an HPE Nimble dHCI platform, can ensure fast, consistent performance across different types of business workloads, with measured low latency even as additional load is added.  The solution delivers operational simplicity thanks to tight integration across the layers of the infrastructure stack.  And with the intelligence of HPE InfoSight and its automated monitoring, the product comes with 99.9999% data availability guaranteed.

Got treats? This blog highlights the recent mixed Microsoft workload study. Get all the details of the extensive performance testing that shows how to realize consistent, high performance for your Microsoft business workloads, running together on HPE Storage and server infrastructure. The new technical whitepaper is available for download today.


HPE Brings Big Data to Hyperconverged Infrastructure with New Apollo Solution

If you were at Microsoft Ignite last month you may still have missed the launch of HPE’s latest hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution: Microsoft Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo 4200 storage. It would be understandable, as Ignite was a major industry event packed with technology news, especially with lots of HPE show activity, including prominent HPE mainstage appearances for both Azure Stack and the new Azure Arc.
But among the new and enhanced solutions we demonstrated at the show, our presentations about Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo storage were well-received and timely given the growing emphasis on HCI, hybrid cloud and all things software-defined. The key message for this solution was that it is pioneering a new area in software-defined HCI for Windows Big Data workloads. The solution uniquely delivers the convenience of hyperconverged Infrastructure on a high-capacity platform for the most data-intensive applications.

The emergence of Big Data HCI
We’ve all heard about the explosive growth of data, and that we’re in an age of zettabytes. IDC made a specific prediction, that by 2024, just data created from AI, IoT and smart devices will exceed 110 zettabytes (source: IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Cloud Predictions 2020).
At the same time, organizations are trying to simplify their IT infrastructures to reduce cost, complexity and the need for specialized expertise. The conflict is that the applications required to harvest this explosion of data can be the most demanding in terms of performance and management. I’m seeing companies – even the largest most capable enterprises – are recognizing the value of easy-to-use hyperconverged infrastructure to alleviate some of the strain of delivering these demanding, data-centric workloads.
Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo 4200 storage is a new solution that addresses the needs of the growing “Big Data HCI” customer. Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo is built on the highest capacity Azure Stack HCI qualified 2U server, bringing an unmatched ability to serve big data workloads on a compact Windows software-defined HCI appliance.

HPE Apollo HCI solution key components
Azure Stack HCI is Microsoft’s software-defined HCI solution that pairs Windows Server 2019, Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct, and Windows Admin Center management, along with partner x86 hardware. It is used to run Windows and Linux VMs on-premises and at the edge with existing IT skills and tools.
Azure Stack HCI is a convenient way to realize benefits of Hybrid IT, because it makes it easy to leverage the cloud-based capabilities of the Microsoft Azure cloud. These cloud-based data services include: Azure Site Recovery, Azure Monitor, Cloud Witness, Azure Backup, Azure Update Management, Azure Network Adapter, and Azure Security Center to name a few.
The Azure Stack HCI solution program includes Microsoft-led validation for hardware, which ensures optimal performance and reliability for the solution. This testing extends to technologies such as NVMe drives, persistent memory, and remote-direct memory access (RDMA) networking. Customers are directed to use only Microsoft-validated hardware systems when deploying their Azure Stack HCI production environments.

HPE Apollo 4200 Gen 10 – largest capacity 2U Azure Stack HCI system

HPE Apollo 4200 Gen10 Server – leading capacity/throughput for Windows HCI
The HPE Apollo 4200 Gen10 server delivers leading scale and throughput for Azure Stack HCI. The HPE Apollo 4200 storage system can accommodate 392 TBs of data capacity within just a 2U form-factor. This leads all other Azure Stack HCI validated 2U solutions as seen in the Microsoft Azure Stack HCI catalog ( In addition, the HPE Apollo storage system is a leader in bandwidth, supporting 100Gb Ethernet and 200Gb Infiniband options. Customers are already running large scale, data-centric applications such as Microsoft Exchange on HPE Apollo systems, and can now add Azure Stack HCI as a means to simplify the infrastructure stack, while preserving performance and the space-efficient 2U footprint.
The HPE Apollo Gen10 system is future-proofed with Intel Cascade lake processors for more cores and faster processing, along with memory enhancements and support for NVMe storage. The HPE Apollo systems leverage a big data and high performance computing heritage, and have an established Global 500 customer track record.

Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo solution – more than just hardware
The HPE Apollo 4200 system is at the core of this Microsoft software-defined HCI solution, but there’s much more to the solution. HPE solution engineering teams perform testing on all solution designs, and publish technical whitepapers to provide guidance on implementation, administration, and performance optimization, for example the recent Microsoft Windows Server 2019 on HPE Apollo 4200 implementation guide. HPE also trains authorized reseller partners to help assure fast, successful deployments and fast time-to-solution for customers.
Windows Admin Center (WAC) is becoming the new standard interface for Windows system management. HPE is developing Extensions for WAC that will make it easier to manage HPE Apollo systems within Windows Server 2019 environments as well as specifically within Azure Stack HCI clusters.
As an HPE Storage solution, customers also enjoy high availability through HPE InfoSight predictive analytics that deliver the uptime benefits of AI to the datacenter.

Get started with HPE Apollo HCI
The Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo solution is available today. It’s the largest capacity 2U Azure Stack HCI validated solution available, and has been officially qualified for All-Flash, Hybrid SAS SSD, and NVMe providing options for affordable and high-performance data storage.
The Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo solution is the go-to choice for analytics and data-centric Windows workloads. Get easy to manage infrastructure with native Microsoft Windows administration. Available with the solution are published technical guidance including whitepapers and related resources, with WAC extensions on the way.
The launch webinar was recorded and is available on demand – watch it to learn more: