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Burgers and the Evolution of Modern Business Intelligence



Dig in to the new Demartek report: HPE Gen 6 32G Fibre Channel infrastructure accelerates time to insights with SQL Server 2016 data warehouse. 

A scene in the recent film “The Founder” about the history of McDonalds grabbed my attention this weekend. One of the McDonalds brothers tells Ray Kroc, (founder of the modern McDonalds Corporation) that about 80% of sales were hamburgers, despite having other food like barbecued Business Intelligence_Dig in_Demartek report_blog.jpgsandwiches and tamales on the menu.

Here was an original business insight, gleaned from sales data, in the 1950s! The brothers simplified their business and the rest, as they say, is history.

Data is the lifeblood of virtually any modern business today. The motives for data collection vary from basic business processing, achieving cost efficiencies, and understanding customer behavior to driving new business initiatives. With the explosion in mobility and increasing deployment of connected devices (popularly referred to as the Internet of Things or IoT), the growth in machine and human data is expected to be 10x larger than traditional business data. Collectively, capturing this “digital exhaust” and analyzing it for business intelligence is increasingly a source of competitive advantage.

Unlike the McDonald brothers, today’s businesses can leverage data warehousing software to drive their analytics efforts. A data warehouse consolidates, standardizes, and organizes data dispersed in various data sources across the enterprise and helps business stakeholders manage their operations by making better informed decisions. A data warehouse is a separate from an operational database, designed to run a large volume of analytical queries.

Microsoft SQL Server’s data warehouse continues to be the business intelligence workhorse of enterprise computing. SQL Server data warehouses have grown over time, from Terabyte size to as much as Petabyte size today – a growth of 1000x.

Data warehouses are increasingly dependent on multi-core, multi-socket servers and blazing fast all-flash storage arrays (AFA) to accelerate business insights. However, that’s only part of the equation.

Storage area networks (switches, directors and server Host Bus Adapters [HBA]), the sometimes forgotten elements of data center infrastructure, are the other workhorses of the datacenter. While HPE StoreFabric storage networking infrastructure is usually in the background, can it impact application workload performance and improve business outcomes?

The answer is a resounding yes!

Market dynamics: the relentless growth of flash storage

The market for AFAs continues to grow explosively, with HPE reporting a 100% YoY 3PAR AFA sales increase for Q4’161. Flash storage is enjoying mainstream adoption in the large enterprise market, delivering benefits across multiple workload scenarios such as Online Transaction Processing (OLTP), Data Warehousing and VDI.

Why SQL Server 2016?

Across its many generations, Microsoft SQL Server has been at the heart of enterprise IT, with a broad array of use cases spanning virtually all industry verticals. Gartner, in October 2015, assessed SQL Server as the industry leader for Operational Databases2 and the National Institute of Standards and Technology public security board has recognized SQL Server as the industry’s least vulnerable database3.

Adding to these accolades, SQL Server 2016 delivers value with its industry leading TCO4, making it a natural choice for the purposes of this test evaluation effort on HPE’s value-priced storage system.

Demartek SQL Server test report: accelerated time to business insights

Demartek recently tested SQL Server 2016 performance on a configuration of the HPE 3PAR StoreServ 8450 AFA, HPE ProLiant DL 380 rack server, HPE StoreFabric SN1200E/SN1600 16Gb and 32Gb FC HBAs (Emulex brand from HPE OEM Partner Broadcom) and the HPE StoreFabric SN6600B 32Gb FC Top of Rack FC switch.

Background and key results of the HPE StoreFabric SQL Server Data Warehousing (DW) testing

The Demartek testing focused on measuring storage networking performance for a real SQL Server DW workload. The primary workload used for these tests was a data warehousing application workload running on SQL Server 2016. This read-intensive data warehousing workload is also known as a decision support application because it gives answers to critical business questions. It consisted of a fixed set of 22 queries of relatively high complexity presented to a large database that examines large volumes of data.

Because this was a fixed set of work, any improvements in infrastructure such as faster Fibre Channel host bus adapters (HBAs) and/or Fibre Channel switches would result in completion of the work in a smaller amount of time.

Testing was performed on a “bare metal” deployment and as a virtualized SQL Server workload on a VMware host. The full results are in the Demartek study.  Here in my blog, the focus is on the bare metal results. Both scenarios indicate good results.

The business benefit of this is demonstrated in a faster time to extract business insights from the decision support application.

With a focus on business outcomes, the key workload metrics measured included:

  • Time to complete data warehousing workload
  • Latency improvements

In addition, traditional storage metrics of Throughput and Input Output Operations per second (IOPS) were also investigated.

Demartek reported the following results from their independent testing, shown in the two charts further below:

Time to completion

The workload was completed 37% faster with 32GFC HPE StoreFabric infrastructure from approximately 363 minutes to 230 minutes.

Demartek_SQL Server_Read ThroughputJ.jpg

Query Response Time

The combination of 32GFC switch and adapter technology completed more than 54% of the I/O requests in less than two milliseconds, compared to only 3% of the I/O requests using the 16GFC technology. This shows the much improved latency capability of the 32GFC technology.Demartek_SQL Server_Latency HistogramJ.jpgThe takeaways

Workloads such as data warehousing with Microsoft SQL Server 2016 that leverage the advantages of AFA storage when deployed along with the latest FC technology for storage area networking infrastructure will see immediate performance outcomes even if the entire SAN end-to-end is not all the same FC speeds.

Here are some of the key hardware elements of this solution:

  • HPE 3PAR StoreServ 8450 All-Flash Storage supports high-end workloads through its quad-controller design and scale-up capabilities. The 3PAR 8450 includes the following up to 480 SSDs and up to 1843 TB raw capacity; up to 24 16Gb Fibre Channel host ports; integration with Microsoft Offload Data Transfer (ODX) and VMware VAAI, VASA
  • The new HPE SN1200E 16Gb FC HBA, built on the same platform as the new Gen 6 SN1600E 32Gb FC HBA, both from Broadcom/Emulex, both deliver many of the same features for portfolio consistency and interoperability include ExpressLane WRITE prioritization and NVMe over FC enablement.
  • HPE StoreFabric B-series SN6600B Fibre Channel Switch from Brocade supports Gen 6 32GFC Fibre Channel connectivity maximizes the performance of flash storage, even when connecting at speeds less than 32 Gbps.
  • HPE ProLiant DL 380 Gen9 Server with the processing power required for virtualization and memory-intensive application workloads for databases. This server supports Intel® Xeon® E5 v4 processor family with up to 22 cores per processor, totaling 44 processing cores with two processors

Data insight drives future business opportunity

The McDonald brother had the foresight to analyze sales data (most likely from cash register receipts) to change how the world eats at a restaurant. With today’s data warehousing software and IT infrastructure from HPE, there’s almost certainly a business out there making seminal analytics-driven decisions that could impact our lives in the future.

Read the full report

Demartek Evaluation: HPE StoreFabric Gen 6 Fibre Channel Server and Storage Solution


Dinara Alieva HPE Storage.jpeg

Meet Around the Storage Blog blogger Dinara Alieva,  HPE DCIG, Microsoft Solutions Product Manager.





2 Why Microsoft for your database management system

3 SQL Server 2016: The database for mission-critical intelligence

4 SQL Server 2016 is generally available today

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