Around the Storage Block

Increase business-critical database performance with HPE All-NVMe Storage

Initial lab results indicate significant performance gains with All-NVMe storage for data warehouses, transactional data processing and all types of business-critical databases.

Get increased performance for enterprise databases with the latest data storage technologyGet increased performance for enterprise databases with the latest data storage technologyToday’s SQL Server situation

SQL Server is still dominant within the established relational database management market. This is despite hype regarding NoSQL and other new types of databases. Traditional RDBMS is still leading in terms of familiarity, installed based, and spending. And Microsoft SQL Server remains a leader in that space.  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 (OLTP, OLAP, etc.) and there’s a need for the underlying Infrastructure to be optimized based on the use objective (performance, capacity, availability, cost, etc.). 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 meets 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 environments 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, and 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, with 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 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, let’s look at the environment.

  • We conducted our own internal testing using the Microsoft Datawarehouse Fastrack (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).

Here’s a little background on the DWFT tool. The idea 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 it’s been outpaced by the workload itself, as well as by he surrounding technology. A specific issue identified pertains to the new SQL Server 2019 feature, Memory optimized tempDB.  Previously, we saw the same thing happen with the JetStress tool, which had been used for many years on Microsoft Exchange; 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. 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.

Run business-critical databases without compromiseRun business-critical databases without compromiseSQL 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.

The 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, such as what one would find in a data warehouse deployment.  We saw less compelling results in the Row Store metrics, but we feel this was more of an issue with the test tool than the product being tested. 

Overall, all the results under-report the enhancements of the new HPE 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.

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 $748,187.00. Note, this includes the related cloud management subscription. This came out – and increased hardware cost by only 9.6%

Going back to our performance testing, we know we saw more than a 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 all together, for only a 10% additional investment, you can realize a 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 an 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 – and mark your calendar – for some important upcoming dates:

  • SQL Server 2016 reaches the end of mainstream support in July 2021
  • SQL Server 2012 reaches end of extended support in 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 on the HPE Alletra Storage systems. The page is now live and loaded with information and resources on this exciting new storage platform.


A new podcast has just been posted with much more information on the topic of Microsoft SQL Server on HPE Storage. I joined Calvin Zito, host of the "Around the IT Block" podcast, to discuss what's going on in the industry. We talk specifically about the workload testing that HPE has conducted with HPE Alletra, the all new data infrastructure that was announced on May 4th.

Mike Harding
Hewlett Packard Enterprise



Mike Harding | Microsoft Solutions Product Management
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
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Launching and growing new enterprise technology offerings