Around the Storage Block

Testing 1,2,3 – In the lab with SQL Server and HPE Alletra Storage

As the use of database management systems changes in the field, changes also happen in how systems like Microsoft SQL Server are tested and how related technical knowledge is shared with partners and customers. Here are five things to keep you abreast of the latest SQL Server developments.

We all know that Microsoft SQL Server is still a leading business database. Current stats bear this out: It’s ranked #1 in Database Management & Analytics by IDC[1]. Ranked highest in Gartner Magic Quadrant for databases[2]. 98% of Fortune 100 companies run production workloads on SQL Server[3]. 48% of all CPU cores running database workloads run SQL Server[4]. And here at HPE, it’s still the #1 business app we have running across our HPE 3PAR/Primera and HPE Nimble Storage installed bases.[5]

What may not be as widely known is how the market demand for SQL Server is changing. What was once “typical” use of this leading structure database has been changing over time – and recently even more so. As the use of the databaseHPE Labs-storage-SQL Server-vintage view-blog.png management system changes in the field, changes also happen in how systems are tested and how related technical knowledge is shared with partners and customers. 

1,2,3,4,5 – Five things you may not know about SQL Server today

Here are five insights from what’s happening in the lab around SQL Server today, plus and what’s changing. I’ll also share some learnings around SQL Server performance that may not have come up in your last database tuning webinar.

1. SQL Server is becoming different on-prem vs. in the cloud

As we see databases move to hyperscalers, these tend to be smaller, departmental, edge-oriented, and analytical. What is therefore increasing in enterprise data centers are larger, more performance oriented, transactional, and business critical. These increasingly vital scale-up databases that continue to run in data centers play a key role in enterprise “digital first” strategies. Such transactional databases enabling the growth in digital commerce, and according to IDC, by 2025, 41% of corporate revenues will come from digital services efforts[.6]

So the implication is that for these progressively more important, on-prem SQL server databases, organization need to stay up on how to maximize their availability, resilience, and performance.

2. Modernization does not equal migration

Companies are investing to modernize their on-premises databases. However, the top priorities of CEOs today are data sovereignty, cybersecurity, and privacy[7].  So, despite the siren song of the cloud, business leaders are primarily worried about keeping the organization’s most important data safe and that typically means refreshing and upgrading these database environments on-prem.

In support of our scale-up SQL server customer base, we continue to collaborate with other groups within HPE as well as conduct our own testing.  Along with ensuring that we can prove that SQL Server performance improves from one generation of our storage platforms to the next, we also want to provide relative guidance across platform. That’s so architects and practitioners can see the relative difference in SQL server across, say HPE MSA storage vs. HPE XP storage. Or when running with different compute such as a 2 socket HPE ProLiant vs. a 4 socket HPE Superdome Flex. . 

Other things to consider as new versions of SQL Server roll out include new capabilities and features dictating different SQL configurations and design decisions.

Keep an eye out for more of this type of testing coming out in the near future.

3. Shared storage delivers superior results for workload consolidation

HPE installed-base data validates that customers in general get a superior experience running multiple workloads together on shared infrastructure (for example, on average seven applications on the same storage array. This not only simplifies management but also drives down the cost of IT, in whatever is the most relevant metric – per application, user, database, email box, etc.

Also, as more applications are limited to run on local disk (e.g. Azure Stack HCI), most can still benefit from a SAN. Where there is an option, it necessitates determining if your current situation would realize better results with local disk or external storage.

4. There’s an “efficient horizon” of enterprise database price/performance

We know that tens of thousands of customers have enjoyed the affordable performance of SQL Server on HPE MSA storage. At the same time large organizations are running bigger SQL Server instances on enterprise Tier 0 and Tier 1 storage such as HPE Primera and HPE Nimble Storage. You need to determine where your application lives on this spectrum: if the performance requirements merit dedicated infrastructure, or if technical objectives (IOPS, latency, uptime) can be met with shared infra, and knowing the optimal point on the price/performance curve.

Along with the stand-out benchmark results, recent lab testing has increased our understanding of storage performance and price/performance. For instance, it was confirmed that separating the database from the TempDB in separate volumes on the array will add to performance gains.

There’s an established interplay, and tradeoffs that must be made in selecting for performance, specific compute configurations, and the type of data storage. Steps along this price/performance spectrum will be determined by choice made regarding compute power vs. storage capabilities, local vs. external storage, storage media types. and networking (e.g. Fibre Channel).

5. Staff expertise is always a factor

Introducing new system components impacts not only deployment time and project risk, but also system output, and not always as expected. Plugging the latest-greatest tech into the environment typically requires corresponding knowledge, as there is probably requisite tuning required.

Experience HPE Alletra performance for yourself

We have performance whitepapers that detail the increased performance delivered for SQL Server running on HPE Alletra Storage. HPE Alletra uses All-NVMe storage media to increase transactions, throughput, IOPS, and drastically reduce latency.

Check out these two recent technical publications. Or reach out to your HPE sales rep or authorized reseller with your specific questions. And don’t forget to ask how HPE GreenLake can bring even more value to your SQL Server environment.

1 Worldwide Database Management Systems Software Market Shares, 2020: The Enterprise Journey to the Cloud, August 2021, IDC #US48179521

2 Rank with Gartner Cloud DBMS Magic Quadrant report

3,4 From Database Trends and Applications article, Dec, 2019

5 HPE Storage organization internal installed base data, July 2021

6,7 Reported at IDC Directions - Santa Clara, CA. March 22, 2022

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