Premium Blob Storage In Azure

James Serra describes a new tier of Azure Blob Storage:

As a follow-up to my blog Azure Archive Blob Storage, Microsoft has released another storage tier called Azure Premium Blob Storage (announcement).  It is in private preview in US East 2, US Central and US West regions.

This is a performance tier in Azure Blob Storage, complimenting the existing Hot, Cool, and Archive tiers.  Data in Premium Blob Storage is stored on solid-state drives, which are known for lower latency and higher transactional rates compared to traditional hard drives.

It is ideal for workloads that require very fast access time such as interactive video editing, static web content, and online transactions.  It also works well for workloads that perform many relatively small transactions, such as capturing telemetry data, message passing, and data transformation.

It’s in private preview for now, but my guess is that it’ll be available to the general public soon enough.

Using IO Cache To Speed Up Spark Jobs

Chris Seferlis looks at what the HDInsight team has done to speed up Apache Spark jobs:

The big news here is the recently released preview of HDInsight IO Cache, which is a new transparent data caching feature that provides customers with up to 9X performance improvement for Spark jobs, without an increase in costs.

There are many open source caching products that exist in the ecosystem: Alluxio, Ignite, and RubiX to name a few big ones. The IO Cache is also based on RubiX and what differentiates RubiX from other comparable caching products is its approach of using SSD and eliminating the need for explicit memory management. While other comparable caching products leverage the reservation of operating memory for caching the data.

Read on for more details.

Finding Databases With Multiple Data Or Log Files

Lori Brown has a couple of quick scripts to help find databases made up of several data or log files:

This might be kind of basic but since I am working on a comprehensive script to discover things that a DBA really needs to know about, I made a couple of queries that will produce a list of the databases that have multiple files along with the locations of the physical files.  One query finds multiple database files (mdf’s) and the other looks for multiple transaction log files (ldf’s).  This will also find the Filestream file locations.  Since I often have to take on instances without ever having seen them, it is good to know about little things like this.

This script might be helpful in finding minor performance gains by looking for places to add data files or remove log files.

Running SQL Server On Cluster Shared Volumes

Sreekanth Bandarla continues a series on clustered shared volumes:

In the previous part of this series, we have seen what a cluster shared volume is and what are the advantages and other considerations to keep in mind when deploying CSVs for SQL Server workloads. In this article, I will walk though actual installation of a failover cluster Instance leveraging CSVs.

To begin with, I will walk you through my cluster setup from 20,000 foot view. I created two brand new VMs running windows server 2012 R2 and renamed them accordingly. Nothing special w.r.t disk drives at this point, Just basic VMs with a system drive(C$).

The rest of the story is over at SQLShack.

Switching To Managed Disks In Azure

Chris Seferlis walks us through an easy method to convert unmanaged disks to managed disks in Azure:

First off, why would you want a managed disk over an unmanaged one?

  • Greater scalability due to much higher IOPs and storage limits. There’s no longer the need to add additional storage accounts when you’re adding disk space, which has been a challenge for users that were using large virtual machines and required large storage space.

  • Better availability and reliability which ensures that disks are now isolated from each other in different storage scale units.

  • Managed disks offer an over 99.99% uptime, plus are always stored with 3 replicas of the data.

  • More granular access control by employing role-based access control (RBAC) security. You have granular capability to assign access to various people in your organization.

Keep reading to learn how to switch.

What To Watch When Using VSS Snapshots

Erik Darling shows us the wait stats associated with the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS):

A while back I wrote about the Perils of VSS Snaps.

After working with several more clients having similar issues, I decided it was time to look at things again. This time, I wanted blood. I wanted to simulate a slow VSS Snap and see what kind of waits stats I’d have to look out for.

Getting software and rigging stuff up to be slow would have been difficult.

Instead, we’re going to cheat and use some old DBCC commands.

This one almost got the “Wacky Ideas” tag but I’m grading on a curve for that category.

Recommendations For Storage On Azure SQL DB Managed Instances

Dimitri Furman has some thoughts on database storage architecture for Azure SQL Database Managed Instances:

MI GP uses Azure Premium Storage to store database files for all databases, except for the tempdb database. From the perspective of the database engine, this storage type is remote, i.e. it is accessed over the network, using Azure network infrastructure. To use Azure Premium Storage, MI GP takes advantage of SQL Server native capability to use database files directly in Azure Blob Storage. This means that there is not a disk or a network share that hosts database files; instead, file path is an HTTPS URL, and each database file is a page blob in Azure Blob Storage.

Since Azure Premium Storage is used, its performance characteristics, limits, and scalability goals fully apply to MI GP. The High-performance Premium Storage and managed disks for VMs documentation article includes a section describing Premium Storage disk limits. While the topic is written in the context of VMs and Azure disks, which is the most common usage scenario for Azure Premium Storage, the documented limits are also applicable to blobs. As shown in the limits table in the documentation, the size of the blob determines the maximum IOPS and throughput that can be achieved against the blob. For MI GP, this means that the size of a database file determines the maximum IOPS and throughput that is achievable against the file.

The disk/blob size shown in the limits table is the maximum size for which the corresponding limit applies. For example, a blob that is > 64 GB and <= 128 GB (equivalent to a P10 disk) can achieve up to 500 IOPS and up to 100 MB/second throughput.

Read the whole thing if you’re looking at Managed Instances, but there are some tips for SQL Server in Azure IaaS.

When Paging To Disk Became Cool Again

The Netflix Technology Blog walks us through how they do caching on SSDs:

Storing large amounts of data in volatile memory (RAM) is expensive. Modern disk technologies based on SSD are providing fast access to data but at a much lower cost when compared to RAM. Hence, we wanted to move part of the data out of memory without sacrificing availability or performance. The cost to store 1 TB of data on SSD is much lower than storing the same amount in RAM.

We observed during experimentation that RAM random read latencies were rarely higher than 1 microsecond whereas typical SSD random read speeds are between 100–500 microseconds. For EVCache our typical SLA (Service Level Agreement) is around 1 millisecond with a default timeout of 20 milliseconds while serving around 100K RPS. During our testing using the storage optimized EC2 instances (I3.2xlarge) we noticed that we were able to perform over 200K IOPS of 1K byte items thus meeting our throughput goals with latency rarely exceeding 1 millisecond. This meant that by using SSD (NVMe) we were able to meet our SLA and throughput requirements at a significantly lower cost.

NVMe isn’t as fast as RAM, but we are well beyond the days of spinning disk hard drives.

Using Azure Blob Storage Archive Tier For Archival Data

Bob Pusateri shows us how to configure Azure Blob Storage Archive Tier:

Two of the products I use extensively for this purpose are Amazon Glacier and, more recently, Microsoft Azure Blob Storage Archive Tier. As happy as I’ve been with Amazon Glacier since its introduction in 2012, I always hoped Microsoft would offer a similar service. My wish came true in Fall of 2017 when an archive tier of Azure Blob Storage was announced. Rather than branding this capability as a new product, Microsoft decided to present it as a new tier of Azure Blob Storage, alongside the existing hot and cool storage tiers.

A noticeable difference from the hot and cool storage tiers is that the archive storage tier is only available on a per-blob basis. While a storage account can be configured to have all blobs placed in either the hot or cool tier by default once they are uploaded, the archive tier is not an option. Once a blob is uploaded, it must explicitly be moved into the archive tier. If one is using the Azure Portal to do this, there’s several clicks involved per blob. The free Azure Storage Explorer client is no better. While I found several third party tools that can upload files to the archive tier, none were free. At this point, I decided to write my own method using Powershell, which I am happy to share below.

Read on for the script.  A good use for Azure Blob Storage Archive Tier would be storing old database backups which you have to keep around for compliance purposes but rarely use.

Azure Data Lake Store: Now On Blob Storage

James Serra announces Azure Data Lake Store Gen2:

Big news!  The next generation of Azure Data Lake Store (ADLS) has arrived.  See the official announcement.

In short, ADLS Gen2 is the combination of the current ADLS (now called Gen1) and Blob storage.  Gen2 is built on Blob storage.  By GA, ADLS Gen2 will have all the features of both, which means it will have features such as limitless storage capacity, support all Blob tiers (Hot, Cool, and Archive), the new lifecycle management feature, Azure Active Directory integration, hierarchical file system, and read-access geo-redundant storage.

A Gen2 capability is what is called “multi-modal” which means customers can use either Blob object store APIs or the new Gen2 file system APIs.  The key here is that both blob and file system semantics are now supported over the same data.

One very interesting thing to me is that Gen2 pricing is half of Gen1.

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