Simplify Design of 100% Flash Storage for Microsoft SQL Server 2014 with Flashstack

I’m back from my blogging hiatus after wrapping up the new FlashStack Converged Infrastructure Design Guide for SQL 2014. This was a fun and challenging project building out two different Cisco UCS FlashStack’s one each for the Primary and Disaster Recovery (DR) sites.

Here are some key highlights about this solution:

  • Enable 3x faster deployment of virtualized SQL Server database
  • Reduce native SQL Server backup operations by nearly 5x compared to traditional mechanical disks
  • Achieve 5 minute RPO’s with SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Groups and FlashRecover Replication
  • Support reporting services for multiple data warehouse copies with an average 8:1 data reduction


Pure Storage has introduced a converged infrastructure platform named FlashStack which is built upon trusted hardware from Cisco and Pure Storage. FlashStack leverages Cisco’s extremely flexible and expandable Unified Computing System (UCS) to provide the compute horsepower, Cisco Nexus for networking and Pure Storage FlashArray 400 Series as the storage foundation. FlashStack partners can provide the guidance, services, and experience necessary to help you deploy FlashStack quickly and with confidence. FlashStack Authorized Support Partners provide a single point of contact for services and end-to-end support on the entire FlashStack converged infrastructure solution.Physical Hardware Layout2

This design guide describes a reference architecture for Microsoft SQL Server 2014 AlwaysOn Availability Groups on Pure Storage FlashArray (FA-400 series) using VMware vSphere 6.0, Microsoft proprietary workload driver and Windows Server 2012 R2 Update as the guest operating systems. Pure Storage has extensively validated the reference architecture running OLTP, Data Warehouse and Data Mart workloads in its lab – this document presents the design decisions, results and offers implementation guidance.

The solution includes the use of Cisco Nexus 5548s, 6248 Fabric Interconnects, VMware vSphere 6.0, Windows Server 2012 R2 and SQL Server 2014 Enterprise Edition.  The image to the right illustrates the physical deployment.  The design principle for this FlashStack is all about scale, resiliency, capacity and ease of management. Besides the ESXi 6.0 hosts being installed on the physical UCS blades between the Primary and DR sites everything else in the environment is 100% virtualized. The workloads tested include OLTP, Data Warehouse and Data Mart.  The below diagram shows what was deployed between both sites. The main point is that this was a cross site SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Group deployment for HA. FlashStack_CI_SQL_Cover

A few highlights from the Design Guide include:

  • Consistent performance running different workload profiles on SQL Server 2014 for OLTP and DW.
  • No performance degradation with FlashRecover Snapshots executing with active workloads running.
  • Sustained >2.5 GB/s bandwidth, <1ms read latency and just above 1ms write latency.
  • Quickly implement best practice on ESX to optimize your environment.

Click the FlashStack Converged Infrastructure Design Guide for Microsoft SQL Server 2014 below for more details.

Hope readers find this design guide useful and look for more exciting updates on this front as we begin moving our work onto the FlashArray//m series.

Additional References


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