Reading the New Fast Track Reference Architectures from HP & EMC

James Serra caught three new SQL Server 2014 Fast Track Data Warehouse Reference Architecture designs released by EMC, HP, and Lenovo. I love reading these because they show each vendor’s state-of-the-art storage infrastructure.

Two of them have remarkably similar goals – to hold a 28 TB data warehouse:

Here’s a simplified summary of their results:


A few things to take away here – first, and obviously, the HP storage wipes the floor with the EMC storage. It’s not clear from the limited test results if the EMC solution would have been more competitive had it used modern CPUs. The EMC one was built with an HP DL580, a 4-socket server, using older CPUs, and it left two of the CPU sockets empty. That’s quite an odd choice for a benchmark test.

The EMC solution takes up dramatically more rack space than the simple HP 2-u server solution, and involves dramatically more management complexity.

However, if you want automatic failover with minimal downtime and no data loss, local solid state storage probably isn’t going to cut it. It’d be relatively easy to add high availability in the form of Windows failover clustering to the EMC solution, but complex to build reliability into HP’s. (It’d require AlwaysOn Availability Groups or database mirroring, both of which would impact the workload speeds seen here.)

Cost is a tougher question – your mileage may vary given pricing discounts on gear like this, but note that HP’s solution uses four of these $28k USD cards. The solid state storage alone is $100k, which sounds like a lot, but remember that we’re talking about 24 cores of SQL Server licensing anyway – in the neighborhood of $165k just for the software.

Solid state changes the game for everything in databases, and you don’t have to buy the ultra-expensive cards, either. I’d love to see a reference architecture built with Intel’s new PCI Express drives, but since Intel hasn’t been involved in Microsoft Fast Track Data Warehouse Reference Architectures, that’s left as an exercise for the reader.

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