Guest post by Txomin Barturen, Senior Consultant – CTO Office, EMC Corporation

SQL Server provides customers with a vast array of technology options to address a diverse range of data and reporting requirements including extremely high throughput OLTP environments to bandwidth and time-sensitive reporting and DSS systems.  With choice comes the inevitable complexity of defining and building solutions.  Customer IT teams are invariably dealing with Service Level Agreements (SLAs) from their in internal customers.  Time and financial constraints often limit the ability of internal IT teams to spend significant amounts of time in defining, testing and implementing the broad range of environments that they need to deploy.

Jointly, Cisco and EMC have partnered with Microsoft to deliver a set of solutions that are pre-validated to deliver the requirements for customer SQL Server environments.  These solutions implement the collective best practices for server, network and storage, ensuring that customers implement a known valid configuration without the guesswork.

Fast Track Data Warehouse

Dealing with data warehouse requirements requires that solutions be designed to meet the ideal balance between performance, DW size, and cost. Design guidance from the SQL Server team dictates that the total data warehouse size be finely balanced by storage system configuration, server system consumption rate (how fast the CPUs are able to process the data) as well as the interconnectivity between server and storage to deliver at the required rate.  To match server configuration, the interconnectivity (including HBAs) and the storage infrastructure requires much design, calculation and testing across a number of disciplines.

The SQL Server Data Warehouse Fast Track program, as designed by the Microsoft SQL Server team, aims to ensure that partner defined solutions meet all the performance, size and scale requirements appropriately.  Cisco and EMC have partnered to deliver some of the industry’s best solutions for customers in this Fast Track program.

Customers selecting a Cisco/EMC Fast Track solution are ensured to have optimally matched and designed server and storage solutions, preconfigured for maximum throughput. This integrated solution approach takes the complexity and time consuming efforts off the IT staff, thereby allowing them to more appropriately focus on other business demands. All relevant best practices that apply to such configurations from all parties (Microsoft, Cisco and EMC) are already designed and architected within these configurations.  Storage is accurately sized, and configured, as is sever connectivity, through Cisco’s industry leading Nexus networking switches.  Customers are able to quickly implement and consume data warehouse functionality from such pre-validated, and ready to run configurations.

OLTP and the Microsoft Private Cloud

Not all workloads are of the form seen with data warehouses. In many customer environments, random transactional workloads are king. These environments are less throughput (GB/sec) focused, and are much more concerned about low latency random access workloads.  Here, there is more focus on keeping discreet transactions processing at high speed, and ensuring that data is available as and when required. These systems are often multi-tier configurations, where the data layer is consumed by a business logic tier.

Private cloud infrastructures provide the basis for dynamic and scalable solutions that easily accommodate elastic compute and storage needs. Jointly, Cisco and EMC provide a number of scalable infrastructures as part of the EMC VSPEX solution set.

Here, similar to the pre-validated configurations provided in the Microsoft Fast Track programs, EMC and Cisco ensure that given workloads are easily deployed, managed and scaled. Customers can rely on the knowledge that pre-validated configurations meet the full requirements of the Microsoft Private Cloud. Both Cisco and EMC provide all required integration with the core Windows environment and System Center, to provide a fully integrated and automated configuration.

High Performance Compute

While the majority of customer workloads can be satisfied by deploying the aforementioned “appliance style” solutions, certain customer workloads invariably don’t fit the preconfigured approach. .  These solutions generally go beyond the traditional OLTP and DW styles of solutions; here the performance of the configuration needs to be delivered at the highest levels.

In the world of compute, as you move further away from the central processing core, data transfer rates degrade in orders of magnitude.  CPU cores operate at Gigahertz rates, memory subsystems also execute in Gigahertz rates, though slower than CPU rates. Effective transfer rates then degrade further as you proceed beyond subsequent PCIe bridges, and then over HBAs to storage.  To process data at the highest levels, keeping the data close to the CPU is the goal.  But large memory subsystems are invariably expensive.

Other, more cost effective solutions of keep data close and providing high levels of performance come in the way of PCIe-based Flash memory.  When used to store data, as in the case of the XtremSF host based storage controller, performance is accelerated in orders of magnitude over tradition storage arrays.

When the datasets exceed the size of server side Flash memory cards, Cache-acceleration solutions can provide significant value. These solutions, like the XtremSW solution, provide a transparent software cache that extends the SAN provided storage to provide a dynamic cache.  Data that is often referenced is dynamically retained in the fast server-side flash card (XtremSF), while the bulk of the data, and all changes, and are persisted to the storage array itself.  Thus customers can implement efficient, dynamic configurations while continuing to leverage Windows high availability solutions like Windows Failover Clustering, where the data remains on a shared storage array.

In the end, it’s about choice

Ultimately customer configurations and specific requirements differ.  While (we hope) the bulk of SQL Server solutions might fit the pre-configured, pre-validated Fast Track solutions, there will always be those requirements that don’t quite fit.  Whether it’s a case of size, scale, or performance, the Cisco and EMC solutions can be augmented.  Whether it’s through larger CPU counts, larger primary memory, accelerated with server size Flash solutions, or enhanced by industry leading Fully Automated Storage Tiering solutions, the combined EMC/Cisco solutions fit the most demanding requirements.

All solutions, of course, are backed by the service and support of the respective organizations,

Additional resources include



Gary Serda

Senior Strategic Partner Marketing Manager

Global Partner Marketing