Leverage Azure premium file shares for high availability of data

This post was co-authored by Mike Emard Principal Program Manager, Azure Storage. 

SQL Server on Azure virtual machines brings cloud agility, elasticity, and scalability benefits to SQL Server workloads. SQL virtual machine offers full control on the operating system, virtual machine size, storage subsystem, and the level of manageability needed for your workload. Preconfigured SQL Server image from Azure Marketplace comes with free SQL Server manageability benefits like Automated Backup and Automated Patching. If you choose to self-install SQL Server on Azure virtual machines then you can register with SQL virtual machine resource provider to get all the benefits available to SQL marketplace images and simplified license management.

Microsoft provides an availability SLA of 99.95 percent that covers just the virtual machine not SQL Server. For SQL Server high availability on Azure virtual machines, you should host at least two virtual machine instances in an availability set (for availability at 99.95 percent) or different availability zones (for availability at 99.99 percent) and configure a high availability feature for SQL Server, such as Always On availability groups or failover cluster instance.

Today, we are announcing a new option for SQL Server high availability with SQL Server failover cluster with Azure premium file shares. Premium file shares are solid-state drive backed consistent low latency files shares that are fully supported for use with SQL Server failover cluster instance for SQL Server 2012 and above on Windows Server 2012 and above.

Azure premium file shares offer the following key advantages for SQL Server failover cluster instance

Ease of management

  • File shares are fully managed by Azure. 
  •  Provisioning is very simple. 
  •  Resize capacity in seconds with zero downtime by setting a property of the share. Increasing your storage capacity as your database grows is simple and does not cause unavailability, there is no need to provision lots of extra storage up front.
  •  Increase input/output per second (IOPS) in seconds with zero downtime by resizing your share. Increase the size of your premium share to get the IOPS your workload needs. 
  •  Seasonal workloads can temporarily increase IOPS and resize back down as easily as increasing. Again, zero downtime! 

Lower the work on your virtual machines

  •  Input or output is offloaded to your managed file share so you may be able to use a smaller, less expensive, virtual machine. 

Burstable input or output capacity

  •  Premium file share (PFS) provides automated bursting for IOPS capacity up to a limit based on a credit system. If your workload needs occasional bursts, then you should leverage this free and fully automated input or output capacity. Follow the premium files provisioning and bursting documentation to learn more.

Zonal Redundancy

  •  Zonally redundant storage available in some regions. You can deploy SQL Server failover cluster instance with one virtual machine in one availability zone and another in a different zone to achieve 99.99 percent high availability both for compute and the storage.

Premium file shares provide IOPS and throughout capacity that will meet the needs of many workloads. However, for input or output intensive workloads, consider SQL Server failover cluster instance with storage spaces direct based on managed premium disks or ultra-disks. You should check the IOPS activity of your current environment and verify that premium files will provide the IOPS you need before starting a migration. Use Windows Performance Monitor disk counters and monitor total IOPS (disk transfers per sec) and throughput (disk bytes per sec) required for SQL Server data, log and temp data base files. Many workloads have bursting input or output so it is a good idea to check during heavy usage periods and note the max IOPS as well as average IOPS. Premium file shares provide IOPS based on the size of the share. Premium files also provide complimentary bursting where you can burst your input or output to triple the baseline amount for up to one hour.

Use the step by step guide for configuring SQL failover cluster instance with Azure premium files to configure a SQL Server failover cluster instance with PFS today and leverage the new technologies and innovations Azure provides to modernize SQL Server workloads. Please share your feedback through UserVoice. We look forward to hearing from you!

Source: Azure Blog Feed

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