Tech updates

SQL 2016 Standard – Basic Availability Group

High Availability for SQL 2016 Standard edition now has the “Basic Availability Group”.

The Basic Availability Group is based on AlwaysOn Availability Groups (AAG) that was released in SQL 2012 Enterprise. AAG continues to be an Enterprise edition feature set.

Basic availability groups use a subset of features compared to advanced availability groups on SQL Server 2016 Enterprise Edition. Basic availability groups include the following limitations:

  • Limit of two replicas (primary and secondary).
  • No read access on secondary replica.
  • No backups on secondary replica.
  • No support for replicas hosted on servers running a version of SQL Server prior to SQL Server 2016 Community Technology Preview 3 (CTP3).
  • No support for adding or removing a replica to an existing basic availability group.
  • Support for one availability database.
  • Basic availability groups cannot be upgraded to advanced availability groups. The group must be dropped and re-added to a group that contains servers running only SQL Server 2016 Enterprise Edition.
  • Basic availability groups are only supported for Standard Edition servers.

Basic Availability Group – info on MSDN


EMC Storage Integrator (ESI) 3.5

For further details on the ESI Suite and all of its components click here

Click here to download a copy of ESI 3.5

EMC Microsoft Community site |

Great review of ESI 3.5 by Karsten Bott (@HyperV_Guy) | | ESI and RecoverPoint

Excellent ESI overview videos by David Lloyd (@davlloyd) | | | | | |

ESI and VNX |


EMC Storage Integrator (ESI) for Windows is the ultimate set of tools to ease storage provisioning for the Windows administrator. In addition, ESI will provision application level components (such as Exchange databases, SharePoint sites, and SQL databases). With ESI, the Windows admin will no longer have to wait for other teams to perform tasks on their behalf in order to provision storage for their applications.

The Windows admin will use familiar tools (such as MMC, PowerShell, and System Center) to work with storage. ESI combines the functionality of many desperate tools into one GUI interface and one set of PowerShell scripts. This will ease the learning curve and streamline the process for systems management.





Example process improvement:



Should you be a PowerShell scripter, ESI includes a rich set of PowerShell libraries for provisioning and managing of EMC storage.




In addition, the ESI suite includes full integration of EMC products into System Center (SCOM, SCVMM, and SCO)





Storage monitoring with ESI Management Packs (SCOM)




Storage management from within Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM)





ESI System Center Orchestrator Integration Pack



Best of all, EMC Storage Integrator (ESI) for Windows is at no cost..!image

Product Overview

EMC Storage Integrator (ESI) for Windows Suite is a set of tools for Microsoft Windows and Microsoft applications administrators. ESI for Windows provides the ability to view, provision, and manage block and file storage for Microsoft Windows, Exchange, SQL, and SharePoint.

The suite includes:

  • ESI for Windows and ESI PowerShell toolkit
  • Storage System adaptors
  • ESI hypervisor support
  • ESI adaptors for: SharePoint, Exchange, SQL, Appsync, RecoverPoint
  • ESI SCOM Management Packs
  • EMC Hyper-V VSS requestor

EMC Storage Integrator (ESI) for Windows has a UI based on Microsoft Management Console (MMC). ESI can be run as a stand-alone tool or as part of an MMC snap-in.







ESI supports storage provisioning and discovery for Windows virtual machines (VMs) running on Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer, and VMWare vSphere and vCenter.


  • Create VHD and VHDX files, and pass-through SCSI disks
  • Create hosts disks and cluster shared volumes (CSVs)


  • Create VMDK files and raw device mapping (RDM) disks with or without virtual compatibility mode
  • Create SCSI disks
  • View datastores


  • Create VHD files and storage repositories

ESI supports the EMC Symmetrix® VMAX® series, EMC VNX® series, EMC VNXe® series, and EMC CLARiiON® CX® fourth generation (CX4) series of storage systems. ESI requires that you install the applicable adapter for your specific storage systems.

Summary of the key New Product Features included in this release (3.5):

  • Support for Microsoft SQL Server
  • Integrated Microsoft Active Directory role based access (RBAC)
  • Support for RecoverPoint and/or Appsync 
  • Support for Linux servers
  • VPLEX Health Monitoring

This release adds the following new functionality:

  • ESI SQL Server Adaptor to view and manage SQL Server databases and provision storage for SQL Server
  • ESI VPLEX Adaptor to monitor health of VPLEX systems in SCOM
  • ESI AppSync Adaptor to automate application protection with EMC AppSync
  • Use Microsoft Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) or Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS) with ESI to persist connection settings in a central location for all supported applications and systems
  • ESI Linux Adaptor to manage Linux hosts
  • ESI VNXe Adaptor to manage LUN groups and unified snapshots for EMC VNXe 3200 systems
  • ESI RecoverPoint Adaptor to manage EMC RecoverPoint Bookmarks
  • ESI Exchange Integration to update HA Extension with the ESI GUI for easy DAG and database failover operations


Storage System and hypervisor software prerequisites



Microsoft Office 365 (minus 1)…


Microsoft Office 365 (minus 1)… Well it is only a 99.9% SLA anyways…

Most customers might not deem their email as a tier 1 application, but just wait till it is down. Email is by most definitions is an important business application and should be treated as such. How long can your business survive without communications to your customers, partners, or employees?

Would you put your other business critical applications in the public multi-tenet cloud?

> Want credit for June’s Exchange blackout? File a claim

> Microsoft’s “Exchange Online” becomes “Exchange Offline” as service goes dark.

TechEd2014 : OneDrive for Business

My notes from the session OneDrive for Business

75% of businesses allow personal devices, Only 25% have a BYOD policy

Productivity versus Compliance

File/Sync/Share – Very similar to SyncPlicity

All my files in one place

1TB of storage

anywhere access

Sync client – various clients

Office client integration <- Cool feature

Co-authoring <- This is really cool. Being to see other authors updates on a document in realtime

Easy sharing

Search & Discovery



Admin Control

Part of SharePoint and O365

File upload size 2GB

Automatic versioning

Post to Yammer

“Shared with me” view

Which version should I use?

SharePoint features update every 3 years

O365 updates very frequently

HIPAA certified

Custom apps can be developed on top of OneDrive

Site Folders – Team site document libraries

Recycle Bin

Recent Documents – across all office clients that you use <- Cool feature.

Launch “new” documents from O365

Rich preview from O365 <- Cool feature.

Edit from O365 with co-authoring in real time ( you can see the other person edits live) <- Awesome feature.

External sharing is optional via policy

Post to Yammer – can limit to groups and users

Search – my docs and shared with me

Workflows, Check in/out, workflows – just like in SharePoint

Email with attachment or link to doc with Outlook in O365

Code name Oslo “Office Graph” – New Search and Discovery across all Office content, includes edits, comments, trending, liked, relationships, adheres to permissions (only shows content that I have access to)

Coming Soon:

Document Conversations

Mac Sync Client

Native Android app



Encryption at Rest

Oslo + Office Graph

New Admin panel for SharePoint on-premise

Pricing – Standalone offering $2.50/user/month, 1TB per user, includes Office Online

Part of Office365 ProPlus

TechEd2014 : SQL on Azure VMs

My notes from the TechEd session on SQL inside of Azure VMs


This stuff is confusing. No standard storage terminology being used.

Someone asked if the disks in the BLOBS where Thick or Thin. Answer: We don’t use those terms.



Performance Guidance for SQL Server in Windows Azure Virtual Machines


Azure VMs tie to Azure Storage – need to understand how Azure Storage works

Azure service is a shared service, multi-tenet service


Azure BLOB storage

 VHDs stored in BLOB

3 copies automatic – persistent copies

Shared service – noisy neighbors can be an issue

No direct performance correlation between disk requests made by VM and the underlying physical disk

No performance SLA’s

500TB / BLOB

Total requests rate 20,000 /sec

Geo-redundant storage = 10gb/sec Ingress, 20 gb/sec Egress

Local redundant = 20gb/sec Ingress 30 gb/sec Egress


Two tiers of service for VMs

VM Basic tier = A0-A4 tiers

VM Standard tier = A5-A9 tiers


Disk types

C:- 127GB – persistent

D: Temp drive – 20GB-605GB depend on tier – may be wiped on reboot – local disk, low latency

Data Disks – up to 1TB each (thin)


Where and when you provision your VM matters – the service can move your VM around

Maintenance operations have an effect on performance – notified from Microsoft when they do maintenance


C:- D:are local disks versus Azure disks stored in a BLOB

– need to test to determine scenarios for performance of where to put what


VM Disk Cache

“Host Cache Preference” when creating a disk

Two tier cache:

Tier 1 – Most recently accessed data stored in RAM of physical virtualization host. This cache is sharedby all VMs on that host

Tier 2 – Less recently accessed data stored on the local disk of the physical host (disk based cache). Ther is cache space reserved to each VM OS disk and Data disk based VM size.


  • Reduce transaction against Azure Storage
  • Reduce disk IO latency when IO rate is low
  • Impr0ve boot time


Network Bandwidth and Delay


I/O go through separate stack from Guest VM network


“Cloud Service” is a management, config, security, networking and service model boundary

Affinity group : Compute and storage to be placed close to each other

Going through load balancers adds latency


IO paths on Azure VM


Azure diagram


Disk recommendations:

Use Data disks (not local OS disk) for DBs larger than 10GB

Cache settings:

Use “None” for high OLTP – random I/O

Use “Read” if workload is sensitive to latency

Use “Read/Write” for sporadic disk access – not a write back cache

Static data, seldom accessed

Cache setting can be changed via PowerShell


VM instance size and limits

Place user DB & logs on different data disks

If on OS drive:

Avoid OS disk stripping, use SQL striping (ie. file group)

Warm up disk before measuring performance

After initialize the file by writing some bit patterns sequentially using SQLIO

Consider enabling SQL data compression (row, page) for I/O bound workloads

Reduces I/O

CPU usage can increase

Enable instant file initialization

Don’t use auto-grow, pre-allocate instead

Use 64KB DAU


Placement of data files

Option 1: DB across multiple files with a file group

Option 2: Create an “OS volume” on top of multiple disk

Option 3: Multiple striped volumes each with one or more data disks (based on specific I/O performance requirements)(Host level RAID 0)



Place on OS or Data disks

Don’t use D: temp drive – performance issues can occur


Disk warm up

Disk Load balancers – cold disks get less performance, hot disks get better performance

Idol disks (cold) for 20 mins will reduce your performance. Azure remove disk load balancers from cold disks.

Manually Warm up disks for 10 mins – will get you better performance

Use a Script to warm up


VM Dashboard

Monitor tab for storage account

Storage analytics logging

Minimal or Verbose

Aggregated data place into hidden place in BLOB “&log” – accessible via PowerShell


Moving to the cloud doesn’t solve app design issues

Performance baseline needed prior to moving to Azure in order to understand performance



  1. Backup directly to BLOB storage via URL – within the same data center, if another datacenter will be charged egress
  2. Backup to regular disk


Repurposing of data -??

How to populate test/dev?



EMC and Microsoft – Friend or Foe?

You may think that EMC and Microsoft are bitter competitors, and you may be right because in some areas they do fiercely compete. But more often than not, the two companies work together to solve customer problems with joint solutions from both sides. Even with competing products, overlapping functionality, and differences in approach, it is the customer who ultimately drives the decision. That decision is rarely a one sided architecture. Most often we see a blend of technologies from both EMC and Microsoft that come together to solve business issues and initiatives.


Microsoft has competitive technologies, guidance, and solutions in several areas. EMC has a different set of direction and federation partners.

Such examples are:

  1. Windows Azure public cloud services – These services compete directly against VMware vCHS public cloud services.
  • Microsoft’s Azure started off as PaaS (Platform as a Service) with providing custom .NET application hosting and SQL database service. Azure then added many more IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) services to their offering. These are such as: Virtual Machine hosting, Backup, AD, Storage, Web sites, and a Service Bus. Azure is making inroads into bridging on premise with public cloud, but the transition is yet seamless.
  • VMware’s vCHS (vCloud Hybrid Services) is primarily a IaaS service providing seamless transition from on premise to public cloud. VMware is slowly adding PaaS service for custom application hosting.
  • VMware also offers the customer the choice of service providers, whereas Microsoft only offers Azure through their own hosting facility.
  1. Microsoft has virtualization technologies that are based on Windows Server, Hyper-V and System Center. These technologies compete directly against our federation story and solutions with VMware.
  2. Microsoft is advising customers to steer away from SANs and intelligent arrays, and towards DAS (Direct Attached Storage). This guidance is based on the fact that Microsoft has added high availability into their applications (Exchange and SQL) and intelligent storage services into their software (Storage Spaces and ReFS).

Microsoft however is hedging its bets by providing technology into their software that will leverage and take advantage of shared intelligent storage.

  1. ODX (Offloaded Data Transfer) – This provides the offloading of storage functions to array and takes the load off of the server.
  2. SMB 3.0 – This provides a robust file transfers protocol for CIFS and allows for critical workloads to leverage NAS.


EMC and Microsoft have a long standing and mutually beneficial relationship. This relationship is formalized as EMC being a Microsoft “Global Alliance Partner”. Together EMC and Microsoft provide Industry leadership in cloud computing and IT Transformation.

There are several areas that show the commitment to this partnership:

  1. EMC has engineers and hardware in lab at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, WA. In addition, EMC has hardware and staff at the Microsoft Technology Centers (MTC) located in various cities across the US and globally. The MTC’s are used in customer engagements for Envisioning, Architectural Design, and POC’s
  2. EMC and Microsoft have a Cooperative Support Agreement that facilitates technical support between the companies on behalf of the customer. The customer will need to open a service ticket with both tech support organizations, and then the two companies will work together to resolve the customer’s issues.
  3. EMC actively integrates Microsoft technologies into EMC technologies, and typically releases the solutions first to market. EMC has over 300 published technical solutions and another 100 data sheets on Microsoft technologies.
  4. EMC offers VSPEX Proven Infrastructures for the Microsoft stack, including: Virtualized Exchange, Virtualized SQL, Virtualized SharePoint, and Microsoft Private Cloud (converged infrastructure for Hyper-V and System Center).
  5. EMC Consulting has a very large global consulting practice for Microsoft technologies.
  6. EMC has created a Microsoft centric community site that is open to partners and customers. This site contains whitepapers, EMC Proven Solutions for Microsoft, videos, case studies, and open discussion threads on EMC/Microsoft solutions (


As a Microsoft Certified Partner (with 16 competencies and a 21-time Partner of the Year winner), EMC offers our joint customers expertise and technologies to confidently integrate their Microsoft applications with EMC solutions. EMC and Microsoft have programs and solutions that can accelerate customers to transform their IT to private clouds, and provide IT as a Service. EMC is committed to the Microsoft platform and ecosystem, and actively continues to add value by added functionality, solutions, and leadership.

Even though the two companies compete in several areas, every customer of EMC has Microsoft in their environments to some degree. It is imperative that we talk to our customers about their Microsoft applications and communicate EMC’s value for Microsoft.