Highly Available SQL Server Storage Options in #Azure: SMB 3.0 File Service or Premium Storage, a look at performance differences

When looking at storage options for deployments of SQL Server deployments in Azure you have a few options as described in the article Windows Server Failover Cluster on Azure IAAS VM – Part 1 (Storage). The article also references the newly released Azure File Service which can be used to host your SQL Server cluster data over SMB 3.0. As of today the Azure File Service does not support Premium Storage, so you are limited to about 1000 IOPS or 60 MB/s per file share. With those limits in place I see Azure File Service really only being an option for databases that have minimal IO demands. We will see why that holds true based on my tests results below.


I wanted to test a few configurations, so I provisioned a DS4 VM and attached some premium storage to it. I also attached a SMB 3.0 File share using Azure File Service. The storage was configured as follows:

F:\ – Three 1 TB P30 Premium Storage Disks added to a single 3TB pool

G:\ – One 1 TB P30 Premium Storage Disk (no Storage Pool)

Z:\ – SMB 3.0 File share on Azure File Services

To configure the Storage Pool for use in a cluster you have to be careful how you proceed. You either have to create the Storage Pool before you create the cluster or you have to use the Powershell script described in Sql Alwayson with Windows 2012 R2 Storage Spaces if the cluster is already created. The pool I created was a Simple mirror (RAID 0) for increased performance. I’m not concerned about redundancy since the Azure storage on the backend has triple redundancy.

With three disk in the Storage Pool in a RAID 0 I expect I should get up to three times the performance of a single disk. Adding even more disk to the pool should give me even performance. A single P30 disk gives me 5000 IOPS and 200 MB/S, so for my pool I should expect up to 15000 IOPS and 600 MB/S throughput.

Now that I have the storage configured I configured Dskspd to run the same test on each of the different volumes. The parameters I used with Dskspd are as follows:

Diskspd.exe -b8K -d60 -h -L -o8 -t16 -r -w30 -c50M F:\io.dat

Diskspd.exe -b8K -d60 -h -L -o8 -t16 -r -w30 -c50M G:\io.dat

Diskspd.exe -b8K -d60 -h -L -o8 -t16 -r -w30 -c50M Z:\io.dat

The results were pretty predictable and summarized below

DskspdAs you can see, while this particular job did not push the upper limits of the theoretical maximum of any of these storage solutions, the latency had a significant impact on the overall performance of this particular test. The test used 8k blocks in a mix of 30% writes and 70% reads to simulate a typical SQL Server OLTP workload.

Of course the more money you want to spend the more performance you can expect to achieve. As of November 24, 2015 the price for the best solution shown here (F:\) would cost you $1,216/month and give you full access to 3 TB of storage with unlimited reads/writes. The second best solution (G:\) would give you 1 TB of storage at 1/3 the price, $405/month. The Azure File Share is priced at $0.10/GB plus additional charges for read/write operations. You are only charged for the actual usage so estimating the actual cost will be very dependent on your usage, but before the additional charges for read/write operations you are at about 25% of the cost of Premium Storage.

Prices, like everything else in the Cloud, tend to change rapidly to address the market demands. Have a look at the latest price information at https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/storage/ for the latest price information.

In summary, while Azure File Services looks enticing from a price perspective, the latency at this point does not make it a viable option for any serious SQL Server workload. Instead, have a look at utilizing premium storage and leveraging either host based replication solutions such as SIOS DataKeeper to build SQL Server Failover Cluster Instances (SQL Standard or Enterprise) or look at SQL Server Enterprise Edition and AlwaysOn AG.

Highly Available SQL Server Storage Options in #Azure: SMB 3.0 File Service or Premium Storage, a look at performance differences

2 thoughts on “Highly Available SQL Server Storage Options in #Azure: SMB 3.0 File Service or Premium Storage, a look at performance differences

  1. Michael Carr says:

    I tried to use Azure File Service just for a quick-and-dirty FCI, but I kept getting authentication errors when the SQL service tried to read or write to it. How did you configure the security on the Azure File Share so the service could access it?

    1. daveberm says:

      In my test SQL Server was using a Domain Amin account. I haven’t looked into how to control permissions yet as it really doesn’t seem like a viable alternative at the moment.

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