Remote Blob Storage is a Microsoft SQL Server 2008/R2 downloadable package that can be used by applications to store Binary Large Objects (BLOBs) on a filesystem, rather than storing them in an SQL Server database. The Remote Blob Storage package includes client-side components (.NET assemblies) that clients can integrate into their applications to access the Remote Blob Storage API. SharePoint 2010 has native support for Remote Blob Storage, and Stepwise can provide the integration between SharePoint 2010 and your enterprise storage environment.
There are numerous benefits to using Remote Blob Storage to externalise (i.e. not store in a varbinary(MAX) field or similar) BLOBs, including:
- Smaller SQL server databases
- BLOBs don’t use tempdb
- You can choose the storage type and location
- Purchase cheaper disk storage
- Use on-site or off-site storage (such as Cloud storage)
But if you implement a Remote Blob Storage solution like Stepwise as part of your SharePoint environment, what does this mean to various user roles in your business?
Your SharePoint users are not impacted at all. They carry on using SharePoint as they always have, while Remote Blob Storage and Stepwise handle the integration. In most cases they should get better open/save performance using Remote Blob Storage.
Implementing Remote Blob Storage with Stepwise reduces the size of SharePoint content databases. This has a number of good results for SharePoint Administrators, including things like quicker backup and restore times, less time to upgrade SharePoint (via Cumulative Updates and Service Packs) and reducing the need to split out content into multiple site collections.
The last point is probably the most important, and one I’ve blogged about previously. Maintaining the same site collection structure instead of using the traditional method of splitting content into multiple site collections vastly reduces the overhead of managing a SharePoint environment.
Database Administrators (DBAs)
DBAs have a lot less to be concerned about. Because the BLOB files themselves (which could be quite large – up to 2GB if you really want to!) never pass through the SQL Server engine, I/O to the server can be greatly reduced. Database size is smaller (95% less size is quite common) so repairs are shorter, backup is shorter, and the impact on infrastructure is greatly reduced.
Also, the BLOBs don’t pass through tempdb. If you are not using Stepwise, all files are part of the SQL transaction so they end up traveling via tempdb. Remote Blob Storage is much friendlier to your SQL Server environment.
For Storage Admins, things just get a whole lot easier. For a start, they don’t need to purchase very expensive disk drives to keep their very large SharePoint databases working. This can add up to tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of savings, and is one of the initial Return on Investment (ROI) savings that are gained immediately.
Storage admins don’t need to maintain large expensive environments for SQL Server. SQL Server is demanding in terms of storage I/O, which means you need great storage speed and performance.
Stepwise can be configured to match your enterprise backup retention schedule. This makes designing your backups, replication, and off-site storage solutions a lot simpler and more stream-lined. Most backup designs rotate through hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly retention strategies. Stepwise supports splitting up your files into different disk areas (such as network drives, folders, CIFS shares, cloud storage, etc) so Stepwise storage design can match your backup and retention schedules.
This becomes important for backup and restore for a number of reasons:
- Quick recovery. In the event of a disaster recovery scenario, you want to get your most important information back first. For a SharePoint and Stepwise integrated environment, you can restore your (much smaller) SQL Server databases, your first tier of storage, then your second tier of storage, and so on. Your first tier can contain your <30 day old documents, and this may be the most important/most used documents in your SharePoint site.
- Data dedupliation. As data is “aged” and moved to old tiers of storage, there is a gradual change in the size of data. This gives you a huge amount of data storage reduction, and consequently less drive storage used.
- Off-site replication. Replication can be managed more efficiently as you can manage changes in different locations. Your <30 day storage replication can use a more up-to-date replication strategy, whereas you 90+ day replication may only need to be done nightly.