Striped SQL Server Backups with Azure Blob Storage

By | In Database Administration, SQL Server | August 02nd, 2016

Microsoft has been investing in their cloud platform, Azure, heavily. The best part of this investment is the added capabilities that will be realized in the next version of SQL Server 2016. A number of features initially added to the Azure SQL Databases are now transferring to the on premise version too. This is a good sign because if a particular feature/capability works well for millions of databases (on the cloud), then it has great potential in enterprise databases.

In this blog, I want to take a look at one of the more mundane activities a DBA does: Backups. Backups have been a standard practice for DBAs for more than 2-3 decades, but the innovations have been almost nonexistent in the past few years. This is why I’m very excited that, with the introduction of Azure, Microsoft has brought a feel of freshness to the whole backup strategy. Several interesting enhancements were brought from SQL Server 2014, including the ability to take a backup to blob directly using the BACKUP TO URL construct. Further details can be found in this blog by Pinal Dave.

The syntax looks like this:

Backup to URL introduced the ability for users to perform backups that are stored directly in Cloud-based Storage without the need for any intermediate local storage. This enables customers in either on premise, IAAS, or even hybrid systems deployments to maintain their backups in a persistent storage location which is available, redundant, Geo-replicate-able and which provides for off-site archival needs. This feature was designed and delivered in a SQL cumulative update for SQL server 2012. The current Backup to URL communicates with Cloud Storage and is performed through a REST API over HTTP. Backup to URL employs the Virtual Device Interface (VDI), implemented in a companion process to facilitate communication and data transfer to the Cloud Storage service.

What is new with SQL Server 2016?

With SQL Server 2016, we will be able to perform striped SQL Server backups pointing to a Block Blob. Here are some of the benefits of this functionality:

  • Striping a backup increases the overall throughput of your backups hence reducing backup time.
  • By striping, we are able to read/write to multiple files in parallel.
  • With Block blobs and striping, now the backup files sizes can be up to 12.8 TB on Azure.
  • In SQL 2016, the backup to blob is baked into the backup engine natively.
  • Appending to a backup is currently not supported.

Let us look at the syntax:

It doesn’t look any different from what we used to do earlier with DISK’s; they have simply been replaced with the URL. It is really simple to use now. If you have used the Backup to URL feature before, let me know your feedbacks via comments below.

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Eric Russo
Senior Vice President of Database Services
Eric Russo is SVP of Database Services overseeing all of Datavail’s database practices including project and managed services for MS SQL, Oracle, Oracle EBS, MySQL, MongoDB, SharePoint and DB2. He is also the Product Owner for Datavail Delta, a database monitoring tool. He has 21 years’ experience in technology including 16 years in database management. His management success and style has attracted top DBAs from around the world to create one of the most talented and largest SQL Server teams. He has been with Datavail since 2008: previous to that his work experiences include DBA Manager at StrataVia, Senior Web Developer at Manifest Information Systems and SQL Server DBA at Clark County, Nevada.

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