PDW hardware basics

Technical Value

Microsoft has brought with PDW a great appliance for MPP architectures. In order to get all of this to work, there are a lot of different hardware and software components involved. This article is the foundation for upcoming articles which hold the fundamentals everybody should know about PDW and MPP architecture. So let’s start

  Difference between SMP and MPP The SMP architecture (Symmetric multiprocessing)  provides fast performance by holding several CPUs,  RAM and Storagen available to multiple processes. This is the default architecture for SQL Server and holds some limitations in regards of performance. As you can imagine SMP Server at some point  can’t execute the statements anymore due to limitations on any of the mentioned components above. Another bottleneck ist the system bus. Everything executed will go through their. So what is the alternative? MPP!! The MPP architecture (Massiv Parallel Processing) is a different approach to the well known SMP architecture. Instead of having a server to do all the work, you have multiple servers doing the work. A special application / services splits the process into several and makes sure that they can communicate and get the results from the different machines back together. Now that why know the difference between those two types of architecture we can look deeper into Microsofts approach, called PDW. PDW hardware components Whenever Microsoft sells a PDW, there a always several hardware components included. The so called Base Unit includes besides of the 4 hosts machines and the JBOD, Ethernet and Infiniband switches so the appliance can communicate which its components as well as clients. What you can see in the picture below is the so called "Base Unit“   So what is included:
  • HST01 holds the necessary services for the Appliance to run
  • HST02 is the failover server whenever something goes offline
  • HSA01 and HSA02 are workload machines
  • JBOD is attached to the HSA machines and provides the storage
So lets go a little more into detail In order for PDW to run you need several services which provide the functionality for the MPP architecture to work. Compared to the PDW V1 the appliance got hardware wise stripped down and the machines are now all virtualized. The first machine HST01 provides 4 basic functionally features:
  • Control Node (CTL) is the main entry point for all client related requests. Whenever a client sends a query to the control node the MPP Engine takes the query and builds a parallel plan. This plan is executed against every involved compute nodes. After each node send it results back the Control Node puts the results back together and sends it to the client.
  • Management Node (MAD) provides all the basic functionality to manage the appliance. It involves everything related to patching and maintaining the appliance, as well as a Management Studio to query the single compute nodes involved.
  • Active Directory (AD) is used to take care of the physical hardware. It is also necessary for the cluster functionality.
  • Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) is in charge for the virtual machines. VMM checks that everything runs properly and starts Failover Images an different nodes if necessary.
The second machine (HST01) is the first failover machine. No services are running on here and it is only used in case something is wrong with any other machine. Image HSA 01 (Compute Node) would fail due to a power supply problem, the VMM makes sure that HST02 starts the Compute Node 1 virtual machine, so the appliance works as expected. HSA 01  and HSA 02 are both workload machines and hosts the so called Compute Nodes which hold the user data or in other words the database. The data is stored on the attached JBOD. The JBOD is based on Microsoft Storage Spaces and provide the basic storage  As we learned before in MPP the data is distributed evenly across all compute nodes. To scale even further so called Scale Units can be added to the appliance to distribute even further and get more performance during reading and writing.      

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