Disk Partition Alignment ( SANs and Diskpart )

As a further post to my series on what else can affect SQL Server Performance here’s the thorny issue of disk partition alignment. Disclaimer: I don’t get to configure SANs, places I work have dedicated teams and it’s unlikely a DBA would be considered a reference point regarding storage. What I can say is that in my experiences SAN storage has usually shown as a performance bottleneck.
  • I’ve recently had the experience of being involved in the migration of storage for a clustered production system from one storage unit ( the physical tin ) to another on the SAN. ( It’s a bit of a misnomer to say migrating from one san to another  <grin> )
  • When I viewed the configuration document from the vendor I noted there were no references to HBA buffers, block size for the formatting or partition alignment.
  • I asked a number of questions and there was some debate as it was assumed that as the vendor had been engaged to produce the upgrade and deployment document they would have configured the storage optimally for SQL Server.
  • During the process it became necessary to involve Microsoft and their engineer was asked about partition alignment, he confirmed that yes it was important and the performance difference could be around 25%. 
  • This confirms a couple of previous experiences before I had been on my SNIA courses and had learned about partition alignment.
  • Interestingly there was a series of posts on SQLServerCentral concerning this very subject just before our migration. I’ve put the post contents below, with names removed, I’d used this as part of my evidence that our provider should align partitions on the migration. 
  • I think the important point here is to always ask the question, regardless of who the Vendor might be.
Links to DiskPart: http://technet2.microsoft.com/windowsserver/en/library/ca099518-dde5-4eac-a1f1-38eff6e3e5091033.mspx?mfr=true http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa995867.aspx  This is a link about HBA queue/buffer depth: http://sqlblog.com/blogs/linchi_shea/archive/2007/09/18/sql-server-and-sans-the-queuedepth-setting-of-a-host-bus-adapter-hba.aspx  Link to SQLServerCentral forum post: http://www.sqlservercentral.com/Forums/Topic446040-360-1.aspx?Highlight=san 
 Here is a forum post which talks about Partition Alignment:
( in full so no selective editing – the interesting stuff in bold ) 
 Hello guys

We have a strange case. We have a
SAP , on Windows 2003, using SQL Server 2005, and using a EMC Clarion for Storage.

Globally , response time of
SAP is very good.
SQL Server response time is good.
CPUs have an excellent performance
But we have noticed I/O performance of Datafiles of SQL server is not excellent. This database have 8 datafiles, and I/O per file, is between 10 and 20 ms. Is not bad, but is not excellent...

The curious thing is: the number of I/O is well balanced between 8 datafiles but ms/IO per each datafile is different, and is growing (!?). I mean:

MTPDATA1 Data I: 13,168392
MTPDATA2 Data I: 13,965697
MTPDATA3 Data I: 15,507416
MTPDATA4 Data I: 16,531073
MTPDATA5 Data I: 17,404987
MTPDATA6 Data I: 18,767620
MTPDATA7 Data I: 20,017096
MTPDATA8 Data I: 20,813471

Any explanation for this???

This Database comes from an Heterogeneous System Copy. Originally was on OS/400 DB2/400. One week ago we are working in new platform Windows 2003 /SQL Server 2005.

First point:This database have been created with an export/import. So this database should be free of fragmentation problems. Should be reorganized.

Second: He details of I/O per file:
Filename Type Partition ms/IO Reads Writes I/O wait ms

MTPDATA1 Data I: 11,071782 8.728.781 371.484 100.756.151
MTPDATA2 Data I: 11,768664 8.734.624 358.552 107.014.530
MTPDATA3 Data I: 12,402772 8.722.614 365.930 112.723.139
MTPDATA4 Data I: 13,181894 8.737.115 372.423 120.080.961
MTPDATA5 Data I: 13,916623 8.749.069 382.267 127.077.363
MTPDATA6 Data I: 15,081958 8.734.311 380.829 137.474.162
MTPDATA7 Data I: 16,147454 8.776.978 380.401 147.868.360
MTPDATA8 Data I: 16,823962 8.731.213 374.198 153.189.086
Data 69.914.705 2.986.084
MTPLOG1 Log J: 2,778653 4.022.434 3.234.530 20.164.584
Log 4.022.434 3.234.530 20.164.584
73.937.139 6.220.614 1.026.348.336

As you can see the balancing is right. Each datafile has the same ratio of reads and writes.

The thing is: time I/O access of each datafile is different. And, curiously is scaling...MTPDATA1 < MTPDATA 2 < MTPDATA 3... < MTPDATA8

I 'm just talked to Storage Manager. He told me that cache of Clarion has a low activity.

Is very strange. The most access is sequential...

Any help please???
Thanks and regards
I can only make general observations from experience with SAN's ..
are your luns dedicated spindles - if not then you will have contention.
are all your trays/luns on the same fibre speed
are the number of spindles for each lun identical
I don't know how your san configures it's cache, but I'd say check it's config is the same - in general terms read cache tends to slow performance and write cache improve performance.
I've never found SAN engineers generally very helpful - there seems to be an inbuilt arrogance that performance should not be questioned !
 1) were all files created exactly the same size and time?2) were all files created large enough for all data and data growth or did you let autogrowth manage the size as you loaded data and began processing?
3) are all files now exactly the same size?
4) are all files part of the same filegroup?


First of all, thanks for your answer.

Past day, we had a meeting with Clarion engineers, customer and us.

Clarion engineers admitted to have set up a bad configuration of LUNS.

It seems there is problem of missalignment, in case of Windows. Is necessary to do a format manually to Labels of Windows, using Diskpart

By default whenMicrosoft Disk Manager formats Clarion LUNs it creates a partition starting at 63rd sector,which misaligns the partition with the underlying storage subsystem.This can cause a greater I/O load than is necessary.

If anybody wants more information, ask me.
That is something that almost every non-experienced (and quite a few of the experienced) SAN configuration personnel miss. However, I am not sure I understand why it has led to different performance for each file.

Note that there are a bunch of other settings to be manipulated to achieve optimal
SAN storage for a SQL Server installation. A good consultant is worth his/her weight in gold here. I see it time and again where companies drop 6 or even 7 figures on a storage system and then try to configure it themselves (or with just the assistance of a vendor-provided-generic-installation-consultant. Such a waste. 
It seems there is missaligment regarding to initial sector of disk. So, probably file1 has an offset , and file2 has more offset, file3 more, and so on..

 I didn't understand it to work that way. I thought the actual files that were created were all made with even block sizes (usually 64 512 byte sectors or 32K) and would all thus be 512 bytes misaligned. I could be incorrect in this. 
 Of course - if your block size is 32 (like you mentioned) and your file sizes aren't an even increment of said block size - wouldn't your alignment be all over the place?

For alignment to really work, EVERYTHING needs to be aligned, right? Partition start,File starts, file sizes, etc....? and in the case of SQL files, growth factors?
See here for description of DISKPART commands: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/300415. Down at the start of the CREATE section "On all MBR disks, the size or offset parameters are rounded up to cylinder alignment. On GPT disks, the size or offset parameters are rounded to sector alignment." This should result in things not getting worse, but again I could be wrong. I think the GUI tools for making volumes do the same. 
 I can confirm my theory.

EMC Clarion Manager have performed changes on configurarion of SAN: one of them regarding to right alignment.

Now, the disk access time have been improved, and now access time of each datafile is not sequentally but similars.

Regards and thanks for your suggestions


Published Thursday, April 3, 2008 12:53 PM by GrumpyOldDBA


# re: Disk Partition Alignment ( SANs and Diskpart )

Friday, April 4, 2008 11:59 AM by BrentO

Yep, you're absolutely correct.  This is an issue with Windows 2003 and prior versions for every SAN out there.  2008 handles it by automatically aligning the partitions during creation, thankfully, but for older versions, you're still stuck going into DISKPART.

This affects more than just SQL, too - it's a big part of Exchange 2003 storage setup, since Exchange 2003 hammers drives pretty hard too.

# re: Disk Partition Alignment ( SANs and Diskpart )

Friday, April 4, 2008 12:00 PM by BrentO

I should have mentioned - I even make a note about this in my SQL Server 2005 Setup checklist:

<a href="www.brentozar.com/.../a>

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