Boosting Transaction Performance in Windows Azure Virtual Machines with In-Memory OLTP

With the release of SQL Server 2014 CTP2, you can now significantly boost the performance of your OLTP workloads in Windows Azure Virtual Machines. By creating a new VM with our preloaded image of SQL Server 2014 CTP2 on Windows Server 2012 R2, or installing SQL Server 2014 CTP2 on your VM, In-Memory OLTP functionalities are immediately available to you. This blog post provides a good guide on how to create a Windows Azure VM.

However, since the transition to In-Memory OLTP is not as simple as flipping a switch, you must carefully evaluate your application scenario and see if it is the right solution for you.

Recommended Scenarios

For SQL Server 2014 CTP 2, we recommend the following scenarios for SQL Server In-Memory OLTP on a Windows Azure Virtual Machine:

  • Development and Test scenarios, e.g. familiarizing with In-Memory OLTP’s capabilities. The on-demand provisioning of Windows Azure VMs and its low cost make it easy to gain full access to In-Memory OLTP functionalities without a large capital investment. Once you are comfortable with its capabilities and understand its limitations, you can move to deploy In-Memory OLTP on your local server or keep using the VM if it suits your business needs.
  • Scenarios with relaxed data persistence requirements, e.g. web browser session state. SQL Server In-Memory OLTP provides non-durable tables that are perfect for transient data regardless of the transaction read/write mix. By completely eliminating I/O operations, non-durable tables could provide amazing boosts to performance for your non-persistent workload. If some persistence is still required but strict durability is not, you can leverage the new Delayed Durability features we have added to CTP2. Delayed Durability commits transactions but do not immediately write the log records to disk, lightening log I/O pressure by allowing larger and less frequent log writes to disk. For more details see the Books Online topic here.
  • Read-mostly and read-only scenarios, e.g. an online product catalogue. In-Memory OLTP provides extreme performance and parallelism in read-mostly and read-only scenarios due to new algorithms and data structures optimized for memory-resident data. Furthermore, native compilation for stored procedures can dramatically increase CPU efficiency and throughput.
  • Durable read-write scenarios not under log I/O pressure, e.g. workloads with heavy contention. In-Memory OLTP can also provide benefits for workloads with full durability requirements that is not under pressure from log I/O latency or throughput. Because In-Memory OLTP eliminates page contention by using an optimistic concurrency system, it could provide significant boosts to parallelism for your workload if it is suffering from contention problems. In addition, native compilation can improve the speed of a stored procedure with heavy business logic processing.

However, if your workload is suffering from long log I/O latency or if it is under pressure from log I/O throughput, and at the same time you require strict durability of your data, In-Memory OLTP on Windows Azure VM will not alleviate these problems.

SQL Server 2014 CTP2 on Windows Azure VM is not suitable for testing the performance of applications deployed in machines with similar configuration on premise.

Selecting the Right Windows Azure VM Size

The selection of VM sizes is important for any workload running in the IaaS space, whether you are provisioning a new VM using our preloaded CTP2 image or adding CTP2 onto an existing instance. Windows Azure provides a selection of virtual machine sizes for a variety of purposes, as listed in this article.

Since In-Memory OLTP is designed to serve extreme high session concurrency and the nature of memory-resident data requires sufficient memory space, we recommend the following Windows Azure VM sizes for adopting In-Memory OLTP:

Compute Instance Name

Virtual Cores


Extra Large (A4)


14 GB



28 GB



56 GB

The exact instance size that you will choose will depend on the scenario you wish to run and the size of data you wish to make memory-resident in SQL Server In-Memory OLTP. We recommend provisioning 100% more memory than the estimated size of data in memory and leave sufficient space for the buffer pool used by disk-based workloads on the same machine. This article on SQL Server Books Online has more information on how to estimate the size of a table in memory, and we have published a blog post on hardware considerations for In-Memory OLTP, some of which apply to provisioning VMs as well.

Virtual Machine Configuration

To configure a Windows Azure Virtual Machine for best performance in In-Memory OLTP, we suggest that you should follow the best practices outlined in this whitepaper. A summary of key considerations, plus some unique attributes for In-Memory OLTP, are listed below:

  • Use a single storage account for all disks attached to the same VM.
  • Do not turn on disk host caching for the data and log drives.
    When creating new drives for a Windows Azure VM, the disk host caching option is turned off by default. We do not recommend you change this option.
  • Do not use the Temporary Disk (D: Drive) for log storage.
    This will sacrifice durability for your database, as the content on the Temporary Disk is transient and may be lost on a VM failure or reboot. Please use a persistent Windows Azure Storage disk for your log storage needs.
  • Do not use native operating system striping for storing the log of an In-Memory OLTP-enabled database.
    Logging memory-optimized tables is latency-sensitive, and striping of drives increase the latency of I/O operations. If you wish to use any form of striping for your log drive, you should test your configuration to ensure that the I/O latency is sufficiently low.
  • Compression is not supported for In-Memory OLTP tables. Compression will still work with regular tables in an In-Memory OLTP-enabled database.