and the SharePoint Zone
As organizations scale the use of SharePoint as a content
management system, supporting document management, records management,
collaboration, and archiving, they are moving workloads traditionally supported
by file shares and by email attachments to SharePoint. In the process, the
storage burden for document-centric content is placed on SharePoint’s data
tier—the content databases hosted by SQL Server, and often located on the most
highly performing and expensive Tier 1 storage resources in the enterprise.
The results include the obvious—skyrocketing storage costs—and
the counterintuitive—potentially degraded SharePoint performance. Organizations
struggle to architect an optimized, scalable, cost-effective storage
architecture for SharePoint that supports potentially terabytes or tens of
terabytes (TBs) of content.
There has been ongoing debate in the SharePoint and SQL
communities among customers, between experts and MVPs, and even within
Microsoft itself about content scalability, the impact of documents on storage
capacity and performance, and the role of BLOB externalization, which allows
you to relocate the binary large object (BLOB)—the unstructured data that
represents the content of a document—to more cost-effective storage tiers.
The debate was reignited when Microsoft updated its guidance
for SharePoint sizing in July 2011 to support content databases of up to 4 TB
in collaborative workloads, and of unlimited size for document archives.
Microsoft’s new guidance contained directives toward thoughtful architecture,
high-performance storage subsystems, comprehensive governance, and effective
management tools beyond those provided with SharePoint to support Service Level
Agreements (SLAs) for performance, backup, recovery, and availability.
This white paper will make sense of the issues as well as the
varied perspectives and guidance related to BLOB externalization.
We will begin by reviewing the default configuration of
SharePoint—with which SharePoint stores a document’s content as a BLOB in the
content database—and by examining the perhaps surprising multiplier effect of a
BLOB on the storage tier through the entire lifecycle of the document. We will
then detail the two options that Microsoft has provided for BLOB
externalization: external BLOB store (EBS) and remote BLOB store (RBS).
The remainder of the white paper will explore in detail the
potential benefits of BLOB externalization, which include:
- Reduced cost of storage
- Optimized performance
- Improved storage management and reduced storage
- Efficient content restructure
- Greater scalability
And we will look at the
potential downsides of BLOB externalization: increased architectural complexity
and, in particular, the considerations that must be taken for backup, restore,
high availability and disaster recovery.
This white paper is the first of a series of storage
optimization and management resources to be authored by a team of SharePoint
MVPs. The goals of this white paper are to provide a comprehensive and balanced
examination of the concepts and issues, and to equip you to fully understand,
to communicate with your peers and your management, and to make an informed
decision about the role of BLOB externalization in your storage architecture.
Let’s begin by examining the default configuration of—and the
options for—document storage in SharePoint.
Documents, Databases, and BLOBs
In most organizations, SharePoint hosts myriad documents:
Office file formats including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files; PDFs; media
files such as images, podcasts and videos; and other files including maps,
engineering specifications, scanned documents, and more.
Users upload or save documents to one or more document
libraries in a site collection, or attach documents to list items. By default,
these documents are stored in the content database of the site collection
containing the document library or list.
Within the content database, the metadata for a document or
list item is stored in the AllUserData table. If a document is stored in a
library, or as an attachment, SharePoint maintains internally used metadata
about the document in the AllDocs table. The content of the document is stored
as an unstructured data format called a BLOB in the AllDocStreams table.
Globally unique identifiers (GUIDs) are used to link the records in these three
tables. If versioning is enabled, metadata about historical versions of the
document is stored in the AllDocVersions table, and historical versions of the
BLOB are stored in AllDocStreams.
SQL Server is a database service that is optimized for
performance of structured, relational data, where records are less than 8 kilobytes
(KB) in size. Microsoft moved BLOBs to a separate table in order to optimize
performance of SQL and therefore of SharePoint. While there is a small
performance penalty when a document is opened or saved, because SQL must join
the AllUserData table with other tables before the document binary data can be
accessed, myriad other processes that rely on efficient SQL Server performance
benefit tremendously. So, the split design of content database tables is a net
gain for SharePoint.
The Storage Optimization Challenge
Numerous constituencies are affected by the storage
infrastructure that supports an enterprise SharePoint service.
Storage architects, database administrators, SharePoint administrators, end
users of SharePoint, and organizational management are each concerned, at
various levels, about whether the storage infrastructure is available,
recoverable, scalable, manageable, cost effective, and able to meet performance
SharePoint’s out-of-box configuration places all content in
the content databases of SQL Server. This presents a potential scalability
problem. SQL Server is typically hosted on Tier 1 storage—the fastest, most
feature rich, and most costly storage tier in an enterprise. If the entire
capacity burden is placed on SQL Server, the cost of scaling Tier 1 storage as
enterprise content management usage scales might be prohibitive.
The problem increases over time, because as years pass, a
typical SharePoint implementation will host increasing amounts of content, but
much of that content will be inactive. While total content often increases
geometrically, the amount of active content increases at a much lower,
linear rate. The result is that expensive Tier 1 storage is used as an archive
for skyrocketing amounts of content that does not benefit from the performance
or features of Tier 1 storage.
You might think that moving content to cheaper tiers of
storage might penalize performance. Even if this is the case, there is the
opportunity to optimize storage by creating a hierarchical or tiered storage
architecture in which less important or less active data is moved to cheaper
tiers of storage, while more important or more active data is maintained on
Tier 1 storage. But, as you will see later in this white paper, it is possible
in many scenarios to reduce storage cost and increase performance.
There are those in the SharePoint and SQL community who argue
that SharePoint should never have been designed to store documents as BLOBs in
a structured relational database like SQL Server. In fact, SharePoint version
1.0 (SharePoint Portal Server 2001) used the Web Storage System, not SQL
Server, for content storage. Beginning with SharePoint version 2.0 (Windows
SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server 2003), storage was moved to
In recent years, Microsoft has built into SharePoint and SQL
Server options that enable moving BLOBs out of SQL Server to other storage
tiers, while maintaining metadata in the content database with pointers to the
EBS and RBS
In SharePoint 2007 Service Pack 1 (SP1), Microsoft introduced
External BLOB Storage (EBS). In SQL Server 2008, Microsoft added Remote BLOB
Store (RBS) to SQL Server. At a very high level, both EBS and RBS perform the
same basic task: they enable SharePoint to store BLOBs outside of the SQL
Server content database.
EBS is part of the SharePoint product, in SharePoint 2007
Service Pack 1 and later, and in SharePoint 2010. SharePoint 2007 supports BLOB
externalization only with EBS. 4
In SharePoint 2010, BLOB
externalization is supported using either EBS or RBS. EBS, however, is
deprecated and is likely to be removed from a future version of SharePoint in
favor of RBS.
RBS can be obtained by downloading the Feature Pack for SQL
Server 2008 R2 at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=177388. This version
(or a later version) of RBS is required by SharePoint 2010. The server
components of RBS can be installed on either SQL Server 2008 R2 or SQL Server
2008 SP1. The client components are installed on all SharePoint web front end
Modules and Providers
Both EBS and RBS require additional components to manage the
communication between SharePoint and the non-SQL Server location for BLOB
storage, called the BLOB store. EBS uses a plug-in framework that
requires a third-party module to implement. RBS exposes a set of Application
Programming Interfaces (APIs) on top of which developers and ISVs can build
providers. A provider is the interface between RBS and a specific type of BLOB
Microsoft created the FILESTREAM provider, which is included
free-of-charge with the RBS installation files. The FILESTREAM provider allows
you to externalize BLOBs to the local file system of the SQL Server. This can
include direct-attached storage and iSCSI-attached SAN and NAS volumes,
assuming those volumes meet SharePoint’s storage performance requirements of at
least .25 input/output operations per second (IOPS) per gigabyte (GB) stored,
and no more than 20ms time-to-first-byte (TTFB).
While many in the industry maligned the performance of the
FILESTREAM provider, experience has shown that its performance is at least
better than expected. Some ISV providers outperform FILESTREAM, some
underperform. An RBS provider for a cloud storage platform, for example, is
likely to be slower due to the nature of the cloud storage itself. It is
recommended that you test BLOB externalization providers in your environment to
identify performance differences and, more importantly, to determine whether
such differences have a material impact on overall SharePoint performance.
Performance aside, many organizations turn to ISV providers
for their broad support for diverse storage platforms, business rules for
externalization, management features, and maintenance. ISVs have built
providers for BLOB stores in shared folders on a remote server, on cloud
storage platforms, and on specific NAS and SAN platforms. ISV storage solutions
provide various levels of rule-based management of BLOBs, so that an
organization can specify what types of BLOBs are and are not externalized and
thus create a hierarchical storage management platform. Installation and
configuration of ISV providers is generally a significantly better experience
than the FILESTREAM provider. Maintenance tasks are generally automated. And
ISV providers typically deliver monitoring and reporting capabilities. Such
features come at a cost, of course, which must also be considered. Later in this
white paper, we will discuss the capabilities of third-party BLOB
It is important to note that BLOB externalization is
transparent to the rest of SharePoint. SharePoint considers BLOBs part of its
content repository, regardless of where the content is physically located.
Therefore, whether BLOBs
are stored in a content database or are externalized, SharePoint manages
SharePoint permissions to the content. SharePoint continues to index the
content. All SharePoint document management features, including check-out and
versioning, continue to be available. None of the business-value functionality
of SharePoint changes when BLOBs are externalized.
Migrating to EBS or RBS
Generally speaking, you can enable EBS or RBS at any point in
your SharePoint journey. Similarly, you can modify the rules that govern which
BLOBs are externalized at any time. There are tools you can use—Windows
PowerShell in the case of RBS—to scan the content database and move content out
to the BLOB store.
The following sections will examine the pertinent factors—the
benefits and considerations—that you should take into account as you plan for
an optimized storage infrastructure for SharePoint. Due to the fact that EBS
and RBS deliver conceptually similar benefits and challenges, we will refer
generically to BLOB externalization solutions.
BLOB externalization has the potential to deliver significant
benefits in many workloads. Benefits include reduced cost, optimized
performance, improved storage management, reduced storage footprint, efficient
content restructure, and greater scalability.
Reduced Cost of Storage
The first, and most obvious consideration related to
SharePoint storage optimization is cost, which is directly related to capacity
and to the tier(s) of storage that host SharePoint content. Just how much do
BLOBs impact capacity and cost? The answer might surprise you.
The 80 Percent Estimate
In a typical content database, documents—their metadata and
the BLOBs that contain their content—tend to consume significant real estate.
The content database becomes bloated by the BLOBs it stores.
Typically, as much as 80 percent of data for an
enterprise-scale deployment of SharePoint Foundation consists of file-based
data streams that are stored as BLOB data. These BLOB objects comprise data
associated with SharePoint files.
This “80 percent estimate” doesn’t tell the full story,
however. What this 80 percent estimate fails to illuminate is the scale of the
impact of BLOB storage. In a typical collaborative environment, one often finds
that a document is not stored just one time—that the amount of storage required
for a single document is significantly more than you would expect—in fact, many
multiples of the document’s size.
Let’s examine the total
impact of a single document and its BLOB storage through the entire lifecycle
of a document.
Document and Metadata Storage
SharePoint supports documents up to 2 GB in size
software boundary that results from a 32-bit pointer used in SQL Server. There
is no way to exceed that limit and to store larger documents in the content
database—with or without BLOB externalization.
SharePoint includes a file size upload limitation that's
configurable per web application. The default maximum upload size is 50
megabytes (MB)—considerably smaller than the 2 GB hard limit. This lower limit
reflects practical concerns including network performance, the performance of
transferring large files over HTTP, and user expectations for performance of
file transfer. Many organizations retain this default upload size or raise the
limit. If you choose to raise the maximum upload size, do so slowly and after
Each document in a SharePoint library has metadata associated
with it. Some metadata is user-configured, such as columns in the library.
Other metadata is used internally by SharePoint. The amount of metadata
associated with a document will vary based primarily upon user-configured
It's easy to understand that scenarios with larger documents
see a higher ratio of BLOB-to-metadata storage, and scenarios with smaller
documents and more metadata will see lower BLOB-to-metadata ratios. The 80
percent estimate is based on an average across multiple SharePoint
But here’s the rub: A document is rarely, if ever, stored
When version history is enabled for a document library, any
change to the document or its metadata results in additional storage utilization.
Two points are often misunderstood and have significant impact on storage when
versioning is enabled:
1. No differential compression is used within SharePoint. When
a new version is saved, the amount of storage represents the entire size of the
file—not just the differences or deltas between versions. Conceptually, two
versions of a document with minor changes will occupy 2 x (document size +
metadata) of storage.
2. A new version of the document is created if the
document—or its metadata—is modified. If a document is uploaded
to a library and is never changed, but the metadata associated with that
document is changed five times over the course of a month, the storage occupied
by that document is approximately 5 x (document size + metadata).
When versioning is
enabled, the impact of a document on storage is multiplied by the number of
versions of that document. Therefore, it's critical to enforce limits to
version history—unlimited version retention can lead to significant database
Recycle Bin Contents
When a document is deleted, the document and its versions are
retained based on the web application’s settings for the SharePoint Recycle
Bin. A user can restore a document she deleted from the Recycle Bin.
When a user empties the Recycle Bin, the document and its
versions continue to be retained, and can be restored by site collection
administrators, from what is referred to as the second-stage Recycle
Each site collection has a Recycle Bin. However, the Recycle
Bin has two configurable settings that are both scoped to a web application.
These settings apply to all site collection Recycle Bins in the web
The first Recycle Bin setting specifies the total number of
days that a deleted document will be retained by the Recycle Bin. This setting
applies from the moment the document is deleted. It doesn’t matter whether the
document is in the user Recycle Bin or the second-stage Recycle Bin. X days
after a document was originally deleted by the user, it's deleted from the
Recycle Bin and the document is removed from the content database.
The second setting applies a storage quota to the
second-stage Recycle Bin. When items are moved to the second-stage Recycle Bin,
they count against this quota. When the quota is reached, the oldest items in
the second-stage Recycle Bin are removed to make room for newly deleted items.
The quota is configured as relative to the quota of the site collection. So if
a site collection is subject to a 50 GB quota, and the second-stage Recycle Bin
is limited to 50 percent of the quota, then the second-stage Recycle Bin for
that site collection is effectively capped at 25 GB.
Therefore, the total storage impact of a document on a
content database must take into account the fact that, until a document is
purged from the second-stage Recycle Bin, the document—its BLOB and
metadata—and those of the document’s versions continue to impact the content
Audited activities generate entries in the audit log. The
amount of storage required for auditing can be significant, particularly if you
are auditing view activities. However, audit entry size and the size of
audit logs is not related to document size, or to whether BLOBs are stored in
SQL or are externalized. Therefore, while you should consider auditing when
estimating total storage requirements for a content database
(http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc298801.aspx#Section1), we will
not examine auditing in more depth in this white paper. 8
Office Web Apps
In order to improve performance of SharePoint when the
Microsoft Word web app and Microsoft PowerPoint web app are used, the web apps
create renditions of a document in a cache called the Office Web Apps cache.
When a document is rendered, it can be pulled from the cache. A document is
re-rendered only if it doesn’t exist in the cache, or if the document has
changed after the rendition in the cache was created. A timer job removes
documents from the cache after a configurable expiration period.
If a web application is associated with the Microsoft Word or
PowerPoint web apps, one content database will contain the cache for all
content in the web application. In a document-heavy web application, the cache
can grow quite large. By default, the cache is capped at 100 GB. It's a best
practice to configure Office Web Apps to use a separate, dedicated content
database in a SharePoint web application, and to manage the size of the cache
to optimize performance and storage. You can learn more about this at
The size of the Office Web Apps cache doesn’t depend on
whether BLOBs are stored in SQL Server or are externalized. Rather, it’s based
purely upon the number and size of documents, frequency of access to those documents,
and on administrator configuration. So while the Office Web Apps cache should
be considered as part of the estimate of storage required for a web
application, it will not, if in a dedicated content database, affect the
storage required for other content databases in a web application.
A document indirectly affects the storage required by service
applications. For example, access to a document might be tracked by the Web
Analytics service application. Tagging, commenting and rating activities
consume approximately 9 KB per entry in the social tagging database of the User
Profile service application. Such data are relatively negligible, and is
neither dependent on whether a document’s BLOB is stored in SQL Server or is
externalized, nor directly dependent on the document’s size.
However, the Search service application is affected directly
by both the number of documents and their size. The crawl database, properties
database, and index partitions each have a direct relationship to the number
and size of documents. Search capacity planning is both a science and an art,
but very rough estimates from typical implementations fall around 20 percent of
the total size of indexed content (the corpus). 9
So, if you are indexing 1
TB of typical content, you can expect approximately 200 GB of storage
utilization by search-related databases and the index. For more information,
Search and other service database sizes aren’t dependent on
whether BLOBs are stored in SQL Server or are externalized.
SQL Server logs all activity to the transaction log for a
database before committing the transaction to the data portion of the database.
Transaction logs grow until a log backup, at which point space used by the log
is cleared, but the file size does not shrink. You can shrink a SharePoint
transaction log manually, which can be helpful if a transaction log has grown
out of control, but the best practice is to manage transaction log size by
managing transaction log backups.
When a document is uploaded or modified, the document BLOB
and metadata are first written to the transaction log. Then, the transaction is
committed to the appropriate tables in the content database itself. Therefore,
the true impact of a document on total content database size, including the
transaction log, can be approximated as document size x (creation +
modifications) x 2 during the window between log backups.
The transaction log size is directly related to BLOB storage.
If BLOBs are externalized, and aren’t stored in the content database, then the
BLOB is also not written to the SQL Server transaction log.
BLOB Externalization, Capacity, and Cost
As you can see, the storage required for just one document
can vary greatly, based on version retention, modification of the document or
its associated metadata, web application settings such as Recycle Bin, auditing
settings, the use of Office Web Apps and other service applications, and even
backup policies. In a typical, highly collaborative scenario, an active
document may be consuming storage equivalent to many multiples of the
document’s actual size.
BLOB storage inside the content database can be expensive,
from both a hard cost and total cost perspective. Many organizations have
traditionally stored documents for business collaboration on file servers,
which are relatively cheap compared to the typical, high-IOPS, Tier 1 storage
that is allocated to support SQL Server for SharePoint. Moving such content to
SharePoint and into Tier 1 storage—especially with the understanding that a
document may require multiples of its size to support both the business and
internal functionality of SharePoint throughout the lifecycle of that
document—can be a costly proposition. 10
BLOB externalization does
not by itself reduce the total storage footprint of your SharePoint
infrastructure, except for reduced impact on transaction logs. But it does
enable you to transfer the storage burden to more cost effective tiers. The
cost savings can be tremendous. Some organizations report savings of tens of
millions of dollars a year from storage optimization efforts focused on BLOB
externalization. And some storage platforms have features that can, in
combination with BLOB externalization, reduce the total storage footprint of
SharePoint. Such features will be discussed later in this white paper.
It might seem that all BLOBs should be moved to cheaper tiers
of storage in order to reduce cost of storage. But you must also consider the
impact of BLOB externalization on SharePoint performance.
For example, if you use a third-party provider to externalize
BLOBs to a cloud storage platform, such as Amazon or Azure, it stands to reason
that reads and writes of documents will be slower than local SQL Server
Interestingly, it is not true that all BLOB externalization
reduces performance. In fact, it is possible to increase performance through
BLOB externalization in certain scenarios and configurations.
The question is: At what point does performance of SharePoint
improve with BLOB externalization, and at what point does performance degrade?
The answers to these questions require close examination of two
- The performance of read and write access to a single
- The performance of the entire SharePoint
service—across all site collections in a content database and across all
content hosted in SQL Server—in a real-world scenario
Most documentation in the SharePoint community focuses on
only the first issue, which unfortunately clouds decision making and leads to
designs that sacrifice performance in a typical, real-world production
In the following sections, we will explore these two aspects
of performance. It is critical to remember, however, that the only real way to
know how SharePoint will perform with or without BLOB externalization in your
enterprise is to test it with workloads that are realistic and representative
of your environment.
In addition, you must consider whether performance
degradation is noticeable to users, and whether—even with reduced
performance—SharePoint can still meet user expectations and SLAs for
performance. Finally, you must consider each scenario or workload that you are
supporting. Users might find it acceptable for access to an archived record to
be slower than access to documents around which they are actively
Access to a Single Document
The out-of-box configuration of SharePoint stores BLOBs in
SharePoint content databases. This can provide optimal performance in certain
- Tier 1 Storage Performance – Many
organizations dedicate high-performance, Tier 1 storage subsystems to SQL
Server. The performance of the SQL Server storage platform directly impacts
SharePoint performance. Documents accessed from a high-performance SAN will
perform better than documents with BLOBs externalized to public cloud storage.
- Small Files – When a small document is read
from—or written to—a content database, performance of that single activity is
- Frequently Read Files – When a small document
is accessed regularly for read access, SQL caching can further improve
performance of access to that document. A recently accessed, cached document
can be retrieved from memory, rather than from disk.
SharePoint reaches a cross-over at which point performance is
better when the BLOB is externalized for a particular workload.
Reads and writes of a single small document might be faster
when stored in SQL. Read performance can be further improved when a document is
in memory due to SQL caching. But as files grow in size or are accessed less
frequently, performance can be improved by storing BLOBs in a platform that is
better suited for file storage.
Write performance crosses over more quickly than read
performance because a BLOB must be written twice—first to the transaction log,
and then committed to the database table. There is also no caching benefit to a
new or modified document. So as a document’s size increases, the performance
penalty of writing the document’s BLOB once, let alone twice, reduces
performance of documents stored in a content database.
Fortunately, RBS enables you to specify a file size
threshold, above which a document’s BLOB is externalized, and below which the
BLOB is stored in the content database. EBS solutions as well as custom or
third-party RBS solutions can use other rules, such as file type, to determine
whether or not to externalize a BLOB.
There is no formula with which to determine the file size
threshold at which performance increases with BLOB externalization. There are
simply too many factors in the performance equation, including the characteristics
and access pattern of the document, and the performance characteristics of
underlying storage platforms.
Our testing has shown that BLOBs greater than 1 MB generally
perform better when externalized—assuming the BLOB store itself performs
well—whereas very small files smaller than 256 KB generally perform better when
stored in the content database.
Our findings align with the general consensus among
consultants that documents greater than 512 KB or 1 MB should be externalized,
at which point performance is improved for both reads and writes, given similar performance
characteristics of the underlying storage platform; whereas access to a
document smaller than 256 KB is faster with the BLOB stored in the SQL Server
Between 256KB and 512KB or 1MB is the cross-over point that
is heavily dependent on size and access patterns. For example, a 512KB file
that is accessed frequently for reads may benefit from SQL caching, and
therefore perform better when stored in the content database. The same file,
archived and accessed infrequently for modification, might perform better when
externalized. Write-heavy access patterns are improved by externalizing BLOBs
to a greater extent than read-heavy access patterns.
Performance is also heavily dependent upon the specific EBS
or RBS solution that you employ, and the characteristics of the BLOB store—the
performance of the underlying storage subsystem. For example, a BLOB store on a
SAN will perform better than a BLOB store hosted in the public cloud.
The threshold at which performance of file access improves
depends on a variety of factors, and should be tested with your EBS or RBS
storage solution as well as with content and access patterns that reflect
expected workloads in your environment.
Performance of the Content Database, SQL Server and
We do not think it is helpful to get too caught up in
discussions about—or testing—the performance threshold of access to a single
BLOB unless your production SharePoint environment consists of one user
accessing one document. In a real-world SharePoint environment, multiple users
are accessing documents as well as lists, pages, workflows, services, and
applications. Therefore, it is more important that you test the SharePoint
environment with appropriate and complex workloads that are representative of
As multiple users access SharePoint, the impact of BLOBs on
SQL Server is exacerbated, and BLOB storage in a content database can
significantly impact performance of the entire content database, of the server
running SQL Server and subsequently, the SharePoint farm.
As mentioned earlier, SQL Server is a database service that
is optimized for performance of structured data. When you store unstructured
data as BLOBs, SQL Server needs to work harder to save and retrieve the data.
SQL Server is simply not optimized to be a file server.
The degradation of performance due to BLOBs is also true
outside of SQL Server and SharePoint. One customer reported that they had a
custom engineering application built on Oracle. When they used functionality in
Oracle to remove BLOBs from the database, performance skyrocketed.
The broader performance effects of BLOBs stored in SQL Server
are seen in real-world SharePoint environments, as users access documents, and
other users access pages or list views.
If a content database has a large number of BLOBs (e.g. a
document library with many files), and a reasonable level of activity that
involves BLOB access, all other performance is degraded—for example, the
performance of list views is slowed. As some users load and store BLOBs, CPU
and memory utilization skyrocket, and performance suffers for other users
across all content databases stored on the SQL Server. Because SQL
Server is the most common bottleneck in the request pipeline, SharePoint
We have observed that the mere existence of BLOBs can visibly
degrade performance of content access, even if the content access you are
measuring has nothing to do with a document or BLOB. This is partly due to the
fact that SharePoint and SQL services and administrators perform operations in
the background—including database indexing, search indexing, and management
operations such as database backup—that involve BLOB access.
When you externalize BLOBs from a content database,
performance of the content database and of the SQL Server—its CPU and memory
utilization—can improve. This means that performance of list views and other
day-to-day user and maintenance activities—even those not related to the BLOBs
themselves—can be significantly faster.
So while it is interesting to discuss whether a single
document of 512 KB or 1 MB should be externalized to improve the performance of
access to that one document, our experience is that such a discussion detracts
from the more significant impact of BLOBs—even small BLOBs—in more complex
| Microsoft reported a 25 percent performance increase by
externalizing BLOBs, across a mix of user workloads that reflect a real-world
collaborative environment. Microsoft’s findings are summarized in the table
Size - 1 TB
Backup Size - 100 GB
Backup Time - 217 GB
Defrag Time - 100 GB
SharePoint Response Time
File Upload - 500 MB