One of the questions I’m commonly asked is “What is Microsoft’s SQL Server Fast Track Data Warehouse?” Database professionals seem to think it’s many different things, ranging from new Microsoft certifications to custom education courses. Here I answer the seven most common FAQs about Microsoft’s Fast Track Data Warehouse program.

1. What is SQL Server Fast Track Data Warehouse?

Essentially, Fast Track Data Warehouse is a set of reference hardware configurations that are available from several different Microsoft partners. These hardware configurations have been optimized by each of the vendors to provide excellent out-of-the-box performance for data warehousing implementations.

2. Who are the third-party partners?

Microsoft’s partners in the Fast Track Data Warehouse program are HP, Dell, Bull, IBM, and EMC. The first four, HP, DELL, IBM, and Bull, provide a range of full systems configurations, from systems with 4TB of storage to systems with up to 48TB of storage. EMC works in conjunction with Dell and Bull to provide its CLARiiON storage servers for use with the Dell and Bull servers.

3. Our company isn’t into BI. We are looking for new hardware to run our OLTP system. Is Fast Track for me?

The short answer is no. Fast Track Data Warehouse is about providing systems that are optimized for data warehouse implementations. Data warehouses have very different needs from most OLTP systems that run on relational databases. They typically have greater storage needs and their workloads tend to have a much higher degree of read and query operations. The hardware configurations in the Fast Track Data Warehouse program are specifically configured to address this type of data warehousing workload. They aren’t optimized for OLTP workloads.

4. What are the benefits to using Fast Track?

Fast Track Data Warehouse systems are preconfigured to provide excellent performance for data warehousing workloads. This is especially useful for organizations just getting into data warehousing but without a lot of expertise about building and configuring servers for data warehousing implementations. You don’t have to spend a lot of time with research and planning in an attempt to configure a system in the right way. Experts from each of the Fast Track partners, working in conjunction with Microsoft, have created various sizes of data warehouse systems that provide excellent data warehousing performance out of the box.

5. What are some of the Fast Track configurations for each of the vendors?

6. Does Fast Track involve consulting services too?

No. The Fast Track Data Warehouse is focused on providing hardware configurations that are optimized for business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing. Consulting services aren’t a direct part of that. However, each of these vendors offers various level of training and consulting services that can help you get your data warehouse up and running quickly. These services aren’t included in the Fast Track Data Warehouse purchase price.

7. Is the Fast Track data Warehouse the same as the Parallel Data Warehouse?

No. Although there definitely are similarities between the Fast Track Data Warehouse and the Parallel Data Warehouse, they aren’t the same. Both are predefined hardware configurations that are designed for BI workloads. However, Fast Track Data Warehouse system configurations are Symmetrical Multi Processing (SMP) systems designed for all sizes of businesses. The Parallel Data Warehouse is a Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) architecture designed for extremely high-end BI workloads. See the SQL Server Magazine article “Getting Started with Parallel Data Warehouse,” InstantDoc ID 125098, to learn more about the Parallel Data Warehouse.