FileStream + RBS + Shredded Storage = Confusion

Get clarification on SharePoint storage options

by Christian Buckley on 4/19/2014

Share this:

Article Details

Date Revised:


Hang out with infrastructure people, and you’ll learn a lot about the mechanics of making SharePoint work. But even after working for Microsoft, and then a couple SharePoint ISVs, I still had some questions about the options available for optimizing storage in SharePoint. I knew the basics and key differences between available solutions, but didn’t really discuss the topic other than a few bullet points in some of my migration presentations.

Just after the launch of SharePoint 2013, I sat down with Bill Baer (@williambaer), IT Pro Technical Product Manager for the SharePoint product team, to understand how Microsoft was talking about FileStream, RBS, and the new shredded storage features in the platform. (It's always good to understand the official Microsoft positioning.)

Microsoft provides guidance around storage and architecture and is both expanding SharePoint’s capabilities and innovating to help reduce the content overload of many SharePoint deployments. At the same time, the company recognizes the needs of customers beyond what is offered out-of-the-box, and tries to remain neutral on the various third-party solutions.

Why RBS remains a need is best defined in the AIIM whitepaper The SharePoint Puzzle – Adding the Missing Pieces. The report shows that while the number of new SharePoint deployments is slowing, the volume of content is growing at 50% to 75% annually. If the average SharePoint farm includes just over 1 Terabyte of data (and many companies have multiple farms), that’s a huge volume of content coming to your local environment over the next couple years. Microsoft may be trying to push people toward a more vanilla brand of SharePoint and away from customizations, but there is no stopping the growth of content. As a result, many organizations that previously didn’t think they had a need for storage optimization solutions will be looking for help from the partner ecosystem in the near future.

And that’s why people keep asking questions, trying to understand the options. For small content volumes, and low usage of rich media, storing everything in SharePoint probably makes the most sense. But if you find yourself with growing content databases, and a large percentage of that content being large file types, its time to look at storage optimization solutions.

Here are the five questions to ask on this topic:

What is a BLOB?

BLOB stands for binary large object, and a BLOB consists of content or data that you may store in SharePoint. However, because of its size, a BLOB may be difficult (slow) to upload, edit, or manage. Typically, a BLOB would contain rich media like videos and audio, high-definition images, or computer-aided design (CAD) images. In layman's terms, it’s a big chunk of data.

What is FileStream?

Microsoft created FileStream to help administrators store unstructured data more easily, integrating SQL Server with NTFS by storing BLOBs as files on the file system. This method allows administrators to use SQL to modify, query, and back up the FileStream data. Here are some useful links on the topic:

What is Remote BLOB Storage?

In a nutshell, Remote BLOB Storage (RBS) allows you to store your BLOBs outside of SharePoint, allowing you to spread your content across less expensive, dedicated storage devices. Inside SharePoint, your lists and libraries look the same. You can move, open, edit, tag, and add it to workflow, with metadata residing within SharePoint, and the physical content stored outside of SharePoint. Some additional resources on RBS are:    

What is Shredded Storage?

This is where people get the most confused. The concept is fairly simple: When you edit a document in SharePoint and then hit Save with versioning turned on, the default experience had been for SharePoint to create an entirely new copy, or version, of the document. Instead of saving the entire document, shredded storage saves only the edits that you made, greatly reducing the amount of storage needed for each version. Some articles that can provide a deeper dive are:    

Doesn’t SharePoint just handle all of this without me needing to think about it?

This is where these topics converge. While FileStream was displaced by support for RBS in SharePoint 2013, the new shredded storage options do not displace the need for RBS. In a recent interview with Metalogix CTO Trevor Hellebuyck ( Product Insights: An Interview with Trevor Hellebuyck on StoragePoint ), Trevor talked a little bit about the differences. Essentially, shredded storage provides value around highly interactive content (multiple versions, primarily MS Office content types) and provides little to no performance improvements for rich media and other traditional BLOB content. SharePoint 2013 improved on storage, but RBS is still very much needed.

I hope this helps clarify the topic.

Originally posted at    

Topic: Article

Sign in with

Or register