Using SQL Server as Image store

Is SQL Server 2008 a good option to use as an image store for an e-commerce website? It would be used to store product images of various sizes and angles. A web server would output those images, reading the table by a clustered ID. The total image size would be around 10 GB, but will need to scale. I see a lot of benefits over using the file system, but I am worried that SQL server, not having an O(1) lookup, is not the best solution, given that the site has a lot of traffic. Would that even be a bottle-neck? What are some thoughts, or perhaps other options?


10 Gb is not quite a huge amount of data, so you can probably use the database to store it and have no big issues, but of course it's best performance wise to use the filesystem, and safety-management wise it's better to use the DB (backups and consistency).

Happily, Sql Server 2008 allows you to have your cake and eat it too, with:

The FILESTREAM Attribute

In SQL Server 2008, you can apply the FILESTREAM attribute to a varbinary column, and SQL Server then stores the data for that column on the local NTFS file system. Storing the data on the file system brings two key benefits:

  • Performance matches the streaming performance of the file system.
  • BLOB size is limited only by the file system volume size.

However, the column can be managed just like any other BLOB column in SQL Server, so administrators can use the manageability and security capabilities of SQL Server to integrate BLOB data management with the rest of the data in the relational database—without needing to manage the file system data separately.

Defining the data as a FILESTREAM column in SQL Server also ensures data-level consistency between the relational data in the database and the unstructured data that is physically stored on the file system. A FILESTREAM column behaves exactly the same as a BLOB column, which means full integration of maintenance operations such as backup and restore, complete integration with the SQL Server security model, and full-transaction support.

Application developers can work with FILESTREAM data through one of two programming models; they can use Transact-SQL to access and manipulate the data just like standard BLOB columns, or they can use the Win32 streaming APIs with Transact-SQL transactional semantics to ensure consistency, which means that they can use standard Win32 read/write calls to FILESTREAM BLOBs as they would if interacting with files on the file system.

In SQL Server 2008, FILESTREAM columns can only store data on local disk volumes, and some features such as transparent encryption and table-valued parameters are not supported for FILESTREAM columns. Additionally, you cannot use tables that contain FILESTREAM columns in database snapshots or database mirroring sessions, although log shipping is supported.

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