What’s New in Azure Storage?

August 8th, 2018
What’s New in Azure Storage?

Azure is now a fully mature, platform neutral, public cloud provider that gives every business from the small manufacturer to the global enterprise the ability to move their entire IT workload to the cloud from webhosting, to e-commerce, to service for internal services such as databases, collaboration and messaging services and on and on. But at the end of the day, all these services, both internal and customer/partner, facing rely on the life blood of modern business: information.  That information exists in the form of data.

Data must be housed somewhere and with the latest general release for storage, Azure has something for everyone.  Azure Files.  Azure Blobs.  Azure Disks.  So which one is right for your data needs?  Well of course that depends on the format and type of data, how you want to access and present it, and how often it needs to be accessed.  Let’s take a look.

Azure Disks

The most direct cognate of what we think of in traditional terrestrial computers and servers, disk are exactly what they sound like: Azure hosted disk drives of various sizes and capacities either HDD or SSD from 32 GB to 4 TB, all with 500 IOPs per disk, and throughput speeds of 60 MB/sec. Azure Disks are lift and shift certified for a range of Microsoft enterprise applications such as AZURE SQL Databases, Dynamics AX and CRM, Exchange Server and more. Choose Azure disks for applications for which you require native file system APIs, with persistent storage for read and write operations.  Azure Disks are the answer when you need to store data that doesn’t need to be accessed outside of the virtual machine the disk is attached to.

An integral feature is built in, automatic, redundancy.  All Azure disks are automatically copied to three locations.  This is basic Locally Redundant Storage (LRS). All copies reside in the same data center, but in different racks. You also have the option to increase resiliency by choosing from the following upgrades. Zone Redundant Storage (ZRS) which places one of the hosted copies on a disk in a second, fully isolated, Availability Zone. Or you may choose the option of Geo Redundant Storage (GRS), that replicates your data to a second data center in a different Azure region for read access in the case of a Microsoft declared disaster.

All redundancy models are designed to provide at least 99.999999999 (11 9s) availability of your data (LRS).  ZRS provides 12 9s and GRS provides 16 9s.  Unless you are a global enterprise the size of , well Microsoft, your data center is quite unlikely to provide that kind of data availability.

Azure Files

Azure files provides the ability to set up structured file shares that that can be mapped the same way network drives are, via Server Message Block protocol (SMB).  This allows multiple Azure VM’s to reference the same files simultaneously. Your premise servers can map drive shares the same way, if you’ve extended your active directory into Azure.  Azure Files also allows you to share these file stores with outside users, if needed, with full security provided through shared access tokens which can be managed centrally, even by setting expiration dates if you like.  Think shared file exchange locations with business partners, without having to provide them with user names and passwords or access to your network, whether cloud of on premise.

Azure Blob Storage

If you run an art house, music service, or any number of businesses that depend on storing a large number of unstructured files that need to be individually accessed without need of traditional paths, Azure Blob Storage is your Huckleberry. Think of Blob Storage when you need to serve files or images directly to a browser through your spiffy new web site. Or when you need to serve files through distributed access from a location off network. But Doug I need to serve streaming video or audio? Glad you asked, Azure Blob. I need a place to throw by daily backups and keep them for 99 years!  Azure blob has you covered.  Generate a ton of log and diagnostic files that need to be available for analysis by on premise or Azure hosted services?  Azure Blob.

The best part?  These files are available from anywhere in the world that has an internet connection via HTTP or HTTPS, using the Azure REST API, Azure PowerShell, Azure CLI or Azure Storage client libraries. Oh, did I mention that client libraries are compatible with .NET, Java, Python, PHP and Ruby?  Well you guessed it.  Azure Blob’s got you covered.

So step away from maintaining all that hardware in your SAN. The biggest most complicated SAN is what makes you cool. Being able to preserve, protect, and securely serve that data to who you want (and only who you want to) without worrying about keeping a stock of hot swappable disks 9and the capital expenses) in your server room is what makes you cool. Cool as Azure blue.

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