Azure Storage: Features & Cost

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Bottom Line:

Running second only to AWS in the cloud market, Azure is very much a top choice for cloud storage.

Azure is highly suitable and versatile for archiving, backup, content distribution, application development, cloud-native applications, and big data analytics. The company offers flash storage for mission critical applications, so customers needing top speed can feel assured. On the other hand, buyers looking for low cost options can deploy one of Azure’s Archive Storage options – though naturally this won’t be as fast or accessible.

Given Microsoft’s core Windows offerings, any business that’s a Windows/Microsoft shop will likely have Azure at the top of its list of cloud storage candidates. They know that Azure will have no interoperability issues.

One potential problem: some users have noted minor downtime issues in certain regions and lack of support for Active Directory and SSDs.

Still, given Azure’s commitment to adding more tools and features, it’s a top pick for cloud storage.

Company Description:

Based in Redmond, WA, Microsoft entered the IT space decades ago in the operating system business. Since then, it has expanded into enterprise software, storage and many other areas. It is publicly traded. Customers include Rackspace, OpenStack, and Apple.

Service Description:

The Microsoft Azure portfolio of IaaS offerings includes compute, storage and network. It offers object storage (Azure Hot, Cool and Archive Blob storage), file storage and block storage (standard and premium, either managed or unmanaged). This includes:

  • HDD/SSD-based storage for mission-critical workloads to test scenarios. Use Ultra SSD when you need sub-millisecond latency and scalable performance; Premium SSD high-performance disk storage for production workloads; and standard SSD for cost-effective and consistent performance.
  • With exabytes of capacity and massive scalability, Blob Storage stores from hundreds to billions of objects in hot, cool, or archive tiers, depending on how often data access is needed. Store any type of unstructured data—images, videos, audio, documents.
  • Azure Archive Storage for low-cost, durable, and highly available secure cloud storage for rarely accessed data with flexible latency requirements.

Storage Type:

File, block and object.

Locations:

Microsoft has multiple Azure data centers in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Germany, Australia, India, Japan, Korea, Ireland, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Brazil. It also has several specifically assigned to the U.S. federal government, and China.

Differentiator:

Azure offers easy and complete integration with Microsoft and Windows platforms, as well as a huge list of partners. It also competes with Amazon on low-cost storage.

Implementation:

Implementation is straightforward using various quickstarts. This ease of implementation is particularly true for Windows-based firms.

“The user interface is great if you like using a Windows tablet and the PowerShell is robust, but there is not much in between,” said Greg Schulz, an analyst at StorageIO Group.

“Azure has met all of our expectations and more. The implementation was very smooth and the platform has been very stable ever since,” said the service manager of a utility.

Data Transfer:

If network transfer is too slow, there are two main options for physically transporting data to Azure: The Azure Import/Export service lets you securely transfer large amounts of data to Azure Blob Storage or Azure Files by shipping internal SATA HDDs or SDDs to an Azure datacenter. You can also use this service to transfer data from Azure Storage to hard disk drives and have these shipped to you for loading on-premises.

Azure Data Box is an appliance that works much like the Azure Import/Export service. Microsoft ships a tamper-resistant transfer appliance and handles the end-to-end logistics, which you can track through the portal.

Performance:

Azure scored second behind AWS on various Gartner performance metrics. The fastest is the SSD service, which offers:

• Throughput up to 20,000 MB per second.

• IOPS up to 80,000.

Availability/SLA:

Microsoft guarantees that at least 99.99% (99.9% for Cool Access Tier) of the time, Azure will successfully process requests to read data from Read Access-Geo Redundant Storage (RA-GRS) Accounts, provided that failed attempts to read data from the primary region are retried on the secondary region.

Technical Support:

Support levels range from being able to view documentation to 24/7 phone support. Documentation is available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Mandarin. Support and the service portal are available in those languages, plus Czech, Dutch, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, Swedish and Turkish.

“Microsoft was very good at assisting with any gaps in capabilities. They are constantly evolving their tools and were able to turn around enhancements relatively quickly,” said a project manager in the energy industry.

Security:

Azure encrypts data at rest, by default, using Storage Service Encryption. Each users level of access can be controlled.

Storage Management:

Select the storage type and size needed for your workload, and Azure creates and manages it.

Markets and User Cases:

Archiving, backup, content distribution, application development, cloud-native applications and big data analytics are some of the use cases. Many enterprises employing Windows-focused workloads can easily integrated Azure services and storage.

Pricing:

From as little as 0.001 cents/GB/month for blob storage, up to $1.54 per month for managed SSDs.

Microsoft ASR

Vendor
Workload Support x86
Regions Covered Global
Best RTO Less than 2 hours
Delivery Self service
Key Markets Low complexity x86
Analyst Eval Leader
Price Low
Key Differentiator  Supports Azure
Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb has been a full-time professional writer and editor for more than twenty years. He currently works freelance for a number of IT publications, including eSecurity Planet and CIO Insight. He is also the editor-in-chief of an international engineering magazine.

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