Getting the Most From Azure Storage
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The Azure Storage suite of services form the core foundation of much of the rest of the Azure services ecosystem. Blobs are low-level data primitives that can store any data type and size. Tables provide inexpensive, scalable NoSQL storage of key/value data pairs. Azure queues provide a messaging substrate to asynchronously and reliably connect distinct elements of a distributed system. Azure files provide an SMB-compatible file system for enabling lift-and-shift scenarios of legacy applications that use file shares. Azure disks provide consistent, high-performance storage for virtual machines running in the cloud.
In this Introduction to Azure Storage course you'll learn about the features of these core services, and see demonstrations of their use. Specifically, you will:
- Define the major components of Azure Storage
- Understand the different types of blobs and their intended use
- Learn basic programming APIs for table storage
- Discover how queues are used to pipeline cloud compute node together
- Learn to integrate Azure files with multiple applications
- Understand the tradeoffs between standard/premium storage and unmanaged/managed disks
Let's now examine the Azure Disk service. Azure disks are fast, reliable, cloud-based storage suitable for hosting operating system images and disks attached to an Azure-hosted virtual machine running either Windows or Linux. Unlike Azure Files, which support the file and network-oriented SMB protocol, and are suitable for occasional read and write access, Azure disks are highly optimized for hosting VHD disk images and providing random access of data stored as page blobs.
You can create multiple disks per Azure storage account, and attach multiple disks to a single VM, so a single disk can be attached to at most one VM at a time. Because it's built on an Azure blob storage foundation, Azure disks benefit from the extensive feature set of blobs. Among other things, disks can leverage the GO-based replication feature of blobs to provide high availability and disaster recovery capabilities.
Disk snapshots are also possible which makes it easy to duplicate a complex virtual machine setup or do point-in-time recovery from failures. Azure disks have two performance tiers to choose from. The standard tier provides excellent performance for general purpose workloads such as web or application servers.
It's backed by standard, hard disk drive technology and can be replicated locally or in multiple data centers across the globe. The premium tier offers high-end, low latency throughput for IO-intensive workloads, like analytics or hosting databases such as SQL Server or Oracle. These SSD-backed disks are not configurable for automated geo replication, so a manual process like using Azure backup into a secondary geographically distinct region is needed to achieve geo-based disaster recovery.
Azure disks also support two disk types, unmanaged and managed. Note that a single Azure storage account has a maximum effective number of disks it can host depending on the workloads associated with each disk. An unmanaged disk type leaves the mapping of disks and storage counts to you. You must be constantly aware of how each disk is used and whether you need to create new storage accounts to accommodate new disks, which can be a tedious and error-prone task.
Managed disks abstract the storage account management details from you. New accounts are created behind the scenes as needed to host disks in a scalable and efficient manner. If you intend to host anything more than a small handful of virtual machines in Azure I highly recommend that you use managed disks for this.
Let's take a closer look at manged disks in Azure and how to connect them to cloud-hosted virtual machines.
About the Author
Josh Lane is a Microsoft Azure MVP and Azure Trainer and Researcher at Cloud Academy. He’s spent almost twenty years architecting and building enterprise software for companies around the world, in industries as diverse as financial services, insurance, energy, education, and telecom. He loves the challenges that come with designing, building, and running software at scale. Away from the keyboard you'll find him crashing his mountain bike, drumming quasi-rythmically, spending time outdoors with his wife and daughters, or drinking good beer with good friends.