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Azure storage

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Begun in February 2010 after the announcement of its development two years before, MS Azure has quickly grown, adding many services - including the flagship Azure Virtual Machines, an IaaS compute platform.

This Introduction to Microsoft Azure course, created by our Azure expert Ganapathi Subramanian, is an introduction to the whole Microsoft Azure Platform. It will start from the most basic concepts you'll need to get started with the whole Azure family. We'll also give you a quick overview of the most important services in the platform for computing, storage, and database.

Who should follow this course

This is a beginner, introductory course to Azure, so you can enjoy it with no previous knowledge. You might, however, want to take a look at our introductory courses "Introduction to Cloud Computing" and "Introduction to Virtualization Technologies" to learn more about Cloud Computing and Virtualization from a low-level, provider-agnostic point of view.


Welcome to this new lecture, where we'll see the various types of storage devices available in Azure and how to access them. We will also cover the scalability and availability aspects of Azure Storage. Azure Storage is a massively scalable cloud storage service that can be used to store and process large amounts of data. Azure supports the following types of storage services.

Azure Storage: how to store structured and unstructured data

Blobs are meant to store unstructured data like images, documents and audio/video etc. Blobs are ideal for storing data archives, logs and binary data. Tables are a key/value pair based NoSQL data storage for storing structured data. Tables can be used to build highly scalable applications through persistent data and storage. Queues are messaging services which support storing messaging data for asynchronous applications. File storage allows data to be stored as standard file system objects in the cloud.

Azure Storage architecture

This diagram shows the high level architecture of Azure Storage. Azure Storage is based on a container architecture, where a container is created first and objects are stored in the container. For example, Blob data in the storage are stored inside the container. Access levels can be restricted at the container level for security. Azure Storage is a highly scalable service that can store and process hundreds of terabytes of data, making them suitable for big data analysis. Storage data is partitioned and stored within and across data center regions. Azure Storage is a highly available service and supports an availability of 99.9% for most usage scenarios. It supports many replication options, which allow the data to be replicated within and across a data center for high availability. Data stored in storage are automatically replicated across data centers and can be retrieved in case of failures. Azure Storage supports dual redundancy, which allows data to be replicated and retrieved from a paired data center in case of disasters.

Storage objects are internet resources and can be accessed from anywhere using any device. Storage services can be accessed using the REST-based APIs, using HTTP, or HTTPS. Azure supports software development kits, SDKs for various platforms like .

NET, Java, Python, etc for accessing storage services. REST APIs support HTTPS based APIs for securely accessing the storage services. Storage services are protected by keys, and access is granted only by presenting the access keys.

Storage can also be made public, which makes it easier for access without any keys. Access to storage can also be restricted by providing read-only access.

Usage of storage objects is charged based on the following: the amount of data stored in the container, type of replication option used, number of requests to storage service, egress data, in other words how much data leaves an Azure data center. Storage service offers the most cost-effective way to store large amounts of data.

How to create a storage account

In this demo we'll go through the process of creating a storage account and accessing it to store and retrieve data. The first step in creating a storage account is to log in to the Azure Management Portal using your Microsoft Live account. For this demo we'll be using an existing Live account and subscription.

After log in to the portal, select storage services on the left navigation menu and click the new option at the bottom of the screen to create a storage account.

A single storage account can contain blob, tables and queues. The storage account creation screen, we'll promptly use it to input certain details including the URL.

Provide a unique name for the storage account. Location, select a data center where the storage account needs to be created. Replication, let's use the default geo-redundant option. It'll take a few minutes to provision the storage account. Once provisioned, the services section of the dashboard shows the URL for accessing various storage services like blob, table and queue. The containers tab can be used to create the container for blob objects and set the visibility level.

The manage key options available at the bottom of the screen can be used to retrieve the keys that need to be used for storage access. Once the storage account is created, it can be accessed programmatically using REST APIs or the SDK that are supported for . NET, Java, or Python by supplying the storage URL and keys.

About the Author
Trevor Sullivan
Microsoft PowerShell MVP

Trevor Sullivan is a Microsoft MVP for Windows PowerShell, and enjoys working with cloud and automation technologies. As a strong, vocal veteran of the Microsoft-centric IT field since 2004, Trevor has developed open source projects, provided significant amounts of product feedback, authored a large variety of training resources, and presented at IT functions including worldwide user groups and conferences.