Introduction to the core Azure Storage services
The Azure Storage platform is Microsoft’s cloud storage solution for modern data storage scenarios. Core storage services offer a massively salable object store for data objects, disk storage for Azure virtual machines (Ms), a file system service for the cloud, a messaging store for reliable messaging, and a No SQL store. The services are:
- Durable and highly available. Redundancy ensures that your data is safe in the event of transient hardware failures. You can also opt to replicate data across data centers or geographical regions for additional protection from local catastrophe or natural disaster. Data replicated in this way remains highly available in the event of an unexpected outage.
- Secure. All data written to an Azure storage account is encrypted by the service. Azure Storage provides you with fine-grained control over who has access to your data.
- Salable. Azure Storage is designed to be massively salable to meet the data storage and performance needs of today’s applications.
- Managed. Azure handles hardware maintenance, updates, and critical issues for you.
- Accessible. Data in Azure Storage is accessible from anywhere in the world over HTTP or HTTPD. Microsoft provides client libraries for Azure Storage in a variety of languages, including .NET, Java, Nodes, Python, PHP, Ruby, Go, and others, as well as a mature REST API. Azure Storage supports scripting in Azure Power Shell or Azure CLII. And the Azure portal and Azure Storage Explorer offer easy visual solutions for working with your data.
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Core storage services
The Azure Storage platform includes the following data services:
- Azure Blobs: A massively salable object store for text and binary data. Also includes support for big data analytics through Data Lake Storage Gen.
- Azure Files: Managed file shares for cloud or on-premises deployments.
- Azure Queues: A messaging store for reliable messaging between application components.
- Azure Tables: A No SQL store for schema less storage of structured data.
- Azure Disks: Block-level storage volumes for Azure Ms.
Azure Blob storage is Microsoft’s object storage solution for the cloud. Blob storage is optimized for storing massive amounts of unstructured data, such as text or binary data.
Blob storage is ideal for:
- Serving images or documents directly to a browser.
- Storing files for distributed access.
- Streaming video and audio.
- Storing data for backup and restore, disaster recovery, and archiving.
- Storing data for analysis by an on-premises or Azure-hosted service.
Objects in Blob storage can be accessed from anywhere in the world via HTTP or HTTPS. Users or client applications can access blobs via URLs, the Azure Storage REST API, Azure PowerShell, Azure CLI, or an Azure Storage client library. The storage client libraries are available for multiple languages, including .NET, Java, Node.js, Python, PHP, and Ruby.
Azure Files enables you to set up highly available network file shares that can be accessed by using the standard Server Message Block (SOB) protocol. That means that multiple Ms can share the same files with both read and write access. You can also read the files using the REST interface or the storage client libraries.
One thing that distinguishes Azure Files from files on a corporate file share is that you can access the files from anywhere in the world using a URL that points to the file and includes a shared access signature (SAS) token. You can generate ASS tokens; they allow specific access to a private asset for a specific amount of time.
File shares can be used for many common scenarios:
- Many on-premises applications use file shares. This feature makes it easier to migrate those applications that share data to Azure. If you mount the file share to the same drive letter that the on-premises application uses, the part of your application that accesses the file share should work with minimal, if any, changes.
- Configuration files can be stored on a file share and accessed from multiple VMs. Tools and utilities used by multiple developers in a group can be stored on a file share, ensuring that everybody can find them, and that they use the same version.
- Resource logs, metrics, and crash dumps are just three examples of data that can be written to a file share and processed or analyzed later.
The Azure Queue service is used to store and retrieve messages. Queue messages can be up to 64 KB in size, and a queue can contain millions of messages. Queues are generally used to store lists of messages to be processed asynchronously.
For example, say you want your customers to be able to upload pictures, and you want to create thumbnails for each picture. You could have your customer wait for you to create the thumbnails while uploading the pictures. An alternative would be to use a queue. When the customer finishes their upload, write a message to the queue. Then have an Azure Function retrieve the message from the queue and create the thumbnails. Each of the parts of this processing can be scaled separately, giving you more control when tuning it for your usage.
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Azure Table storage is now part of Azure Cosmos DB. To see Azure Table storage documentation, see the Azure Table Storage Overview. In addition to the existing Azure Table storage service, there is a new Azure Cosmos DB Table API offering that provides throughput-optimized tables, global distribution, and automatic secondary indexes. To learn more and try out the new premium experience, see Azure Cosmos DB Table API.
An Azure managed disk is a virtual hard disk (VHF). You can think of it like a physical disk in an on-premises server but, ritualized. Azure-managed disks are stored as page blobs, which are a random IO storage object in Azure. We call a managed disk ‘managed’ because it is an abstraction over page blobs, blob containers, and Azure storage accounts. With managed disks, all you have to do is provision the disk, and Azure takes care of the rest.
1. Microsoft Azure will always keep at least 3 copies of your personal data
Your data is always replicated in Microsoft Azure to ensure longevity and great availability. Azure Storage must hold at least 3 copies of your data either inside the same data center, locally redundant storage (LRS) or a second data center, either zone-redundant storage (ZRS), geo-redundant storage (GRS) or geo-redundant read-access storage.
2 Microsoft Azure storage allows for geographical redundancy of your data
You have an option to duplicate your data in a secondary region within the same geographical boundary to optimize the durability for your deployment.
Using the Geo-redundant storage (GRS) method, your data is replicated 3 times within the primary region and is also replicated 3 times hundreds of miles away from the primary region in a secondary region. Azure Storage will failover to the secondary region in the event of a primary region failure.
3 Microsoft Azure guarantees SLA uptime of 99.9% for a single virtual machine instance
For years, Microsoft Azure has allowed you to have 2 or more virtual machines together in an Availability Set to get an Azure Machine 99.95 percent guaranteed uptime SLA.
This is not the case anymore!
Starting in November 2016, for a single instance Azure Virtual Machine, you will get a 99.9% money-back guaranteed uptime SLA. This is perfect for SMBs looking to install a second domain controller in Azure or move their first line of business workload into Azure without compromising your availability expectations. When Microsoft Azure has to take down a virtual machine for maintenance they can still send notice five days ahead.
Of course, for multi-instance virtual machines, Microsoft Azure still offers the 99.95% SLA. This latest update merely makes the VM experience of a single instance more predictable.
4 Microsoft Azure comes with a hybrid cloud approach
Since on-site data centers are small and cloud economies of scale are inevitable, Microsoft supports clients using cloud services to enhance their current computing and storage capabilities.
5 Microsoft Azure provides elasticity for 9-to-5 apps, so you don’t have to run servers 24/7
Elastic computing is the capacity to increase or decrease computer processing, memory, and storage resources rapidly to meet increasing demands without thinking about capability preparation and peak use engineering.
The Azure cloud provides elastic computing capabilities to match the number of resources allocated to the actual amount of resources needed without disrupting the operations. Through cloud elasticity, you can stop paying for unused storage or idle space, and don’t have to think about investing in new space and equipment procurement and maintenance.
Azure Cognitive Services documentation.
Azure Cosmos DB documentation.
Azure Functions documentation.
Azure Rubbernecks Service (AKS).
Azure Quantum Documentation (preview).
Windows Virtual Desktop.
We looked at some of the Key features Azure offers in this post and explained how they could help you. What hidden gems did you find in Azure, making your life easier? Free to share!
With more than 200 services and numerous benefits, Microsoft Azure is undoubtedly the fastest-growing cloud computing platform being adopted by businesses. In fact, Microsoft Azure’s total revenue is expected to surpass $19 billion by 2020.