Extending your data center to cloud: The Microsoft hybrid approach

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This article will be the first of 3 entries on using Microsoft cloud for your IT infrastructure. The series will cover storage, network and compute aspects of cloud platform.

So without further ado, let’s start with the first one.

When we talk about cloud storage, obviously there are many choices. Different vendors, different products provided from different parts of the world. The purpose of this article is to give you an overview on different storage types and choice impact from the Microsoft Azure platform.

When considering extending your storage to cloud, you need to decide the starting point for determining your particular choice. You should consider access interfaces for internal and external connections, size requirements and throughput limitations, access controls, data types and any other requirements that could drive your decision.

In order to start with Azure storage, you need to decide on storage account type. What type of data needs to be stored? Or, in platform-specific terms, what type of storage do you need: BLOB, file share, table, queue?

A quick reminder – BLOBs (Binary lager objects) are used for storing binary files. File shares can be used for that as well, the difference being the access type. File shares support SMB protocol for accessing these. Table and queue types are usually used for programmatic access, if you’re implementing your own code.

There are two types of BLOB storage: block blob (used for streaming data) and page blob (used for Azure virtual machine disks). If you go deeper in the first one (block blob), you can get it two ways: as a blob storage account or a general purpose account.

If blob storage account type is chosen, this would be limited to a single type of data that could be stored in it (only block blobs). Most probably, you would choose this to gain better pricing options – you would get hot or cool storage options. One other difference between those is access latency.

Let’s go a few steps back. You could also choose the General purpose storage account type. Although you would lose flexibility on different pricing options on block blobs, you would gain capability of storing different types of storage on the same account.

The next choice would be related to the disk speed. Whether you need SSD or SATA disk speeds. This changes the underlying physical hardware that will support your data.

If you would go for the first one (SSD)– then your storage account, at this point in time, would be limited to Page blobs (Azure VM Disk storage type), in other words SSD disks currently can be used only for Azure Virtual Machines.

If your choice needs to be the most versatile, you would select Azure General Purpose storage account type with Standard disks.

The next thing you need to decide is the access method. Generally, Azure storage can be accessed through Azure Storage APIs or as a SMB file share (for file shares). The first method provides SSL secured channel for storage operations. There are different tools that implement these access methods. For example, command line tools like AzCopy or PowerShell as well as different graphical tools like Azure Cloud Storage Explorer.

If there is a need for some other access method, most likely you would need to implement different access front ends for this purpose.

As one would suspect, there are limits, as well as best practices that you need to follow in order to maximize your benefits for this kind of solution. For example, maximum size of your virtual VHD disk can be up to 1023GB or your single file storage cannot exceed 5TB of data while single file can be no more than 1TB, to name a few. I highly recommend you consider this in more detail, so I encourage you to visit the official Microsoft service description for Azure Storage.

With that – thanks for reading and look out for our next article in the series.

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Laurynas Dovydaitis Laurynas Dovydaitis works as a professional Solution Architect at CSC and helps clients implement complex IT infrastructure solutions. For the last three years he has been focusing deeply on the next generation computing including Cloud and Data Analysis fields and he holds more than a decade of IT-field experience. His passion in the field is recognized by the industry as he is awarded as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Comments

  1. You’re over-thinking the infrastructure issues and missing the main stumbling block to cloud adoption, which is sufficient test automation, including deployment automation. Once that’s cracked, it’s easy to migrate with the simplest solution and only add technical complexity where it’s actually needed.

    However, if your applications, as is common, conform to the ‘big ball of mud’ pattern and you’ve lost your requirements, then there’s a mountain of technical debt to climb. It doesn’t all need to be conquered in one go, but the overall costs need to be tracked as you won’t get most of the benefits unless/until you turn the old stuff off.

    I still think that ‘hybrid-cloud’ is mostly an oxymoron dreamed up to preserve jobs in IT and bonuses for vendors as you’ve still got to fund a more expensive and less performant infrastructure than you can buy by the hour.

    Like

  2. Laurynas Dovydaitis says:

    Thank you for the comment – it was interesting to hear your opinion and I totally agree with your point. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to embrace cloud to its fullest potential for legacy applications, hence the hybrid approach.

    Like

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