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Azure Tiering

What is Azure Cloud Tiering?

Azure Storage offers several classes of cloud storage for customers. However, to maximize savings and ROI from the cloud, IT directors need to consider tiering strategies. Cloud tiering moves less frequently used data, also known as cold data, from expensive on-premises file storage or Network Attached Storage (NAS) or cloud file storage such as Azure Files to cheaper levels of storage in the cloud, typically object storage classes aka Azure Blob storage. 

Cloud tiering enables data to move across different storage tiers – and different cloud tiering solutions support different storage options. We will cover both the storage tiers in the Azure cloud and the options available to do cloud tiering for Azure.

Azure Files and Azure Blob have different tiers of storage at different price points:

Azure Files is Microsoft’s file storage solution for the cloud. As with all file storage solutions, it is more expensive than object storage solutions such as Azure Blob, especially when you add the required replication and data protection costs for files. Azure File Storage Hot tier is more than 1.9 times more expensive than Azure Blob Cool. 

Azure Files supports two storage tiers: Standard and Premium.

  • Standard file shares are created in general purpose (GPv1 or GPv2) storage accounts; 
  • Premium file shares are created in FileStorage storage accounts.

Azure Blob is Microsoft’s object storage solution for the cloud. Blob storage is optimized for storing massive amounts of unstructured data. It’s enabled for the following access tiers:

  • Hot: storing data that is accessed frequently.
  • Cool: storing data that is infrequently accessed and stored for at least 30 days.
  • Archive: storing data that is rarely accessed and stored for at least 180 days with flexible latency requirements

According to Microsoft: “You can upload data to your required access tier and change the blob access tier among the hot, cool, or archive tiers as usage patterns change, without having to move data between accounts. All tier change requests happen immediately and tier changes between hot and cool are instantaneous.”

Azure Files has a service called Azure Files Sync which enables an on-premises Windows Server to do cloud tiering to file storage in the cloud, not object storage. 

Azure File Sync acts as a gateway that caches data locally and puts cold file objects in Azure File cloud storage. When enabled, Azure Files Sync stores hot files on the local Windows server while cool or cold files are split into namespace (file and folder structure) and file content. The namespace is stored locally, and the file content is stored in an Azure file share in the cloud. Azure will automatically tier cold data based on volume or age thresholds. See Microsoft Cloud Tiering overview.

Considerations for Microsoft Azure Cloud TieringCold-Data-Tiering

Cloud tiering can save organizations up to 70% on on-premises storage costs when done correctly. But there are several limitations of Azure Cloud Tiering that you need to consider:

  • Azure File Sync only tiers to Azure Files and leads to higher cloud costs. Azure Files is a file service in Azure and it is almost double the cost of the Azure Blob Cool tier. Since file storage is not resilient, data on Azure Files most commonly needs replication, snapshots and backups – leading to higher data management costs. An ideal cloud tiering solution should tier files from your NAS to an object storage environment to maximize savings. Otherwise, you are paying for higher costs in the cloud.  
  • Azure File Sync only tiers blocks of data to the cloud and leads to 75% higher cloud egress costs. This means you cannot directly access your files in Azure; you have to go through the on-premises Windows Server to get your data. This leads to 75% higher cloud egress costs, and it limits the use of your data in the cloud. To learn more about the differences between block tiering and file tiering, read our block-level tiering vs file-level tiering white paper to learn more. For an analysis of the cloud egress costs of solutions like Azure File Sync Cloud Tiering, read the Cloud Tiering whitepaper.
  • Azure File Sync is only available on Windows Server environments. Most organizations today have multiple file server and NAS environments. Using a different tiering strategy for each environment is tedious, error prone, and difficult to manage. Consider a data management solution that works across your multiple storage vendor environments and transparently tiers and archives data.

Komprise enables enterprise IT organizations to quickly analyze data and make smart decisions on where data should live based on age, usage and other requirements. Komprise works across your multi-vendor NAS and object environments and clouds via standard protocols such as NFS, SMB and S3. By using Komprise for cloud tiering to Azure, you can save not only on your on-premises storage but also on your cloud costs since you do not have to tier to Azure Files, you can tier directly to Azure Blob. Users get transparent access to the files moved by Komprise from the original location, and with Komprise moving data in native format, you can give users direct, cloud-native access to data in Azure while eliminating egress fees and rehydration hassles. 

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