Microsoft describes it as the “industry’s first bare-metal cloud file storage and data management service” and, after launching in preview earlier this year, Azure NetApp Files is now generally available. The offering is a new option for storing enterprise SMB and NFS files in Azure via an all-flash infrastructure, powered by NetApp.
Azure NetApp Files is, essentially, a managed, first-party Azure service for migrating and running demanding enterprise file-workloads in the cloud including databases, SAP, and High Performance Computing applications, without code changes.
Chad Morgenstern, a NetApp Senior Cloud Solutions Architect, explained the service on the beta release as ideal for “the retail firm with its enterprise-class databases demanding gigabytes of bandwidth, to the financials firm running I/O-hungry Monte Carlo simulations requiring a single namespace, to the genomics firm running highly demanding scale-out HPC workloads.”
Azure NetApp Files: No Built-In Backup Yet
Tad Brockway Corporate Vice President, Azure Storage, Media, and Edge said, noted that as Azure NetApp Files is delivered as an Azure first-party service, clients can provision workloads against their existing Azure agreement, with Microsoft handling both customer support and invoicing. The offering does not come with built in backup or snapshots yet; an additional server which can backup shares over SMB (such as Commvault) will be required, should users wish.
Commentator Dan Gordon noted: “Users can host file shares in Azure without the 4 TB AFS limits and Active Directory managed by customers on their own virtual machines. Since ANF shares are part of active directory, delegation and impersonation may be enabled – an important consideration for enterprises looking to enable SAML Single Sign On and multi factor authentication using another IDP such as Azure AD.”
Microsoft said it has worked closely with a range of Fortune 100 companies since the beta release, putting oil company Repsol forward to provide comment.
“We wanted an on-premise like performance for our reservoir simulation and analysis software. We were thrilled to see Azure NetApp Files exceeding our expectations with an over 5x performance increase. Most importantly, the massive scale-up/down capability of Azure NetApp Files now allows for pure cloud-based consumption of both capacity AND performance,” Repsol’s Juan Pedro Bretti said.
An “AppX” Example
NetApp’s Morgenstern in an earlier blog sketched the example of a hypothetical app, “AppX”, a home-grown Linux-based application built for the cloud.
“This app is designed to scale linearly by adding virtual machines as the need for compute power increases. Data access is the name of the game for Acme AppX; rapid accessibility of the data lake is critical, and shared storage is the best option. The I/O patterns of this application are at times random and at times sequential. When random, low latency is needed for its large amounts of I/O, and when sequential, large amounts of bandwidth are desirable. The random component of the application leads the application admin to rule out object storage from consideration.”
“The team has tried to build their own NFS server farm, but they’re frustrated by the complexity of having to manage the environment. Most shared file service engines are either self-managed (and undesirable); don’t scale far enough, offering a few tens of thousands of operations per second at best; or both, and are ruled out as well.”
It’s the kind of perfect example where Azure NetApp Files will be a fit, the companies hope. Pricing starts at £0.000151/GiB/hour.
The service comes with access via REST API and Azure SDKs, and soon via Azure CLI and PowerShell. It’s sold and supported exclusively by Microsoft, and provides FIPS-140-2-compliant data encryption at rest, role-based access control (RBAC), Active Directory authentication (enabled for SMB), and export policies for network-based access control.