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Azure Storage: A Year in Review – 2023

Azure Storage: 2023 – A Year of Growth, Innovation, and Transformation

New year reflection and planning are common. Microsoft’s top priorities are improving Azure and its ecosystem, enabling groundbreaking AI solutions, and easing cloud migrations. Azure use custom storage solutions to meet your workload needs.

2023 was a big year for storage and data services, with customers focused on AI. New workloads and access patterns increased Azure customers’ data estate. Notable Azure Storage figures:

  • The storage platform reads and writes over 100 Exabyte’s of data and processes over 1 quadrillion transactions a month. Both numbers increased significantly from 2023.
  • Azure’s new general-purpose block storage for SQL, NoSQL, and SAP increased capacity 100-fold with premium SSD v2 disks.
  • Premium Files, their file offering for Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) and SAP, saw over 100% YoY growth in transactions.

Five strategic areas were advanced and invested in in 2023 to match customer workload patterns, cloud computing trends, and AI evolution.

New workload-focused innovations

Azure now offer end-to-end solutions with unique storage capabilities to help customers bring new workloads to Azure without retrofitting.

Customers’ workloads are moving from “stateless” to “stateful” as they modernize applications with Kubernetes. Azure Container Storage is optimized for stateful workloads with tight container integration, data management, lifecycle management, price-performance, and scale. The first platform-managed container-native public cloud storage service is Azure Container Storage. It allows Kubernetes native management of persistent volumes and backend storage.

Azure Elastic SAN: The Game Changer for Block Storage in the Cloud

Microsoft’s fully managed Azure Elastic SAN simplifies cloud SAN deployment, scaling, management, and configuration. It addresses customers’ service management issues when migrating large SAN appliances to the cloud. They are the first to offer a fully managed cloud SAN with cloud scale and high availability. It uses a SAN-like hierarchy to provision top-level resources, dynamically share resources across workloads, and manage security policies at the workload level. It also lets customers use Elastic SAN to store new data-intensive workloads in Azure VMware Solution. Elastic SAN and Azure Container Storage, in public preview, simplify service management for cloud native storage scenarios, advancing the paradigm. Plans call for general availability in the coming months.

New data-driven innovation is led by AI. Azure Blob Storage leads this data explosion with high performance and bandwidth for AI training. AI and machine learning (ML), IoT and streaming analytics, and interactive workloads benefit from Azure Premium Block Blob’s low latency and competitive pricing since 2019. In July, Microsoft released Azure Managed Lustre, a managed distributed parallel file system for HPC and AI training.

Microsoft Fabric’s storage layer, OneLake, uses Azure Data Lake Storage’s scale, performance, and rich capabilities. ADLS has transformed analytics with differentiated storage features like native file system capabilities that enable atomic meta data operations, which boost performance, especially when used with Azure Premium Block Blob. Multi-protocol access lets customers work with their data using REST, SFTP, and NFS v3, eliminating data silos, costly data movement, and duplication.

Mission-critical workload optimizations

Azure add differentiated capabilities to help enterprises optimize Azure-hosted mission-critical workloads. 

They are actively onboarding mission-critical data solutions since Premium SSD v2’s general availability. Gigaom noted SQL Server 2019’s better performance and lower TCO on Azure VMs with Premium SSD v2. PostgreSQL and other database workloads have similar benefits. The coming year will see Premium SSD v2 capabilities improved and regional coverage expanded.

AI model training and inference are among the largest mission-critical workloads powered by Azure Blob Storage. Scale-out platforms help cloud-native companies store Exabyte’s of consumer-generated data. To power recommendation engines and inventory systems, major retailers store trillions of user activities. The 2023 Cold storage tier makes data retention cost-effective.

Enterprises modernize Windows Server workloads in the cloud with enhanced Azure Files and File Sync. Modern applications can use identity-based authentication and authorization to access SMB file shares with Microsoft Entra ID (formerly Azure Active Directory support for Azure Files REST API) in preview. Azure Files supports Kerberos and REST authentication with on-premises AD and Microsoft Entra ID. Microsoft Entra ID Kerberos authentication, unique to Azure, allows seamless migration from on-premises Windows servers to Azure, preserving data and permissions and eliminating complex domain join setups.

Azure NetApp Files (ANF) meets performance and data protection needs for SAP and Oracle migrations.  Azure introduced the public preview of ANF large volumes up to 500 TiB in strategic partnership with NetApp to meet the needs of workloads that require larger capacity under a single namespace, such as HPC in Electronic Design Automation and Oil and Gas applications, and Cool Access to improve the TCO for infrequently accessed data.

Scalable data migration is essential for cloud workload migration. They offer complete migration solutions. Fully managed data migration service Azure Storage Mover improves large data set migration. Windows Servers and Azure Files can be synchronized hybridly with Azure File Sync. AZ Copy allows script-based migration jobs to be completed quickly, while Azure Data box allows offline data transfer.

Growing partner ecosystem

Partners who enhance their platform with innovative solutions help us move customer workloads to Azure. Azure are pleased to see partners investing in exclusive Azure solutions after many successful strategic partnerships.

The next version of Azure Native Qumulo Scalable File Service, exclusive to Azure, leverages Azure Blob Storage’s scale and cost efficiency. This service supports Exabyte’s of data under a single namespace, surpassing other public cloud file solutions, and helps high-scale enterprise NAS data migration to Azure.

Commvault introduced an Azure-only cyber resilience solution. It helps users predict threats, recover cleanly, and respond faster. It works seamlessly with Azure OpenAI Service.

Since Pure Storage Cloud Block Storage launched on Azure in 2021, they have worked closely with them. The early adopters of Ultra and Premium SSD v2 disk storage use Azure Storage’s shared disks. They now collaborate on containers with Portworx and Azure VMware.

Azure offer storage migration solutions with Atempo, Data Dynamics, Komprise, and Cirrus Data, as well as storage and backup partners, to migrate petabytes of NAS and SAN data to Azure for free.

Industrial contributions

Azure work with industry leaders in SNIA and the Open Compute Platform (OCP) to share insights, influence standards, and develop innovative solutions and best practices.

Azure presented Massively Scalable Storage for Stateful Containers on Azure at the 2023 Storage Developer Conference, highlighting Azure Container Storage and Elastic SAN’s synergy. This combination provides unified volume management across diverse storage backends and a highly available block storage solution that scales to millions of IOPS with fast pod attach and detach.

Azure charted the future of flash as an HDD displacement technology at Flash Memory Summit (FMS) in alignment with Azure Storage long-term plans.

In the next decade, they aim for net carbon-zero emissions. Their OCP Sustainability Project provides an open framework for the datacenter industry to adopt reusability and circularity best practices and leads the steering committee to advance progress.

Unmatched quality commitment

Azure prioritize providing a solid storage foundation that can adapt to new workloads like AI and ML. This commitment ensures storage solution reliability, durability, scalability, and performance while lowering Azure customers’ TCO.

Azure invest heavily in infrastructure, hardware, software, and processes to ensure data durability. Azure Zone-redundant Storage (ZRS) guarantees data durability of at least 99.9999999999% (12 9’s) per year, the highest among major cloud service providers. Azure are the only major CSP cloud provider with a 0% Annual Failure Rate (AFR) for block storage since launch.

Our ZRS offering makes it easy to create highly available solutions across three zones at a low cost. A cross-zonal AKS cluster with ZRS disk-hosted persistent volumes ensures data durability and availability during zonal outages. ZRS provides high resiliency out of the box for clustered applications like SQL failover cluster instances (FCI) using Windows Server Failover Cluster (WSFC).

Azure integrated with Azure Copilot to improve customer support by helping support engineers troubleshoot faster and provide quality responses. This increased customer satisfaction significantly.

Thota nithya
Thota nithya
Thota Nithya has been writing Cloud Computing articles for govindhtech from APR 2023. She was a science graduate. She was an enthusiast of cloud computing.

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