Using thin provisioned virtual disks is very common, but previously meant that vSphere admins had to remember to periodically run an unmap job manually to free up blocks that a VM had released. With VMFS 6, all that is automatic, but not instantaneous.
Microsoft Azure, one of the top three cloud service providers as ranked by Gartner, offers four main Azure storage types for businesses to store and manage their data. The four main Microsoft Azure Storage types, or “data services,” consist of Azure Blobs (short for Binary Large Objects), Azure Queues, Azure Tables and Azure Files. Different storage types are optimal for different types of data.
Microsoft outlines sample scenarios highlighting how and when to use each storage type. For example, Azure Blobs are ideal for storing massive amounts of unstructured data — such as text or binary data —and is designed for streaming video and audio, writing to log files and storing data for backup and recovery. Tables provide advanced indexes and a place to store semi-structured NoSQL data in the cloud. Queues store millions of messages to be processed asynchronously. And Files enable you to set up file shares that can be accessed from anywhere in the world using a shared SAS token. Each type of storage account solution is scalable, durable and secure, keeping your data safe and organized through encryption and redundancy tools.
What is a Microsoft Azure Storage Account?
A Microsoft Azure Storage account is your home base for accessing all your data in one place. There are four main Azure storage accounts to choose from: a general-purpose storage account, a premium block blobs account, a premium file shares account, and a premium page blobs account. Each of the four account types supports different pricing and redundancy options and is optimized for different storage types: Blobs, Queues, Tables and Files. A great way to ensure you understand Azure Storage and choose the correct storage account is by learning some Microsoft Azure basics.
The Microsoft Azure Storage account contains a variety of security measures. Your data, which is accessible from anywhere in the world, is encrypted and backed up with multiple redunancy options to choose from. Azure Active Directory (AD) provides single sign-on, multifactor authentication, and conditional access to guard against 99.9% of cybersecurity attacks. A shared access signature (SAS) provides secure delegated access to resources in your storage account, giving you granular control over how a client can access your data. For example, you can control what resources clients may access, what permissions they have to those resources, and how long the SAS is valid. By default, anonymous access to your data is never permitted. Unless you explicitly enable anonymous access, all requests to a container and its blobs must be authorized. Additionally, Microsoft Azure performs automated, periodic monitoring to analyze and identify potential threats, and recommends solutions to address them.
Below is a breakdown of the four main storage accounts, the storage types they support, the included options for redundancy, and the areas in which each type works best.
|Type of Account||Supported Storage Services||Redundancy Options||Usage|
|Standard general-purpose v2 ||Blob (including data lakes), queue, table, and Azure files ||Locally redundant (LRS); geo-redundant (GRS); read-access geo-redundant (RA-GRS); zone-redundant (ZRS) geo-zone-redundant (GZRS); read-access geo-zone-redundant (RA-GZRD) storage||Standard storage account type for blobs, file shares, queues, and tables. Recommended for most scenarios using Azure Storage. If you want support for network file system (NFS) in Azure Files, use the premium file shares account type.|
|Premium block blobs||Blob (including data lake) storage||LRS, ZRS||Premium storage account type for block blobs and append blobs. Recommended for scenarios with high transaction rates or that use smaller objects or require consistently low storage latency.|
|Premium file shares||Azure files||LRS, ZRS||Premium storage account type for file shares only. Recommended for enterprise or high-performance scale applications. Use this account type if you want a storage account that supports both Server Message Block (SMB) and NFS file shares.|
|Premium page blobs||Page blobs only||LRS||Premium storage account type for page blobs only.|
The Four Microsoft Azure Storage Types
After you’ve created an Azure Storage account, you will need to define what you want to store, how you’re going to store it, and what features you might want to optimize your solution. The four main Azure storage types — Blobs, Queues, Tables and Files — are optimized for different scenarios and data types, such as scaling object storage for unstructured data, supplementing or replacing existing file sharing applications, and performing large-scale data analytics. Solutions architects may be interested in taking a Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions training course to learn about Azure Storage, data, infrastructure, governance and more. IT Professionals who are experienced in SAP solutions may want to consider taking the course Designing and Deploying SAP on Azure to leverage Azure resources such as the deployment and configuration of virtual machines, virtual networks and storage accounts. IT professionals new to working with AWS may want to start their education If you’re curious about learning the fundamentals about Microsoft Azure storage, consider taking Microsoft Azure Fundamentals.
Below, we’ve outlined what you need to know about Blobs, Queues, Tables and Files.
A “Blob,” short for “Binary Large Object,” is a type of storage that is best for large files and unstructured data, such as videos, images and backup files. A Blob is a general purpose object store for a wide variety of storage scenarios, including big data analytics and data lakes. Blobs allow you to access application data from anywhere in the world through URLs or the Azure Storage client library. Client libraries are storage areas that are compatible with several programming languages, such as .NET, Java, Node.js, Python, PHP and Ruby. Blobs are ideal for storing data for backup, restoration, disaster recovery and archiving.
There are three types of Blobs that are supported by Azure Storage: Block, Append, and Page blobs. It’s important to note that once a Blob has been created, you cannot change its Blob type.
Block blobs, which can store text and binary data up to 190.7 TiB, are made up of “blocks” of data that can be managed individually. It’s the easiest and cheapest way to store files in Azure, making it optimal for storing a lot of data efficiently.
Append blobs are also made up of Block blobs but are used for logging data from virtual machines. The maximum size of an append blob is roughly 195 GiB. Page blobs are best for storing random access files up to 8 TiB. Page blobs are important if you are using Azure virtual machines, as they serve as the disks that back up the machine. If you’re curious about learning more about how to use Azure to deploy and configure virtual machines, ExitCertified offers professional Microsoft Azure training courses.
Queues are used to store and retrieve messages that can reduce customer wait times by storing millions of messages that can be processed asyncronously. A Queue is exactly what it sounds like — a “waiting line” for a backlog of work. For example, instead of requiring a user to wait for you to perform a task, Azure can retrieve the message from the queue and perform the task on its own. Each queue message can be up to 64 KB in size and is accessible from anywhere in the world using HTTP or HTTPS.
Azure Tables stores non-relational structured and semi-structured data — also known as structured NoSQL data. With Azure Tables, you can store and quickly query terabytes of data. It’s the ideal place for flexible datasets such as web applications, address books and device information. A Tables storage account may store any number of tables, and you can store any number of entities in a table.
Azure Storage also offers Azure Cosmos DB, a fully managed NoSQL database. Cosmos DB is considered the “premium” version of Azure Tables due its lower latency, faster query times and its constant availability in both consumption-based and provisioned capacity modes. Cosmos DB supports turnkey global distribution from any number of regions, whereas traditional Tables only allow for a single region with an optional secondary read region.
Azure Files offers fully managed file shares in the cloud as a way to set up file networks that can be accessed from anywhere in the world using a URL and SAS token. Compatible with Windows, Linux, and macOS, Files allows you to mount file shares from either the cloud or on-premise.
The most common uses for Azure Files is for on-premises file shares, as it provides a place where applications, tools, utilities and files can be stored and used by multiple developers so everybody can access the same tools at the same time. Data such as resource logs, metrics, and crash dumps are just a few examples of what can be written to a file share.
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