The Best Kept Secret in Azure

Introduction

It seems strange to say this about an Azure service that has been around since May 2019, but Azure NetApp Files (ANF) is the best kept secret in Azure, and here’s why.

First of all, when searching for files services in Azure, people seem to find, and stop at Azure Files. They do not look beyond that service and whether there any other options. Secondly, the name, Azure ‘NETAPP’ Files. This can lead people to assume that the service is delivered by NetApp when in fact it is a Microsoft Azure first-party service that customers consume as part of their Azure billing plan. Because ANF is a Microsoft Azure first-party service, there are no extra’s required, such as licensing, you simply consume the service on-demand as you would any other Azure service.

What is it?

So, what is ANunder the hood is NetApp technology, hence the name, Azure NetApp Files. The ANF service has been designed to deliver low-latency, high-performance file storage on-demand. It supports both NFS and SMB protocols as well as dual-protocol volumes. The supported protocol versions are NFSv3, NFSv4.1 and SMB 2.X, SMB 3.X. Currently the ANF service has three performance tiers, Standard, Premium and Ultra with throughput ranging from 16MiB/s/TiB at the Standard tier up to 128MiB/s/TiB at the Ultra tier. This capability means that users of the ANF service will be able to meet the performance requirements of the most demanding workloads.

Use Cases?

Which workloads are a good fit? There are many workloads where ANF is a good use case. I have listed some of the most common ones below:

  • SAP – Application layer support for NFS & SMB volumes
  • SAP AnyDB – database & logs with Oracle and DB2 are supported
  • SAP HANA –  database & logs are supported with NFSv4.1 (SAP Certified) 
  • Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) – FSLogix managed user profile containers to deliver performance and a stateless solution
  • Oracle – Support for Oracle Direct NFS (dNFS) helps to deliver higher performance over NFS client connections
  • SQL Server – Removes the reliance on the VM to deliver IOPs allowing for small SKU’s with less vCPU’s helping to lower costs
  • Azure VMware Solution (AVS) – Decouples the storage from the compute allowing for independent scaling of storage without adding more nodes
  • Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) – Allows for persistent storage to be accessed by multiple pods either statically or on-demand when combined with NetApp’s Astra Trident
  • Standard File Shares – Hosting of user home folders or departmental shares
Why Use it?

Why use ANF ? The service has support for multiple protocols on both Windows and Linux. Due to the way ANF is delivered in Azure it allows for lift-and-shift migrations from on-premises to Azure, without the need to rearchitect applications. It is capable of delivering a consistent performance to service the most demanding of workloads scaling up to an achievable 450,000 IOPs. The way that ANF integrates into Azure makes it a highly secure service that is not available publicly. It delivers ultra-fast performance that is simple to manage either via the Azure portal, Azure CLi or REST API. Lastly, I feel the beauty of the ANF service, lies in its simplicity, it is an extremely easy service to deploy and consume.

Summary

The Microsoft Azure NetApp Files service is one of the unsung heroes of public cloud computing. Prior to its introduction the only way to achieve anywhere near to IOPs capabilities of most performant applications was to build large VMs with even larger managed disks. The introduction of ANF allowed users to move away from a traditional Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) deployment to a more modern Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) model. Being capable to deploy high-performance file storage on-demand means users now have a much more dynamic, flexible and highly available service.

Hopefully the few words I’ve written above have given you an insight into Azure NetApp Files, its capabilities and which uses cases it best serves. The ANF service is constantly being updated and improved by Microsoft, to see whats new with ANF check the link here. If you would like to learn more about Azure NetApp Files, check out the Microsoft docs pages here.

To get started with Azure NetApp Files, check out my next blog about configuring your subscription and building your first Azure NetApp Files account here.

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