Azure Storage: A Crisp CheatSheet for Getting Started

Posted by: Brian Martel , on 5/13/2024, in Category Microsoft Azure
Views: 6302
Abstract: This cheat sheet provides a clear and thorough overview of Azure Storage, Microsoft’s cloud storage service. It outlines the key features, different types of storage accounts, and the various storage services, such as Azure Blobs, Files, Queues, Tables, and Managed Disks. The guide also provides details on blob storage, access tiers, data lake storage, file storage, and table storage. Additionally, it covers data transfer methods, replication options, security features, and monitoring tools. Designed for quick reference, this cheat sheet is perfect for developers, IT professionals, and business leaders who want to use Azure Storage for scalable, secure, and efficient data management.

Azure Storage: Introduction

In this data-driven era, managing the immense volume of data produced by businesses and applications necessitates efficient storage solutions.

Azure Storage, a key service offered by Microsoft Azure, delivers a reliable, secure, and scalable platform for cloud-based data storage and management.

It caters to both structured and unstructured data, supporting a wide array of data types and storage needs, making it indispensable for contemporary applications.

Learning a new concept can be overwhelming. This cheat sheet provides an accessible summary of Azure Storage, highlighting its essential features, types of storage accounts, and the variety of storage services available. The cheatsheet delves into details on blob storage, access tiers, and data lake storage, and explains the unique functions of Azure Files, Queues, and Tables.

Furthermore, it covers crucial aspects like data transfer methods, replication strategies, security protocols, and monitoring tools to ensure optimal performance and data protection.

By following this cheatsheet, you will gain a basic understanding of what to expect  fromAzure Storage, helping you make well-informed decisions and fully leverage this robust cloud storage solution.

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Key Features of Azure Storage

  • Global Accessibility: Accessible worldwide via HTTP/HTTPS. Data can be accessed from anywhere, making it ideal for global applications and distributed teams.
  • Organization and Optimization: Label data with metadata, automatic tiering between hot and cool storage. Metadata helps categorize and retrieve data efficiently. Automatic tiering optimizes storage costs based on access frequency.
  • Security: Default data encryption and various access control options. Encryption at rest and in transit, role-based access control (RBAC), and integration with Azure Active Directory for enhanced security.
  • Scalability: Seamlessly scales to meet growing data demands. Handles petabytes of data and millions of requests per second, suitable for applications with variable workloads.
  • Ease of Use: Intuitive interface and comprehensive documentation. Integration with development tools and SDKs for various programming languages simplifies application development.

Types of Storage Accounts

  • Standard General-Purpose v2: Supports blobs, file shares, queues, and tables. Economical with broad features. Ideal for most workloads, providing a balance of performance and cost.
  • Premium Block Blobs: High transaction rates, small objects, low latency. Suitable for applications requiring quick access and frequent data modifications.
  • Premium File Shares: High-performance file shares, high IOPS, and throughput. Used for applications needing fast, reliable file storage, such as enterprise applications and databases.
  • Premium Page Blobs: Optimized for IaaS disks, supporting random writes up to 4 KB. Designed for Azure Virtual Machine disks, offering low-latency storage for high-performance workloads.

Azure Storage Services

  • Azure Blobs: Scalable object storage for unstructured data (e.g., images, videos, logs, backups). Supports three types of blobs: block blobs, page blobs, and append blobs. Accessed globally via HTTP/HTTPS.
  • Azure Files: Managed file shares accessible via SMB protocol. Supports Windows and UNIX-style file systems. Can be mounted concurrently by cloud or on-premises deployments.
  • Azure Queues: Storage for large numbers of messages, accessed globally via authenticated calls. Suitable for decoupling application components and processing tasks asynchronously.
  • Azure Tables: NoSQL store for structured data with flexible schemas. Offers schemaless design, fast access, and scalability for large datasets.
  • Azure Managed Disks: Block-level storage volumes for VMs. Simplifies disk management with features like snapshots and backups, and supports different performance tiers.

Blob Storage Details

  • Blob Hierarchy: Storage account > Container > Blob. Organized structure for efficient data management.
  • Types of Blobs:
    • Block Blob: Manages large files, parallel uploads. Ideal for text and binary data, software installation packages.
    • Page Blob: 512-byte pages, optimized for frequent updates. Used for virtual hard disks (VHDs) and random read/write operations.
    • Append Blob: Tailored for append operations, ideal for logging. Suitable for scenarios where data is appended sequentially, like logs.

Access Tiers

  • Hot Tier: Frequently accessed data, lower transaction costs. Suitable for data with high read/write operations.
  • Cool Tier: Infrequently accessed data, lower storage costs, higher transaction costs. Ideal for short-term backup and older data not frequently accessed.
  • Archive Tier: Rarely accessed data, lowest storage cost, higher retrieval costs. Best for long-term archiving and compliance data.

Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2

  • Built on Blob Storage: Adds hierarchical namespace for organizing data. Supports efficient big data analytics and storage.
  • Big Data Capabilities: POSIX-compliant ACLs, supports various data formats like Parquet. Facilitates high-speed querying and data retrieval for analytics workloads.
  • Use Cases: Big Data analytics, operational and exploratory analytics. Suitable for scenarios requiring large-scale data processing and analytics.

Performance and Scalability

  • Partitioning Data: Across multiple storage accounts for optimized performance. Enhances data access speed and reliability.
  • Managed Platform: Azure handles underlying infrastructure and operations. Ensures high availability, disaster recovery, and automated management.

File Storage

  • Accessible via SMB: Compatible with Windows, Linux, macOS. Supports concurrent access from multiple applications.
  • Use Cases: Configuration files, diagnostic data, centralized file sharing. Useful for shared application settings, migration scenarios.
  • Performance Tiers:
    • Premium: SSD-based, high performance for IO-intensive workloads. Suitable for latency-sensitive applications.
    • Standard: HDD-based, reliable performance at a lower cost. Ideal for general-purpose file storage.

Table Storage

  • NoSQL Data Store: Flexible design, no fixed schema. Allows dynamic data storage and retrieval.
  • Use Cases: Web apps, contact lists, IoT data, backend task data. Suitable for applications requiring scalable, structured storage.
  • Performance Tiers:
    • Premium: High transaction rates, low latency. For applications demanding quick data access and high throughput.
    • Standard: Suitable for most workloads. Cost-effective storage for typical NoSQL scenarios.
  • Pricing: Based on data volume, redundancy type, and outbound transfers. Charges for storage, operations, and data transfer.

Queue Storage

  • FIFO Principle: First-in-first-out message management. Ensures ordered processing of messages.
  • Use Cases: Cloud message management between app components. Ideal for task queuing and asynchronous processing.
  • Pricing: Based on the number of messages, size, and operations. Costs for storage and transaction volume.

Managed Disks

  • Types:
    • Standard HDD: Dev/test, infrequent access. Cost-effective for low-intensity workloads.
    • Standard SSD: Consistent performance at lower IOPS. Balanced performance for general use.
    • Premium SSD: IO-intensive workloads, low latency, high throughput. Best for high-performance applications.
  • Features: High availability, snapshots, backup capabilities, Azure Disk Encryption. Supports scaling and management with minimal effort.

Data Transfer Methods

  • Azure Import/Export Service: For large data transfers using provided hard drives. Secure and efficient for bulk data transfer.
  • Azure Data Box: Offline data transfer with a tamper-resistant appliance. Ideal for transferring large volumes of data without network constraints.
  • AzCopy: Command-line utility for high-performance data transfer. Simplifies moving data to and from Azure Storage.

Replication Options

  • LRS (Locally Redundant Storage): Three copies within one data center. Protects against hardware failures.
  • ZRS (Zone-Redundant Storage): Across three availability zones. Ensures data availability during data center outages.
  • GRS (Geo-Redundant Storage): Replicates to a secondary region. Provides regional disaster recovery.
  • GZRS (Geo-Zone-Redundant Storage): Combines ZRS and GRS for highest availability. Offers maximum data protection and availability.

Azure CLI for Storage Accounts

  • Commands:
    • Create Storage Account: az storage account create
    • Create Blob Container: az storage container create
    • Create Queue Storage: az storage queue create
    • Create Table Storage: az storage table create
    • Parameters: --name, --resource-group, --location, --sku, --kind

Tools for Development

  • Azure Storage Explorer: GUI tool for managing Azure Storage. Provides a graphical interface for managing blobs, queues, tables, and file shares.
  • Azurite: Open-source emulator for local development. Emulates Azure Blob, Queue, and Table services for offline development.

Security Features

  • Data Encryption: AES encryption for data at rest. Ensures data confidentiality and integrity.
  • Disk Encryption: BitLocker for Windows, DM-Crypt for Linux. Protects disk data from unauthorized access.
  • Shared Access Signatures (SAS): Limited access to storage objects without sharing account keys. Provides temporary access with specific permissions.

Monitoring and Diagnostics

  • Azure Monitor: Unified view of performance, capacity, and availability. Collects and analyzes telemetry from cloud and on-premises environments.
  • Storage Metrics: Transaction and capacity statistics. Helps identify trends, track performance, and diagnose issues.
  • Storage Logs: Detailed records of read, write, and delete operations. Useful for troubleshooting and optimizing performance.

Conclusion

Azure Storage offers a comprehensive suite of services and tools for scalable, secure, and flexible data storage.

It supports a variety of storage needs, from simple blobs to complex data lakes, with robust security measures and global accessibility. The services are designed to handle diverse workloads, ensuring high performance, availability, and cost-effectiveness.

This article has been editorially reviewed by Suprotim Agarwal.

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Author

Brian Martel, an experienced Azure and DevOps developer, has spent the last decade mastering technologies such as Kubernetes, Docker, Ansible, and Terraform. Armed with a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science and certifications like Cloud DevOps Engineer Expert (AWS and Azure) and Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA), Brian has a proven track record of guiding organizations through successful transitions to cloud-based infrastructures and implementing efficient DevOps pipelines.

He generously shares his wealth of knowledge as a mentor and an active participant in the developer community, contributing articles, speaking at user groups, and engaging with others on social media. All the while, Brian remains dedicated to staying current with the latest trends in his field.



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