Microsoft Azure

Pricing

Microsoft provides two different calculators to help estimate costs:

Resources have different costs based on many factors:

  • Subscription type = there are different plans including free, pay-as-you-go, Enterprise Agreement, and Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) that all affect costs.

  • Resource type = each resource has a different cost associated with it.

  • Resource usage = the amount of the resource that is used (for example, the amount of disk space used).

  • Meter usage = the amount of time the resource is on (for example, the amount of time a virtual machine is on).

  • Region = each region has different prices for the same types of resources.

[2]

For more documentation on how billing works, refer to the Cost Management + Billing documentation.

azure-cli (az)

Installation: [1]

  • Arch Linux:

    $ yay -S azure-cli
    
  • Debian:

    $ curl -sL https://aka.ms/InstallAzureCLIDeb | sudo bash
    
  • Fedora:

    $ sudo rpm --import https://packages.microsoft.com/keys/microsoft.asc
    $ sudo vim /etc/yum.repos.d/azure-cli.repo
    [azure-cli]
    name=Azure CLI
    baseurl=https://packages.microsoft.com/yumrepos/azure-cli
    enabled=1
    gpgcheck=1
    gpgkey=https://packages.microsoft.com/keys/microsoft.asc
    $ sudo dnf install azure-cli
    
  • macOS:

    $ brew install azure-cli
    
  • Other:

    $ curl -L https://aka.ms/InstallAzureCli | bash
    

For documentation on how to use the az command, refer to here.

Storage

Services

Here are all of the storage services provided by Azure [7]:

  • Blobs = Append (log), block (single object/file), and page (virtual disk drive) storage.

    • Disks = Fully managed page blobs for virtual machines.

  • Files = SMB and/or NFS network storage.

  • Queues = Messaging queues.

  • Tables = NoSQL.

Disk

Disks use blob storage in the back-end, are fully managed, and provide unique features over a standard blob.

Differences between Azure Disk and Azure Blob [13][14]:

Feature

Disk

Blob

Back-end

Azure Blob (Page)

Azure Blob (Page)

File format

VHD

Any

File system

NTFS

None

Number of allowed mounts to a virtual machine

1

Unlimited

Storage Service Encryption (SSE)

Yes

Yes

Azure Disk Encryption

BitLocker (Windows) and DM-Crypt (Linux)

None

CDN

No

Yes

Disk types ranging from slow and cheap to fast and expensive [14]:

  • Standard HDD

  • Standard SSD

  • Premium SSD

  • Ultra disk

Storage Accounts

Storage accounts provide a namespace to group and store related data. All data is encrypted at-rest by Storage Service Encryption (SSE) and is encrypted in-transit by HTTPS. Every storage account needs to have a unique name across all of Azure Storage. This is used to create a unique endpoint URL to access the various storage services: https://<STORAGE_ACCOUNT>.<STORAGE_SERVICE>.core.windows.net. Each storage account needs to have a default account type, replication type, and access tier set by the cloud operator. [4]

Performance tiers and account types:

  • Standard [3]

    • General Purpose v2 = The default and recommended storage account for general usage. It provides the use of different replication and access tiers.

    • General Purpose v1 = The original storage account type in Azure. Microsoft has no plans to deprecate it yet. Does not support lifecycle management, replication, or access tiers other than “hot”.

  • Premium = These all provide high-performance and low-latency storage. [4]

    • Premium block blobs

    • Premium page blobs

    • Premium file shares = NFS is available as another supported file system it can manage.

Replication types [5]:

Type

Description

Outage it will withstand

Locally Redundant Storage (LRS)

3 copies in a physical location.

Server

Zone-Redundant Storage (ZRS)

3 copies within a single region and different physical locations.

Data center

Geo-Redundant Storage (GRS)

LRS in two different regions.

Region

Geo-Zone Gedundant Storage (GZRS)

ZRS in one region and LRS is a second region.

Region

Access tiers [6]:

Tier

Usage

Minimum Days of Storage

Hot

Very active.

0

Cold

Not very active.

30

Archive

Backup.

180

For the archive access tier, ZRS and GZRS are not supported. [6]

Access

There are three types of access to Azure Storage:

  • Public Endpoint

    • URL = <STORAGE_ACCOUNT>.<STORAGE_TYPE>.core.windows.net/<RESOURCE_NAME>.

  • Restricted Access = The same public endpoint is used but access is restricted via a firewall.

    • URL = <STORAGE_ACCOUNT>.<STORAGE_TYPE>.core.windows.net/<RESOURCE_NAME>.

  • Private Endpoints = Requires the use of a private network and/or VPN to access.

    • URL = <STORAGE_ACCOUNT>.privatelink.<STORAGE_TYPE>.core.windows.net/<RESOURCE_NAME>. Microsoft recommends to always use the public endpoint URL, even when accessing the private endpoint, to prevent issues.

Access can be configured at the storage account level or the container level.

Change the default access settings for a storage account:

  • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > (select an existing storage account) > Security + networking > Networking

    • Firewalls and virtual networks

      • Public network access: Enable from all network (default), Enabled from selected virtual networks and IP addresses, or Disabled

      • Network Routing: Microsoft networking routing (default) or Internet routing

      • Pubish route-specific endpoints: Microsoft networking routing and/or Internet routing

    • Private endpoint connections

    • Custom domain

Change the access level for all containers:

  • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > (select an existing storage account) > Data storage > Containers > Change access level

Change the access level for a single container:

  • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > (select an existing storage account) > Data storage > Containers > (select an existing container) > Change access level

[8]

Secure Access

All Azure Storage services use Storage Service Encryption (SSE) to secure data at-rest. In transit, HTTPS encryption is enforced by default.

Enforce secure access:

  • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > (select an existing storage account > Settings > Configuration

    • Secure transfer required: Enabled (default)

    • Allow Blob public access: Disabled

    • Allow storage account key access: Disabled

    • Minimum TLS version: Version 1.2 (default)

These are the different ways to securely access Azure Storage:

  • Access Keys are automatically generated when a storage account is created.

  • Shared Access Signature (SAS) can provide restricted access to specific users.

  • Azure AD authentication via Access Control (IAM) can be used to access storage.

Access Keys

There are two access keys. One is the current access key and the second is to allow rotating out the old and gradually replacing it.

  • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > (select an existing storage account) > Security + networking > Access keys

SAS

Generate a SAS token for an entire storage account or a container.

  • Azure Portal > Storage accounts > (select an existing storage account) > Settings + network > Shared access signature > Generate SAS and connection string

  • Azure Portal > Storage accounts > (select an existing storage account) > Data storage > Containers > (select an existing container) > Settings > Shared access signature > Generate SAS token and URL

Azure AD

A storage account along with most storage objects, besides just containers, support Azure AD access based on role assignments.

  • Azure Portal > Storage accounts > (select an existing storage account) > Access Control (IAM)

  • Azure Portal > Storage accounts > (select an existing storage account) > Data storage > (select a storage type) > Access Control (IAM)

  • Azure Portal > Storage accounts > (select an existing storage account) > Data storage > (select a storage type) > (select an existing resource) > Access Control (IAM)

Utilities

There are two official and free tools for accessing Azure storage [9]:

  • AzCopy = CLI supported on Linux, macOS, and Windows.

  • Storage Explorer = GUI supported on Linux, macOS, and Windows.

    • This uses AzCopy in the back-end.

    • In the Azure Portal, a limited version of the Storage Explorer is provided:

      • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > (select an existing storage account) > Storage Explorer (preview)

    • Download and use the full Storage Explorer program for the full feature-rich experience.

Jobs

Azure Jobs provides a way to physically move a large amount of data between on-prem and the Azure cloud.

  • Azure Import Job steps (send drives to Microsoft):

    1. Customer prepares disks using WAImportExport (this is only supported on Windows)

    2. Create job

    3. Customer ships drives to Microsoft

    4. Check job status

    5. Microsoft receives the disks

    6. Check data in Azure Storage

    7. Disks are shipped back to the customer

  • Azure Export Job steps (receive drives from Microsoft):

    1. Create job

    2. Microsoft prepares disks

    3. Microsoft ships drives to the customer

    4. Check job status

    5. Customer receives the disks

    6. Use WAImportExport to unlock the encrypted BitLocker disks and move the data to a different disk

    7. Disks are shipped back to Microsoft

Create a job request:

  • Azure Portal > Import/export jobs > + Create

Costs for a job include:

  • Shipping fee to and from Microsoft

  • Per-drive handling fee

  • Import and export transaction fee

[10]

Object Replication

Objects can be replicated across different Azure Subscriptions and regions. Object replication requires a general purpose v2 storage account.

Create a source storage account:

  • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > + Create > Next: Networking > Next: Data Protection > Tracking

    • Turn on versioning for blobs

    • Turn on blob change feed

Create a destination storage account:

  • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > + Create > Next: Networking > Next: Data Protection > Tracking

    • Turn on versioning for blobs

Create a source and destination container:

  • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > (select the source storage account) > Blob service > Containers > + Container > Create

  • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > (select the destination storage account) > Blob service > Containers > + Container > Create

Create the replication policy:

  • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > (select the source storage account) > Blob service > Object replication > + Set up replication rules

[11]

Lifecycle Management

Lifecycle management helps to minimize costs by automating (1) the deletion or (2) archival of objects.

Create a lifecycle management rule to move objects after a specified number of days [12]:

  • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > (select an existing storage account) > Blob service > Lifecycle Management > + Add a rule > Next

    • if-then block

      • If - Base blobs were - Last modified - More than (days ago)

      • Then (select one)

        • Move to cool storage

        • Move to archive storage

        • Delete the blob

Files

Azure Files provides fully managed SMB and/of NFS file shares. It supports Linux, macOS, and Windows.

Differences between Azure Disk and Azure Blob [13][14]:

Feature

Files

Blob

Back-end

Azure Blob (Page)

Azure Blob (Page)

File system

SMB (default) and/or NFS (premium)

None

Number of allowed mounts

1

Unlimited

Mounts

Cloud or on-prem

Cloud

Directory structure

Hierarchical

Flat

Use-cases:

  • Hybrid = Cloud and on-prem.

  • Lift and shift = Cloud only.

Connectivity:

  • REST, SMB, or NFS

    • SMB 3.0 was the first version of SMB that includes encryption so it can also be used externally.

      • For internal connectivity, the insecure SMB 2.1 can be used since all networks are private by default.

    • NFS requires a premium storage account (it will not work with a general purpose v2 storage account)

Create a file share:

  • Azure Portal > Storage Accounts > (select an existing storage account) > Data storage > File shares > + File share > Create

Get the commands to automatically connect the file share on different operating systems:

  • Azure Portal > File Shares > (select an existing file share) > Overview > Connect

    • Windows

    • Linux

    • macOS

[15]

File Sync

Azure File Sync caches files on-prem. It supports the use of SMB, NFS, and FTPS.

Requirements:

  • Windows >= 2012 R2

  • File Sync agent

Create a storage sync service:

  • Azure Portal > + Create a resource > Azure File Sync

View hints on how to set up storage sync service on a client device:

  • Azure Portal > Storage Sync Service > (select an existing storage sync service) > Sync > Getting Started

[16]

Bibliography

  1. “How to install the Azure CLI.” Microsoft Docs. February 10, 2022. Accessed March 28, 2022.

  2. “Microsoft Azure Pricing and Licensing: 6 Things You Should Know.” sherweb. May 2, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2022. https://www.sherweb.com/blog/cloud-server/understanding-microsoft-azure-pricing/

  3. “Azure Storage Options Explained.” Skylines Academy. June 28, 2019. Accessed May 19, 2022. https://www.skylinesacademy.com/blog/2019/6/28/azure-storage-options-explained

  4. “Storage account overview.” Microsoft Docs - Azure Storage. April 28, 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/storage/common/storage-account-overview

  5. “Azure Storage redundancy.” Microsoft Docs - Azure Storage. May 12, 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/storage/common/storage-redundancy

  6. “Hot, Cool, and Archive access tiers for blob data.” Microsoft Docs - Azure Storage. May 12, 2022. Accessed May 19, 2022. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/storage/blobs/access-tiers-overview

  7. “Introduction to Azure Storage.” Microsoft Docs - Azure Storage. March 17, 2022. Accessed May 20, 2022. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/storage/common/storage-introduction?toc=%2Fazure%2Fstorage%2Fblobs%2Ftoc.json

  8. “Use private endpoints for Azure Storage.” Microsoft Docs - Azure Storage. March 10, 2022. Accessed June 9, 2022. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/storage/common/storage-private-endpoints

  9. “Azure storage explorer.” Azure Lessons. March 14, 2021. Accessed June 9, 2022. https://azurelessons.com/azure-storage-explorer/

  10. “What is Azure Import/Export service?” Microsoft Docs - Azure Storage. March 15, 2022. Accessed June 9, 2022. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/import-export/storage-import-export-service

  11. “Azure Storage Object Replication.” Tech Talk Corner. September 29, 2020. Accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.techtalkcorner.com/azure-storage-object-replication/

  12. “Data Lifecycle Management in Azure Blob Storage.” SQLShack. February 17, 2022. Accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.sqlshack.com/data-lifecycle-management-in-azure-blob-storage/

  13. “Azure Blob storage vs Azure Drive.” Stack Overflow. December 5, 2012. Accessed June 10, 2022. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/6295004/azure-blob-storage-vs-azure-drive

  14. “Azure Storage Types: What are they?” ZiniosEdge. June 15, 2021. Accessed June 10, 2022. https://ziniosedge.com/azure-storage-types-what-are-they/

  15. “Azure File Share Explained [Tutorial With Examples].” GoLinuxCloud. Accessed June 15, 2022. https://www.golinuxcloud.com/azure-file-share/

  16. “Azure File Sync Explained with Practical Examples.” GoLinuxCloud. Accessed June 15, 2022. https://www.golinuxcloud.com/azure-file-sync/