Microsoft Rolls Out SSD-Backed Azure Premium Cloud Storage

By Pedro Hernandez  |  Posted 2015-04-17 Print this article Print
Microsoft Azure Premium Cloud Storage

HDD storage too slow? The company's high-performance SSD-based cloud storage service is now generally available.

Azure Premium Storage, Microsoft's cloud storage service that uses solid-state drives (SSDs), instead of traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), is now generally available in select regions, the company announced.

Currently, the speedy storage option is available in the West US (California), East US 2 (Virginia), West Europe (Netherlands), East China (Shanghai), Southeast Asia (Singapore) and West Japan (Osaka) Azure regions, with widespread availability to follow in the near future, according to Microsoft.

As its name suggests, the offering is meant to help enterprises give their resource-intensive cloud applications an SSD-enabled lift. "Premium Storage is designed for Azure Virtual Machine workloads which require consistent high IO performance and low latency in order to host IO intensive workloads," Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft Azure, said in an April 16 statement.

"You can optionally attach several premium storage disks to a single VM [virtual machine], and support up to 32TB of disk storage per VM and drive more than 64,000 IOPS per VM at less than 1 millisecond latency for read operations," Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group, wrote in a related blog post. "This provides an incredibly fast storage option that enables you to run even more workloads in the cloud."

Those workloads, typically reserved for a data center, include "high-volume SQL Server, Dynamics AX, Dynamics CRM, Exchange Server, MySQL, Oracle Database, IBM DB2, MongoDB, Cassandra and SAP solutions," Guthrie said.

Available in preview since December, Azure Premium Storage has already sped up workloads for early customers. Based on feedback gleaned by Microsoft, customers reported that compared with Azure's HDD-based Standard Storage service, Premium Storage is six times faster at backing up a 2TB SQL Server database. Restoring that same database is 30 times faster than Standard Storage.

In some cases, Azure Premium Storage can beat some organizations' in-house storage-area networks (SANs). "Write throughput to a SQL database running on Premium Storage is 2 times the write throughput on the same database running on an on-premise mid-level SAN," said Russinovich.

Key to delivering brisk application performance is a component called Blobcache. Russinovich explained that Blobcache "runs on the servers hosting the DS series VMs [and] takes advantage of the RAM and SSDs of the servers to implement a low-latency, high-throughput cache." Blobcache also acts as storage for VM temporary disks.

"This unique architecture means that DS series VMs that take advantage of Premium Storage disk caching can achieve extremely high levels of performance, both in terms of throughput and latency that exceeds that of the underlying Premium Storage disk performance," Russinovich said. The DS Series is a new tier of Azure VM sizes with up to 16 CPU cores and 112GB of memory that supports attaching Premium Storage.

In the West US region, Azure Premium Storage prices range from $19.71 per month for 128GB of SSD capacity to $135.17 per month for 1TB. Microsoft is currently offering a 50 percent discount through May 31.


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