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Azure File Storage

The Ultimate Azure File Storage Cost and Performance Optimization Checklist

January 10, 2020

Topics: Azure NetApp Files Elementary7 minute read

From agility to faster time to market and reduced operational costs, the cloud has copious benefits for large-scale deployments and application migration to the cloud. While normal workload migrations are relatively straightforward, file-based workloads can be mystifying: How do you identify the right services and ideal configurations?

Azure NetApp Files (ANF) addresses many of the challenges of hosting file share-based workloads in Azure. Chief among its benefits is a managed file share service for NFS and SMB file share-dependent workloads in Azure. With the ability to choose from multiple service tiers, customers are sure to find the ideal storage solution for their application portfolio, thereby optimizing costs without compromising performance.

ANF: Enterprise-Class File Shares in Azure

ANF, a collaborative effort between NetApp and Microsoft, is a cloud-native solution for hosting and managing NFS workloads in Azure. Azure NetApp Files is an alternative to the drudgery of setting up a scalable NFS or SMB file-share server on your own using a complex network of virtual machines and premium disks. ANF users circumvent DIY activities that call for extensive planning, such as configuring raid for storage resiliency, availability set/zone for compute high availability, network design, capacity management, and ongoing management.

ANF has condensed all these tasks into a provisioning process that takes just a few minutes, a vast improvement over the days it would take with a conventional IaaS approach. ANF customers can either provision the service directly from the Azure portal or use tools like CLI, PowerShell, or Rest API to do so, as with any other Azure service.

Enterprise-Class Features

Let’s explore some of the enterprise-class features that make ANF a must-have for file share-based application architectures in Azure.

ANF is built on trusted NetApp® ONTAP technology, the market leader in storage operating systems, which has served over 300,000 customers for nearly three decades. By combining the benefits of ONTAP with the scalability, resilience, and reliability offered by Azure, ANF’s data management capabilities are unparalleled.

High Availability

Highly available by default, ANF is designed to ensure that critical workloads have constant, uninterrupted access to critical file shares. Users benefit from redundancy for hardware, software, and networks—with no additional configuration required.

High Performance Capabilities

With sub-millisecond latency and throughput as high as 128 MB per provisioned terabyte, ANF offers bare-metal performance. Its three service tiers—Standard, Premium, and Ultra—also ensure that varying performance demands are met throughout the application lifecycle.

Advanced Data Management

When it comes to cloud-native storage services in Azure, ANF is way ahead of the game with its advanced data management capabilities, including data protection through snapshots and instant copies and data synchronization through Cloud Sync. It also enables data security through FIPS-140-2-compliant data encryption.

Enterprise Use Cases and Performance Benchmarks

While any file share-dependent workload in Azure can benefit from ANF, some of the more prominent use cases include file services, big data analytics, databases, and SAP workloads.

The performance requirements for each use case will vary; even the requirements of two workloads of the same type will vary depending on the environment. One workload’s benchmarks may differ greatly from another’s. ANF meets these demands seamlessly, without administrators needing to invest in configuration overhead.

File Services

Most traditional workloads, especially legacy applications dependent on file share services, can be easily migrated to Azure using ANF. The migration process might begin in a development environment, where the performance demands aren’t very high, and then move on to production environments with peak performance demands.

In cases where high performance is only required periodically, the storage solution should be capable of providing higher IOPS as needed, without impacting ongoing transactions. With ANF, customers can achieve this by simply adjusting the quota associated with a provisioned volume.

Big Data Analytics

Big data analytics applications constantly handle processes that involve terabytes of data. The shared file systems used by these applications must therefore be capable of providing cost-effective storage without compromising performance. In addition to performance capabilities, scalability is an important consideration.

ANF provides both through volumes that can scale from 100 GB to 100 TB on the fly, without impacting performance. Data can also be synchronized from on-premises or cloud environments using ANF’s integrated Cloud Sync technology. This enables customers to design and build data lakes in the cloud.


Applications that depend on file share systems for databases such as Oracle and SQL are often performance-sensitive; any delay loading the data from backend databases can be detrimental to user experience. In ANF’s performance benchmark tests, database workloads were able to achieve a response time of one millisecond and throughput of 300K IOPS for a single volume.

Moreover, ANF gives database administrators the flexibility to choose from service levels, from high-performance storage for production databases to lower performance levels for infrequently accessed data, such as backup and archival files. The range of IOPS/capacity options help reduce operational costs; higher priced ANF tiers only need to be used for IOPS-intensive critical databases.


As a global SAP technology partner, NetApp has extensive experience delivering enterprise-class storage solutions for SAP to Azure through ANF. ANF can be used in SAP systems to store shared files, as well as SAP databases.

For optimal placement of these files in ANF, the user must select the appropriate service tier among the three offered—Standard, Premium, and Ultra. In general, but not as a rule, databases are best hosted on a higher-performance volume; backup data and log files often require medium performance; and shared files can be deployed on volumes with lower IOPs.

ANF also facilitates quick deployment of dev/test environments through instant copies using snapshots, with minimal storage overhead.

ANF Service Tiers

ANF offers three service tiers, allowing customers to choose the optimal performance levels for each of their applications and use cases. Customers are charged based on provisioned capacity.

Performance is dependent on the volume quota and the capacity pool service tier. For a specific performance tier, throughput is cumulative per provisioned terabyte. Hence, increasing the volume quota will result in higher performance. For this reason, it’s important to consider the performance requirements—both periodic and consistent—and costs involved ahead of time and to choose the storage level that best suits your needs.

The Standard Performance Tier

The performance levels offered by the Standard tier are comparable to those provided by standard hard disk drives (HDD). Costing $0.000202 per GiB per hour, ANF’s Standard-tier storage provides throughput of 16 MiB/s per provisioned 1 TiB of volume quota.

This service tier is best suited to file share use cases with lower performance benchmarks, such as static websites, infrequently accessed file shares, or shared locations for storing backup and archival files. These use cases often require greater capacity, but have minimal performance needs.

The Premium Tier

Premium-tier performance levels are comparable to those provided by mainstream Solid State Drives. Priced at $0.000403/GiB/hour, this tier offers throughput of 64 MiB/s per 1TiB of volume quota. It is capable of supporting up to 4,000 IOPS/TB and is thus ideal for IOPS-intensive databases like Oracle and SQL, as well as enterprise applications and big data analytics.

Throughput can be adjusted as needed by increasing the volume quota. For example, a volume from a capacity pool in the Premium tier with a quota of 2TB will have a throughput limit of 2TiB x 64 MiB/s (amounting to 128 MiB/s), whereas volume from a capacity pool of a 1TB will only have a throughput of 64 MiB/s (1TiB x 64MiB/s).

The Ultra Tier

This tier offers the highest throughput, with performance on par with on-premises Flash Arrays. At $0.000538 per GiB per hour, the Ultra tier is the most expensive, but it provides throughput of 128 MiB/s per 1 TiB of volume quota. Supporting the highest performance, at 8,000 IOPS/TB, this tier is best suited for use cases such as high-performance computing, SAP workloads, and high-throughput, low-latency production databases.

By way of example: the Ultra tier can be used to host databases in SAP environments, while the Premium and Standard tiers are ideal for database logs and shared files, respectively.

Make the Most of Your Azure File Storage Investment

With enterprise-class data management features and multiple service tiers, ANF is the ideal solution for file share-based workloads in Azure. It also offers NFS- and SMB-protocol support and built-in high availability. The added benefits of durability and bare-metal performance ensure that it meets all the requirements for line-of-business applications in the cloud.

Want to learn more? Check out the Guide to Simple Azure File Storage eBook or subscribe to Azure NetApp files today to make the most of your Azure File Storage investment.

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