Azure Unblogged - Pricing Up Azure Files

Mar 30, 2021 07:00 · 3675 words · 18 minute read

>> Hey everybody. Stay tuned for this Azure unblogged episode where I’m joined by Will from the Azure Files team.

00:06 - He’s going to be talking about the cost of Azure Files.

00:09 - Talking about the tiers that are available, how to pick the right tier for your organization, how to compare the Azure Files to other File services on the market and also how to optimize your cost once you do deploy Azure Files.

00:24 - Stay tuned and join us today. [MUSIC] >> Hey everybody. Welcome to today’s edition of the Azure unblogged video.

00:39 - My name is Sarah and I’m joined by Will from the Azure File team.

00:43 - Will, welcome to the show today. >> Thanks for having me.

00:47 - >> You’ve been on the show before and you were talking to my colleague Thomas about how to use Azure Files and File Sync to extend some of your capabilities, all of your file server from on-prem up into the Cloud and back down.

01:00 - Today we’re trying to change the conversation a little.

01:03 - We’re not necessarily talking about the technology, we want to talk about the cost and what that means to an organization.

01:10 - Could you start the scene off by telling us how you actually cost up or how it’s priced for our customers.

01:18 - >> Azure Files and File Sync really help you transform your organization’s file storage.

01:25 - But I think the very next question is great, I have all these cool capabilities, why do I got to pay for it? We do have multiple tiers of storage that you can choose from.

01:37 - Let me share my screen here. I have on my screen the pricing that we have for Azure Files.

01:47 - We have four tiers of storage available, premium, transaction optimized, hot and cool.

01:54 - These four tiers basically give you different performance and price ratios that you can work through.

02:02 - I’ll point out that the premium tier is on SSD storage and then the other tiers, transaction, optimized, hot and cool are on hard disk storage.

02:12 - You won’t notice that much of a performance difference between those tiers.

02:18 - Those tiers are primarily differentiated based on the data storage to transaction ratio that you get.

02:27 - With respect to premium, this is really for Cloud native workloads like I want to host a database or I’ve got a line of business application or even I just have a bunch of end user data that I really want the lowest latency, highest performance type of storage.

02:46 - It’s not as good of a target if you’re using File Sync.

02:50 - Then the other three tiers which are hard disk-based, are awesome for File Sync and also really targeted towards what we would call general purpose FileShare scenario.

03:04 - We have a couple of new bubbles on the screen there.

03:08 - We have lowered the price of premium since, I think October 2020.

03:15 - Then we have also newly launched the hot and cool tiers to give the additional price points that I mentioned.

03:23 - >> Those all sound amazing. I’m looking at some of the prices.

03:27 - The prices look good as well. If I was an organization that we’re thinking about deploying this technology, how would I choose the right tier for my organization well? If I found out halfway through my deployment that I’d actually picked the wrong tier, it didn’t meet my performance needs or even course needs, could I change it afterwards? What’s the scenario there? >> Yeah, this can be tricky up front.

03:53 - Let me share my screen again and I will show the Azure portal.

04:01 - When I create a storage account, one of the options that I have is the performance of the storage account.

04:09 - I have a standard and a premium radio button.

04:13 - What this does is it gives me the choice of whether my storage account and all of its data is going to be on the so called standard hardware which is HDD based or the premium hardware which is SSD based.

04:27 - When I make this decision, all of my data within that particular storage account will end up being in that tier.

04:37 - If I choose premium, for example, I would pick the file storage account type.

04:43 - I’ve actually already gone and deployed a premium storage account here.

04:49 - I would go forward and then create a FileShare.

04:53 - Once I’ve created this share, it’s a premium FileShare.

04:57 - It’s in a premium storage accountants on SSD hardware.

05:00 - I can go in, I can change the provision capacity.

05:04 - You may not have noticed in the previous slide, but we have a slightly different business model for premium where you are actually asking for how much storage you want and then paying for that.

05:17 - Provisioning as you can see here, provisioning and additional gigabyte of storage gives you additional [inaudible] and so on.

05:24 - I can change this provisioning after I’ve created the share but the share is a premium FileShare.

05:31 - I also went ahead and pre created a standard storage account.

05:36 - This is a general purpose version to locally redundant storage.

05:41 - I have the new “FileShare” button just like I did before.

05:45 - You can see that I can create a share on whatever tier I want.

05:48 - If I just say and then say hot, I put a space in, we’ll end up with a new share.

06:01 - In a hot tier. I can also go into my existing share and change the tier.

06:08 - I can change this to whatever tier I want. You’ll notice premium is grayed out and that’s just to signify that it is an option that you can use, you can create premium FileShares but you can only switch between shares in the same storage account type.

06:22 - >> Okay. >> There’s a second part to your question I didn’t get to, which is, how do I choose the best tier to be in? There is a couple of ways that you can think about that.

06:35 - First you should talk to yourself about your organization.

06:38 - What are my performance requirements? Obviously, if you have those low performance requirements, you probably just want to start off going directly into the premium tier.

06:49 - Once you decide okay, in the case where I’m fine with slightly higher latency, I actually want the lower cost of storage, then you can pick between the hot and cool and transaction optimized tiers.

07:06 - That’s where you have to do a little thinking about what your workload actually is doing.

07:12 - Great example of a cool workload is a lightly used FileShare and archive.

07:19 - Online archive kind of a FileShare. Hot FileShare might be a great fit for workload where you’re actively using it, you have lots of users mounting it, connecting to it using Azure File Sync with it and so on.

07:33 - Then the transaction optimized is a really great fit for when you’re doing almost like DevTest workloads.

07:40 - You have an application that you’re testing against and so on but you don’t necessarily need the low latency in the higher price of premium.

07:49 - >> It seems like any other deployment you need to do a bit of planning, you need to do some discovery about your workloads and then you can actually start to implement it.

08:01 - No different than any other IT system that we will be deploying ultimately.

08:06 - >> I’ll point out that I have a great example, a pseudo anonymized customer here example where I can walk through how you do the math.

08:21 - The first thing that you want to do when you’re actually choosing between tiers, is go look at your bill for your FileShare and look at what your actual consumption is.

08:32 - How you get the bill is dependent on what account you have.

08:38 - It’s not going to be the same for every customer.

08:40 - I wish I could demo go into the portal and getting the bill.

08:43 - But the point here is that you get these numbers from your bill and then you can simply and this is the same unit prices that I showed before and I’ve done the math to multiply out.

08:59 - Two terabytes a month times the six cents 2. 55 cents and 1. 5 yields these prices for my data storage and these prices for my snapshots.

09:14 - Then likewise, I did the same for the transaction portion of the bill and one thing I want to point out here that can be tricky to understand upfront, is that your transactions are actually going to be grouped in the transaction units.

09:32 - What you’ll see on your bill actually probably won’t be the individual transactions, it’ll be the quantity of units that you’ve consumed.

09:40 - To get that, I will divide by 10,000. If you look at our pricing page at the pricing model I showed a second ago, you’ll see all the transactions are grouped in units of 10,000.

09:52 - I’ll multiply the base transaction price by the number of units that I consumed and that will yield these prices and then I simply add up.

10:03 - I want to point out in this particular customer case, they had a very active FileShare.

10:08 - They were cheapest in the hot tier. They paid a little bit more for the transactions than they did for the data at rest.

10:19 - If they would have gone to the cool tier, they would have paid actually more money being in cool than they would have in either hot or transaction, optimized.

10:29 - That’s why it’s really important to take a look at the bill and not just guess which tier is the best tier to be in.

10:36 - >> That sounds good. Sounds like there’s a lot to think about, but potentially, if you do analyze all that data then you will go down the road and stems of the tiers for you.

10:48 - Now, thinking about our customers well, they probably have tons of experience of running FileShares on prem.

10:56 - They potentially may even have FileShares running in our Cloud virtual machine or on some other managed service for FileShares.

11:05 - How would you think about competing what we have versus potentially something else that’s out there on the market or the existing solutions.

11:14 - What’s the process for that? >> Yeah, that’s a great question.

11:18 - It’s certainly one that we get a lot. Obviously customers are very familiar already with what they have on-premises and then there are an absolute plethora of options to choose from.

11:31 - When you’re considering, how do I look at these prices compared to other prices, you need to think about the following things.

11:38 - If we could take a look at my screen again.

11:42 - >> The first thing to consider is what the business model for your FileShares.

11:48 - A lot of options will have a provisioned model like we do for premium, or a pay-as-you-go model like we do for our standard tiers of storage.

11:56 - The transaction optimize hot or cool, or depending on what niche option you might have.

12:03 - There might be even a slightly different business model for this.

12:07 - This is particularly important when you think about a provisioned model because you’ll have minimum provision size and you’ll have the ability to change the provisioning.

12:19 - When it comes to, let’s say premium file shares, the Azure Files offer, you have a minimum provision size of a 100 gigs, and you can change upwards as often as you want, and change downwards as often as once per day.

12:36 - Other solutions have different options here, and these are really important to think about when you’re picking and trying to estimate costs.

12:46 - Additionally, when he think about running a VM, running a file server in an Azure VM, or when you think about running the file server On-premises, these would typically be in a place where you have to think out ahead of time, how much storage do I want for the next three years or five years, whatever your model for managing servers are, and then how much do I actually need to provision to meet that amount.

13:18 - Then it becomes very difficult to change the provision size later and there’s an upfront cost associated with this sort of setting that up.

13:25 - The next point to consider here is the resiliency and redundancy of the storage.

13:32 - With Azure Files, whether you choose premium or standard, or you choose a locally redundant storage, zone-redundant storage, or geo-redundant storage, we’re giving you that resiliency and redundancy as part of the service offer.

13:47 - What that means is that we have multiple nodes that are capable of serving your requests.

13:53 - If one of those nodes happens to goes down because of hardware goes down or solar ray hits the server in the exact right way and it’s not online anymore, your data is still available and able to be used, and you also have the flexibility to choose higher redundancy options if you so choose.

14:13 - Versus if you were to run a file server or depending on what the other offers are, you might have to think about, “Okay, tab that kind of resiliency, I need to run two or three or four VMs.

14:27 - I need to attach storage to them. I need to assemble a storage pool between them. “ All of those things had cost, so you can’t just look at the base price of a disk, let’s say and say, “Okay, that’s how much it’s going to cost me to run a server. ” You have to think about these resiliency and redundancy cost as well.

14:43 - The next big point that you have to think about here is the maintenance costs, what do you have to actually manage? This is really clear when we’re talking about On-premises storage, you may have to manage physical servers at some point, and electricity, and hardware maintenance, and all of these things.

15:01 - Running in a VM take some of those away from you.

15:05 - You don’t have to manage the hardware anymore, but you still have to think about the OS and is it updated and what’s the state of my various features of the OS and so on.

15:16 - There’s a lot more to manage their versus an offer like Azure Files, where you simply go and say, “I want to file share. ” Then you get a file share, and you don’t have to manage the OS.

15:26 - Then another key point here to think about is the backup costs.

15:31 - What are the backup rates for the service that I’m using? Particularly, if I’m using an On-premises product, I might have to pay a licensing cost and then additional costs for backup storage.

15:43 - Then how does the backup actually work? Is it taking a full copy of the backup? Is it taking a first-time full copy of the backup and then incremental from there? When we think about Azure Files, the way Azure Files works with Azure Backup is that you’ll pay a nominal fee for the cost of storage, oh, sorry, the nominal fee for the cost of the backup service, and then a differential cost for the backups themselves, which are snapshots on the FileShare.

16:14 - At the end of the day when you’re thinking about these things, this comes to a ratio.

16:19 - Effective cost is equal to total cost minus the total storage that I stored.

16:25 - That will be different than the least price that you’ll see in any service, including Azure Files.

16:32 - You’ll need to consider transaction costs, you’ll need to consider backup costs, you’ll need to consider all of these other costs to really get to that answer of, how do I look at Azure Files and compare it to other services? >> That sounds really good.

16:47 - Well, you’ve shared some great tips with us today and well, have go at you.

16:52 - What other advice would you share with our customers to really try and optimize their costs for Azure Files? >> Absolutely. The first thing I want to point out here is that migrations will use transactions, and so if you’re migrating into the standard storage tiers, really what you want to do is start with that transaction optimized tier, where the transactions are the lowest price.

17:20 - Then later when you’re ready and after you’ve had a chance to look at the bill, you can switch to the hot and cool tiers to save additional money.

17:28 - That nicely fits into my next point which is, don’t guess, use your bill to validate that you’ve chosen the correct tier.

17:38 - This might be an exercise that you want to repeat every so often.

17:43 - I will point out that sometimes as the example I showed, the cooler tiers can be hotter than the, oh sorry, they can be more expensive than the hotter tiers.

17:54 - You also may end up with the straightforward situation.

17:58 - I think probably a lot of customers fall into this situation where cool is the absolute cheapest tier and then straightforward how to pick.

18:07 - The other thing I want to point out, and this can come to some customers, it doesn’t make sense when they look at their bill and they’re not understanding it.

18:18 - We’ve certainly heard from customers this feedback is that for the cooler storage tiers, that the transactions might actually be at greater expense than the data at rest costs.

18:29 - Ultimately, what matters is not the ratio between the data storage and the transaction costs, it’s actually what’s the cheapest at the end of the day.

18:40 - In a cool scenario, you might expect the cost to be driven by transactions, but as long as it’s cheaper than being in hot or transaction optimized, you’re golden.

18:51 - Another point that’s really important to think about here is that you really should only be switching tiers of storage when your usage patterns have changed.

19:00 - For example, you’ve done the migration and now you’ve gone to your normal usage pattern, or as another example, you had an active project that was using the FileShare and now you want to actually switch to having it be an archive thing that you occasionally will access those files, but you won’t frequently access those files.

19:23 - The reason this is important is because actually switching tiers costs money.

19:29 - It’s not a free thing to do. I a customer that came to me recently that said, “Hey, can I switch the tier for December when all my users are on holiday for Christmas, and then switch back in January when they’re back in the office are back online?” I think in general the savings that you would get would tend not to make sense when you think of the tier switches.

19:57 - As another important point, you want to actually consider the value added services they’re using.

20:05 - These are services like Azure Backup, or Azure Defender, or importantly, Azure File Sync, because these services will do transactions on your behalf and also have their own business models for how they add to the cost.

20:24 - That’s an important component of your total bill.

20:28 - Then finally, I want to point out that we are actually in the process of launching reserved instances, so by the time this video airs, this should be live.

20:39 - This is a great way so once you know what your workload pattern is, then you can reduce the costs by pre-purchasing, pre-committing to storage.

20:49 - We’ll offer two reserve instance types. We’ll offer the 10 terabyte and a 100 terabyte levels, and then we’ll offer two reserve terms, one-year and three-year.

21:04 - You can mix and match these combinations that will be available for all the redundancy levels, the Azure Files supports.

21:13 - This is a great way to lower the total cost of your storage.

21:18 - Now, I do want to point out we are launching with hot and cool, and in subsequent releases we’ll have support for our premium and transaction optimize tiers.

21:27 - We haven’t forgotten about those, it’s just really a staging thing with how we get these out.

21:33 - >> Awesome. Thank you so much for your time.

21:36 - Well, you’ve definitely shared a lot of advice and lots of talking points, or thinking points for me to have to think about when I’m talking to customers in the future of Azure File.

21:46 - >> I’ll point out, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.

21:50 - You can reach us at azurefiles@Microsoft. com.

21:53 - >> Thank you so much again for being a guest on Azure Unblogged.

21:59 - Hopefully we can have you on the show again, and thank you to everybody that tuned today as well.

22:04 - [MUSIC].