Azure File Storage

Suppose you want to move on-premise file storage to Azure File Storage. The client at hand, had five on-prem file servers with Windows Server 2008R2 supporting SMB1.0. The file servers were accessed by BizTalk via de file adapter, but they were also accessed by numerous applications directly. Migration to Azure is on short-term planning. That means on-prem changes in general and changes to BizTalk specifically should be kept to a minimum.

First I thought of replacing on-prem file storage by Azure blob storage. Azure blob storage is significantly cheaper than Azure file storage, that’s why. There were two problems however. First of all changing to blob storage would mean we had to use the WebHttp adapter in BizTalk for REST access. That was not acceptable. Moving to blob storage would also complicate the file interactions of the other applications. Conclusion: We had to stick to file storage.

Then an infra architect came with the solution. Why not use Hubstor. Hubstor is a SaaS service for cloud data management. First of all it makes sure the file storage footprint is kept to a minimum using file compression and deduplication. Next it automatically moves files from file storage to hot blob storage and next to the even cheaper blob storage tiers labelled as cold and archive. That’s what we want. Files are moved to a cheaper tier based on file type, location, last access date or other criteria. That means, keep on using file storage while keeping costs as low as possible.

The next question was how to migrate the on-premise file servers to Azure File Storage. To that end, you can use the Storage Migration Service (SMS). This service is available as a server role from Windows Server 2016 onwards. SMS performance is strongly improved in Windows Server 2019, so that version is definitely recommended. Note that you can also migrate Windows Server from verion 2003 onwards to another file server on-prem or to a file server in Azure IaaS. As a final step you can consolidate multiple file servers to one file server. Very Nice.

The last service I want to point to is Azure File Sync. There might be a transition period where you both have a file server on prem and a file server in the cloud. This is were Azure File Sync comes into play to automatically synchronize the contents of these servers.

All in all it was a very informative experience to discuss Azure File Storage with network engineers as opposed to application developers. Hopefully this will help you making an informed decision.