Azure File Sync and Azure Premium Files

3 Min. Read

Introduction

In July 2018, Microsoft announced the GA release for Azure File Sync. With Azure File Sync, you can centralize your files in Azure and then install a sync agent on Windows Server whether it’s on-premises or in Azure to provide fast local access to your files. Your server and Azure Files are constantly in sync, so you have one centralized location for your files with multi-site access powered by fast local cache and cloud tiering.

For more information about Azure File Sync, check my previous step-by-step guide on how to get started with Azure File Sync and PowerShell.

Last week, Microsoft announced the public preview of Azure Premium Files powered by large files shares (100 TiB). Premium Files is a new performance tier for Azure Files, which is designed for IO intensive workloads with low latency and higher throughput requirements.

Azure File Sync and Azure Premium Files 1

Premium files storage provides consistent low latency and offers high throughput and IOPS that scales with your storage. Premium tier provides 20x capacity, 100x IOPS and 170x throughput as compared to the existing standard tier. For more details about the Premium Files, please check the announcement from Microsoft.

I have many customers that reached out to me and asking if they want to use Azure Premium Files with their Azure File Sync deployment.

In this quick article, I will discuss when Azure Premium Files is a good fit for Azure File Sync.

Azure File Sync and Premium Files

As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, with Azure File Sync, you can centralize your files in Azure and then install a sync agent on Windows Server whether it’s running on-premises or in Azure to provide fast local access to your files.

So the idea with Azure File Sync is, the hot data resides on-premises and expected to be in cache and you access from file servers, you don’t really need Premium tier. This is something that you need to think about.

The cache in Azure File Sync is not something you set and forget about. You need to keep monitoring and adjust it as needed to meet the expected level of performance. Additionally, keeping more data local means lower egress costs as fewer files will be recalled from Azure, but also requires you to maintain a larger amount of on-premises storage, which comes at its own cost. Once you have an instance of Azure File Sync deployed, you can look at your storage account’s egress to roughly gauge whether your volume free space settings are appropriate for your usage.

From cost perspective, at the time of writing this article, the price for 1 GiB Standard is around CHF 0.060/month for used capacity, however, the price for the Premium tier is based on provisioning capacity which is around CHF 0.142 for 1 GiB/month, so as you can see it’s way more expensive than a Standard tier.

In the announcement, Microsoft claimed that the Premium tier provides 100x IOPS, what does this mean and in which scenario I can see this kind of performance? So this scenario is typically used for PaaS deployment – where the shared storage is accessed via distributed clients (i.e. VM) as you will still be bound to VM limits – of course, this is required to be in the same hosted region in Azure – any workload that requires that kind of performance probably would not go through the Internet. Because using SMB over the Internet, we cannot hit that 100x IOPS of performance, so the user experience is not the same.

One compelling reason where I can see the use of Premium tier with Azure File Sync, if you want direct access to File shares in the cloud for low latency or else would not be needed.

More IOPS for premium file shares for free

On November 24th, 2020, Microsoft announced that all premium shares get additional IOPS at no additional cost. All shares get additional 400 baseline IOPS and minimum 4,000 burst IOPS. These enhancements to IOPS provisioning and bursting model are particularly beneficial for smaller shares sizes, that need extra performance to accommodate spikes in traffic or sudden unpredictable loads, for example, web applications, backup and restore operations, and batch jobs.

These changes are effective immediately in all Azure regions. These IOPS enhancements, coupled with the recent price reduction on the premium tier, makes the decision easier to choose files premium tier for the workloads and to meet your performance needs in a cost effective way. You can learn more about this announcement here.

Summary

Azure File Sync extends on-premises file servers into Azure providing cloud benefits while maintaining performance and compatibility. Azure File Sync provides:

  • Multi-site access – provide write access to the same data across Windows servers and Azure Files.
  • Cloud tiering – store only recently accessed data on local servers.
  • Integrates with Azure backup – no need to back up your data on-premises.
  • Fast disaster recovery – restore file metadata immediately and recall data as needed.

For more information about file share performance tiers, please check the following document from Microsoft (Standard file shares versus Premium files shares).

I hope you find this guide useful.

To learn more about Azure File Sync, please check the following guides.

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Thank you for reading my blog.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment.

-Charbel Nemnom-

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