When I returned to NetApp, I found a VERY different company than the one I had parted ways with a couple of years prior. I was looking for something to really sink my teeth into, and gave myself a mission to find ways for enterprise IT orgs to transition to the cloud, but more importantly to find ways for the cloud providers themselves to provide entry points for enterprise IT to run their most demanding workloads in the cloud. Ya wanna know what I found that was missing at the time? You guessed it…
To tell the tale of Azure NetApp Files, we need to go back to 2016, and set the stage of where Microsoft Azure was as a cloud provider. At the time, you had a few simple choices when it came to storage for your various workloads. If you needed block storage, you’d use Azure Disks. If you needed SMB, you could use Azure Files. Both of these were completely baked in with all other Azure platform services. However, if you needed NFS …. Well … I mean … you could kinda roll your own windows server instance and install Windows NFS Services on it and then it kinda worked? Meh.
So, being the Godfather’s of NAS that we are here at NetApp, Microsoft slid into our DMs and asked for some help. At the time, NetApp had already fired up our first offering known as Cloud Volumes Service, where we provided and managed the storage arrays, located them in Equinix, and the service required some complicated BGP cross-connects to use. Wanting to avoid all of that, Microsoft had the idea to 1-up this solution by bringing the storage arrays into their own regional datacenters and wiring them up directly to compute.
Wait what? That’s crazy talk! That would give customers’ VNETs direct access to a NetApp all-flash storage array!
Yup! You heard that right folks! Azure NetApp Files is a fully-managed service delivered directly from the Microsoft Azure portal giving your tenants and workloads direct access to all the power and capabilities of our biggest flagship all-flash storage array, without any of the overhead of managing and maintaining the hardware or operating system. For most customers this nets out to being a performance UPGRADE over what they would have been able to get themselves on-prem. With ANF you get that same power delivered as a managed service that shows up on your monthly Azure bill just like any other Azure resource. Delivered by MS, supported by MS, and billed by MS. And the icing on top is that it also draws down negotiated Azure commit typically associated with Enterprise Agreements.
But this isn’t even the best part! What if I told you it was also natively integrated with Azure Active Directory, had support for both NFS and SMB, and could provide enterprise-caliber performance and reliability for the most demanding workloads? We’re talking 100’s of 1000’s of IOPS at sub-ms latency! We’re talking SAP HANA certified. We’re talking FedRAMP classified. All natively available as a managed service within Azure!
This past October, the product became available to all users in over 30 regions worldwide with no whitelisting required, as well as cross-region replication being generally available. We’ve added things like Continuous Availability for SMB volumes, Standard Networking Features with support for things like NSGs and ExpressRoute Fastpath, and integrated snapshot-based data protection. In November, we introduced Automated Volume Deployment for applications, starting with SAP HANA, and will be adding support for more applications in the future. And to close out the year, in December, we added NFS Protocol Conversion, Single-File Snapshot Restores, and dual-protocol volumes became generally available, now allowing you to connect to the same volume over either protocol (or both!).
Look, with this I’m merely scratching the surface and going over what you should be aware of with regards to Azure NetApp Files. If you’d like to take a look at the entire feature list of ANF since its inception, you can visit this link over on Microsoft Docs.
In the next couple of videos, I’m going to dive deeper and do some whiteboard architectural overviews with some design considerations, as well as some on-screen demonstration of how to put it all together in practice. So make sure you’re subscribed to the channel so you don’t miss it when they’re posted over the next few weeks.
Thanks for watching, and be sure to check the description for those important links.
We’ll see you next time.
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