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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Extend IT Infrastructure with Azure Storage

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Windows Azure™ is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage web applications on the internet through Microsoft® datacenters.

- Quote Windows Azure Web Site

How about the idea of outsourcing your IT’s expanding storage need to Microsoft? This article will talk about different stages you can start experience Azure storage bit by bit.

Stage 1 – What is Azure?

If you just started reading about Azure, the first step is to read more about “Azure Blob Storage”, which is the official term of the storage part of the Windows Azure offering.

After you are done enough with the “Windows Azure” and “Azure Blob Storage” terms, next step is to create a Windows Azure account.  This article covers windows azure subscription, creating azure account,  getting access ids and keys and eventually using Windows Azure from Windows Explorer. If you are a developer, you may be interested in seeing some sample code about Azure Storage too.

In this stage you are getting familiar with the Azure storage and doing some proof of concepts.

Stage 2 – What can I do with the Azure Storage?

There are 3 kinds of Azure Storage, Blob Storage, Queue Storage and Table Storage.

Azure Blob Storage is the easiest to understand and use because it is kind of like a file system. This article will focus on the blob storage, since a file system integration provides the easiest integration point with your IT infrastructure.

As you are testing the water in this stage, you may want to offload some daily work files to Azure Blob Storage. You can use Gladinet Cloud Desktop to map a network drive to Azure storage and do drag and drop. It also has simple backup functionalities, allowing you to sync desktop files to Azure storage.

In this stage, you don’t need anything fancy yet, just a simple desktop tool to connect to Azure Blob Storage, that is all.

Stage 3 – How can I do More and Save Money

Now you get it -  seeing how it works in daily work; uploading and downloading from Azure; checking out the first couple month’s bill from Microsoft online; viewing the detailed report.  You may have some good ideas now about Azure Storage.  After pin-point some of the old IT infrastructure pains, you want to leverage more of Azure.

The first one may be around backup, backuping company data offsite. At this stage, you may not satisfied with simple connection and simple backup functionality of desktop integration.

You need integration of Backup Exec with the cloud; you need turnkey solutions to backup to the cloud. Using Gladinet CloudAFS can integrate File Server with Azure Blob Storage. Using Gladinet Cloud Backup, you can have a turnkey cloud backup solution right out of the box. 

So at this stage, the Azure proof of concepts has increased to some IT activities that involves the admin, such as administering offsite backup to the cloud.

Stage 4 – More Azure

As you are more comfortable with Azure, the usage pattern grows beyond backup and restore, reaching users beyond the IT admins. You may want to have a home drive for each user. You may want to have a file server shared by everyone and backed by Azure Storage.  You are looking for a combination of desktop tools (Cloud Desktop), server products (CloudAFS) and backup solutions(Cloud Backup).

Also you are not just limited to the storage. You may start writing pure Azure based applications for in house use or for other purpose.

Stage 5 – Can I Outsource More to Azure?

From stage 1- stage 4, the speed and the pipe between you and the Azure Data Center is a determining factor. if the speed is not close to LAN speed, you will need to have both local desktops, local storage and Azure Platform, all mixed together.

If the speed catches up (fiber?), you will see more of Citrix XenDesktop like virtual desktop solutions or Amazon EC2 like usage. In this stage, you out source local desktops completely to the cloud. What’s left local can be just a simple and thin, fast and reliable device to reach out to the cloud (iDesktop?).  (Currently Amazon EC2’s usage is more in the web hosting area and XenDesktop is more with the Enterprise.)

Conclusion

For SMBs, in the different phases of migrating IT infrastructure to Azure, the storage goes first. It then followed by applications. The last one will be the migration from local desktop to virtual desktop.

For enterprises, it could be different since enterprise can own its own private cloud, data center even, with the Azure Appliance. The order of adoption could be different.

1 comment:

Rohan said...

Online storage is an important topic in my opinion. Unfortunately, many people and organizations realize this lesson the hard way...after they wish they had backed up their data.

Anyway, I want to share how my office group of 6 people syncs all of our files between our computers. We use Syncables 360 for Workgroups, and all of our important folders and media are automatically in sync on each of our computers. Having instant access to important spreadsheets and documents makes collaboration simple, and it also provides several layers of backup security to our data as it is all sync'd on numerous computers. This has been the best solution we've found at our office. The product is superb, and because it does more than just backup I simply can't get enough of it.