Announcements, Azure Files, Storage
What’s new with Azure Files
By Jurgen Willis Vice President of Product Management, Azure Storage
6 min read
Azure Files provides fully managed file shares in the cloud that you can access from anywhere using standard protocols such as Server Message Block (SMB) or Network File System (NFS).
Since announcing the general availability of support for the Network File System (NFS) v4.1 protocol back in December 2021, we have seen customers leveraging this capability for a wide variety of important use cases including enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, development and test environments (devops), content management systems (CMS), and mission critical workloads like SAP. We’re thrilled to share that SAP ECS has adopted Azure Files NFS as the default choice for deploying SAP NetWeaver servers and SAP HANA shared directories on Azure. SAP’s decision to include Azure file shares is a testament to the fact that they’re a cost-effective choice for mission critical workloads requiring high performance and high availability. We’ve also continued to listen to customer feedback and are very excited to announce several highly anticipated features, including a 99.99 percent uptime SLA, snapshot support, and nconnect.
NFS Azure file shares are now the default option for SAP Enterprise Cloud Services (ECS) deployments
Azure file shares provide the functionality, performance, and reliability required to keep your SAP applications running smoothly. Being a fully managed service brings simplicity and more cost effectiveness than alternatives, such as building NFS cluster (DRDB) file shares, especially when considering redundancy. SAP and Microsoft partnered to rigorously validate the use of Azure Files in high-availability deployments for Azure SAP RISE, where it is now offered by default for deployment of SAP NetWeaver servers and SAP HANA shared directories. We’re excited that SAP themselves have chosen Azure Files to help power many of the world’s largest and most complex workloads.
“Partnering with Microsoft and the Azure Files team was very productive. Our teams worked closely together to enable new highly available solutions around NFS shares and lower cost structures. The zonal replication capabilities that Azure Files provides strengthen and simplify SAP RISE architectures on Azure beyond what we could deploy with any other technology on Azure. We expect to reduce costs both directly and indirectly by using this service. With the lower time-to-market now achieved with this simplified architecture, we can bootstrap more deployments rather quickly and earn new business.”—Lalit Patil, Chief Technology Officer, SAP Enterprise Cloud Services.
To learn more about running SAP workloads on Azure, see the following articles:
- High availability for SAP NetWeaver (RHEL)
- High availability for SAP NetWeaver (SLES)
- High availability for HANA scale-out system with HSR (SLES)
Additionally, you can use Azure Center for SAP Solutions (Preview) to deploy a highly available S4/HANA system with NFS on Azure Files.
One such customer, Germany-based Munich Re benefited from using Azure Files NFS with its SAP deployments. Munich Re, one of the world’s leading insurance companies, runs one of the largest SAP environments in Europe. Munich Re took a keen interest in Azure Files and has been using it in production since the NFS protocol became generally available. With Azure Files, they can quickly deploy a file share with just a few clicks. It used to take Munich Re from four to six months to add resources, but with SAP on Azure and their infrastructure automation, they can now do it within an hour.
“We love how easy Azure Files is to use and manage, and we certainly appreciate its interoperability with other Azure services. And having a fully managed service eliminates the burden and costs of managing NFS servers.”—Matthias Spang, Technical Architect for SAP Solutions, Munich Re.
High-availability (HA) SAP solutions need a highly available file share for hosting sapmnt, transport, and interface directories. You can use Azure Files premium NFS with availability sets and availability zones.
Figure 1 – High-availability (HA) SAP NetWeaver system with Azure Files.
A highly available SAP HANA system in a scale-out configuration with HANA system replication (HSR) and Pacemaker needs shared file systems for storing shared files between all hosts in an SAP HANA system. You can use Azure Files premium NFS for satisfying this usecase.
Figure 2 – Azure Files NFS for SAP HANA scale-out system with Pacemaker cluster. Note: Azure Files is used for /hana/shared and not used for storing DBMS or logs.
New SLA of 99.99 percent uptime for Azure Files Premium Tier is generally available
In today’s world of digital business, downtime is not an option. Azure Files now offers a 99.99 percent SLA per file share for its Premium Tier. The new 99.99 percent uptime SLA applies to all Azure Files Premium shares, regardless of protocol (SMB, NFS, and REST) or redundancy type (Locally Redundant Storage (LRS) or Zonally Redundant Storage (ZRS)). This means that you can benefit from this SLA immediately, without any configuration changes or extra costs.
With this new SLA, you can be confident that your data is highly available. If the availability drops below the guaranteed 99.99 percent uptime, you’re eligible for service credits.
Furthermore, Azure Files offers a ZRS solution with twelve 9’s durability. This means you can trust that your data is safe, even in the face of hardware failures or other unexpected events.
With the new 99.99 percent uptime SLA for Azure Files Premium Tier, you can have a high level of confidence and assurance that your data is always available. By leveraging the latest in cloud technologies and features, Azure Files delivers a reliable and durable storage solution that can meet the needs of even the most demanding workloads.
Snapshot support for NFS file shares (Preview)
While it’s rare, data corruption or accidental deletion can happen to anyone, and you need to be protected. File share snapshots protect your data from these events by ensuring you have a crash consistent dataset to recover from. File share snapshots capture the share state at a point in time, are immutable (read-only), and are differential (delta copies to keep your TCO low).
Snapshots are easy to manage and use in Azure Files. The creation of a snapshot is instantaneous. Once created, you can manage snapshots using the Azure portal, REST API, Azure CLI, or PowerShell. Enumeration of snapshots, browsing of file or folders, and copying of data is supported from within the NFS clients under the “.snapshots” folder which is present at the root of the mountpath.
Figure 3 – List, browse, and copy from your snapshots from any connected client.
Data protection is a key enterprise promise and a compliance requirement for many organizations. To date, our customers have fulfilled this requirement by doing their own replication or using one of our backup partners to copy the primary data from the share to another location. You can use snapshots to enhance these solutions. By replicating from snapshots instead of the primary share, you can ensure that the data being copied is all from a specific point in time.
Are you as excited as we are? If so, you can fill out the enrollment form to get informed of the availability of this preview feature in the region of your choice.
Boosting per-client performance with NFS nconnect is generally available
Azure Files recently announced support for nconnect on its NFS shares. By using nconnect, you can improve a multi-core client’s throughput and IOPS up to four times without making any changes to the app itself. Previously, applications were limited by the bandwidth of a single core using a single TCP connection. Nconnect is ideal for throughput-intensive scenarios like data ingestion, analytics, machine learning, devops, ETL pipelines, batch processing, and more. For example, financial services performing Value at Risk (VaR) Monte Carlo or machine learning model data simulations running on the Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) with Azure Files can now perform more risk calculations with fewer client machines in their AKS node pools. With the parallelism that nconnect enables, you can complete your throughput-intensive simulations in less time, allowing you to scale down the compute resources sooner and reduce overall TCO.
In addition to delivering higher performance, nconnect enhances fault tolerance by allowing the client to switch to an alternative TCP connection in the event of a connection failure. By enabling the client to use multiple connections, nconnect provides greater flexibility and load balancing for machines with multiple network paths.
Using nconnect is simple. For example, to use four channels on a Linux VM, simply add “-o nconnect=4” parameter to the mount command. You can use nconnect with your AKS cluster as a persistent volume by using the same Azure Files NFS CSI driver and adding “-nconnect=4” under “mountoptions”. Nconnect is available in all regions where NFS is supported at no additional cost. Please visit our product page to learn more.
Up to 1100 MiB/s single client write throughput
Up to 1700 MiB/s single client read throughput
Learn how to create an NFS Azure file share.
Check out NFS FAQ for more information.
With these new features, Azure Files NFS is poised to power even more of the world’s largest and most complex workloads, delivering superior functionality, performance, and reliability to customers across a range of industries and use cases. We believe that the new 99.99 percent SLA, snapshot capabilities, and higher performance with nconnect will unlock many more use cases and applications. We’re excited to see how you take advantage of these new capabilities!
If you have a feature request or feedback, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Azure Files team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or filling out this form.