Azure introduces new Virtual WAN & Firewall – Part I

Microsoft just announced at Ignite two new amazing network/security related features.

  • Azure Virtual Wan
  • Azure Firewall

In this post I’ll focus on the new Virtual WAN.
First off it’s important to note that this service is currently in preview. You actually have to sign up for this preview and during preview there is no SLA offered for the service.

So enough of that, what can we actually achieve with Azure Virtual WAN?
Basically Virtual Wan is a networking service that allows you to connect you branch office together via Azure.
Aswell as branch office you can of course also add Azure Vnets into the mix.

The idea being that instead of creating dedicated links between all your offices, or delegating you head/HQ office as a hub you utilize Azure as your hub for networking and routing between all of your offices.

Now why would you do this? Well to begin with Azure has over 130 PoPs (points of presence) around the globe meaning that you’ll be connecting to the PoP that is closet to you. Once connected all your traffic will flow over the Azure Global Network and terminate at the SD-WAN hub.  This will allow you to take advantage of Azure’s global network to interconnect all your branch offices and of course you Azure Vnets.

To create connectivity you basically just create a Site To site VPN from your branch office to the closest PoP. Two active tunnels will always be created for redundancy. Once connected automated spoke setup is configured seamlessly for you. Allowing full connectivity between your branch offices while utilizing the Azure global network for lower routing hops resulting in lower latency and faster transfer speeds.


You can find the official documentation over here


Azure Hot, Cool & Archive Storage

So Azure has a few different types of storage offerings. The main one being Blob storage (Block-level object storage). Object storage is accessed over https, making it a cloud-friendly protocol and by far the preferred method for storing files in the cloud. While you can use in Azure CIFS storage, AKA Azure file Share, you’re better off using blob and this is also by far the cheapest option.

In Azure blob storage is broken down into three tiers: Hot, Cool & Archive.
There are also three replication options: RA-GRS, GRS and LRS.

LRS guarantees that Microsoft will store 3 copies of your data in a single datacenter. GRS adds an additional 3 copies to a 2nd datacenter in a paired region and RA_GRS makes that second copy readable.
LRS comes with 12 9’s data redundancy guarantee while GRS & RA-GRS have 16 9’s of data redundancy guarantee.

Hot is aimed at production use. Offers a 99.9% SLA for LRS and %99.99 for RA-GRS.
Prices for Hot storage start at $18.85 per TB for LRS.

Cool is aimed for backup & archive use and offers a %99 SLA for LRS and %99.9 for RA-GRS.
Prices for Cool Storage start at $10.24 per TB for LRS.

Cool also has a data retrieval fee of $10.24 per TB that is free in the hot tier.
There are also write, list & read costs associated with both hot & cool that cost slightly more on the cool tier. SO don’t try and use the cool tier for production data as you may end up paying more.

Finally, there is the fairly new archive storage. This is priced at an extremely low price of $2.048 per TB. The main catch is that the data is inaccessible, so when you want to access your archived data you need to convert it to either Cool or Hot and then access it, the conversion time can take up to 15 hours.

Converting between tiers is simple and can be performed using the Azure portal, Powershell or the Azure CLI.
In the Gui, you simply select your blob (file) and choose the desired tier.

For full pricing details please see the Azure blob storage pricing site over here

Azure General Purpose Storgae v2 (GPv2)

Microsoft Just announced General Purpose Storage v2.

Until now we had general purpose storage that supported both: Blobs (page & blob), File Share, Que & Table storage.
We also had Blob storage that supported only, you guessed it, blobs.

So why not just use the general purpose. Well two reasons. The general purpose didn’t support cool blobs or Archive (lower tiers for backups, archives etc).
Also the use of blob storage via the general purpose account was slightly more expensive per GB though write operations were lower. Basically making it a mathematical nightmare to choose between general purpose storage account or blob storage account types.

The new GPv2 supports all storage types similar to GPv1. However it also supports both hot, cool and archive blobs. So basically all of the features of both of the previous storage account types are supported under the new GPv2. pricing per GB for blob is the same as with the blob storage account (cheaper that GPv1) however write operations are charged at the higher rates that were charged for GPv1.

All newly created storage accounts now default to GPv2 and Microsoft is recommending to create all new storage accounts using GPv2 and to convert existing storage accounts to GPv2.
The conversion process is very simple, simply click on the existing storage account, click on configuration and you will see a button labeled “Upgrade” you will be asked to confirm the storage account name and thats it.

I’ll explain in my next post the difference between Hot, Cool & Archive blobs and how to use them.

Goodbye Azure classic portal

Microsoft have just announced the end for the Azure classic portal – 

This doesn’t mean that you have to have a panic attack and migrate all your classic resources to arm (at least not yet).
You can still access all classic resources through the new portal – 
Although I would recommend to anyone with classic resources that he/she migrate them over to the newer arm based deployment.

The new portal has already been in production for over two years now and in preview before that, so Microsoft announcing the end of the classic portal is no surprise. All previous services such as Azure AD that were only available in the classic portal are now GA in the new portal, and as previously stated any classic resources can still be accessed via the new portal.

So goodbye classic portal and thank you for your service


Azure B series VM’s, cheap burstable CPU

The new B series VM is now in preview. These are extremely cheap VM’s that offer burstable CPU performance.

What exactly does that mean? Well, basically you can not run these VM’s at 100% CPU 24/7. The VM CPU will run at a predefined baseline, As you run the VM you acquire credits for every hour of run time. Once enough credits have been acquired the VM can burst up to 100%.

This is very similar to AWS T2 instances and is perfect for small web servers, Dev/Test servers and so on that don’t require high CPU usage. The VM will run most of the time at low CPU usage and if required can burst for a short period of time up to 100% as long as you have the required credit to do so.

The B series VM’s are of course priced accordingly with a 2 Core, 4GB VM priced at$20.09 and a larger 4 Core, 16GB VM priced at just $80.36. These are preview prices and based on past experience we can expect these prices to double when general availability is reached. Even then these are still very low prices.

The following table details the VM specs and time to acquire credits for a full burst.

Size vCPU’s Memory: GiB Local SSD: GiB Base CPU Perf of VM Max CPU Perf of VM Credits Banked / Hour Max Banked Credits
Standard_B1s 1 1 4 10% 100% 6 144
Standard_B1ms 1 2 4 20% 100% 12 288
Standard_B2s 2 4 8 40% 200% 24 576
Standard_B2ms 2 8 16 60% 200% 36 864
Standard_B4ms 4 16 32 90% 400% 54 1296
Standard_B8ms 8 32 64 135% 800% 81 1944

So as you can see for example, the B2s will only supply 40% baseline performance (20% of each core). To burst it requires 864 credits, and for each hour of runtime 36 credits are assigned. meaning that it can burst exactly once every 24 hours of run time. This is the same for all the b series, they can burst to 100% of all cores for one hour after every 20 hours of running.

You can also see the official post here

Microsoft & Netapp to collobrate to deliver NFS on Azure

Netapp announced that it will be the data services technology powering the first Network File System (NFS) service in the cloud, the Microsoft Azure Enterprise NFS Service.

With Microsoft itself offering Azure files, a CIFS/SMB based file sharing service, NFS has until now not been a native option with Azure.
This announcement now means that NFS will be offered as a service via Azure. Allowing even simpler lift and shift scenarios for customers who are already using NFS based file shares.

The service itself is offered in collaboration with Netapp and will be available early 2018.
You can sign up now for the preview here

Azure File Sync

Another newly announced preview service at ignite was Azure File Sync.

Now in my opinion this has been a long time coming, though it was arguably available as part of the StorSimple solution, however this new feature sounds much easier to implement and maintain.

Basically, you install an agent/package on your on-prem fil server and it syncs up with Azure File Storage .

The two great things about this service are:

  • Storage tiering, allowing you to offload files to the cloud and free up your on-prem server space.
  • The solution supports multi master sync. Allowing you to keep file servers in different geographic regions synced with each other. Finally we have a solution for syncing cross premises file servers using Azure as our central store point!

You can read the official announcement here