Tag Archives: Storage Management

Enterprise data life cycle management using Azure Storage

Storage is one critical component in the Enterprise world. Managing data and its life cycle is a crucial element in many aspects, such as optimizing storage usage, managing cost, adhering to the compliance & archival requirements, security and etc.

Primarily data is stored in database systems (relational and non-relational sources) and as files (includes data lake and blobs), addition to that, data resides in other systems like email servers, document systems, file shares, event and messaging pipes, logs, caching systems and etc.

Laying out a comprehensive data strategy for an organization is a complex process. However, in most cases the data lands in a flat storage as the final tail grade destination. So managing the storage and life cycle management is an important task.

Let’s consider a simple backup storage scenario.

A relational data source assume a SQL Server VM, has following backup requirement.

Frequency Backup Type # backups Access Frequency
4 hours Incremental 42 Medium
Daily Full 30 High
Weekly Full 12 High
Monthly Full 12 Low
Semi-Annual Full 6 Very Low
Year Full 8 Very Low

At any given time (assuming a complete 8 years span) there should be 110 backups maintained. Those 110 backups, should be kept in the right storage based on the access frequency and retention period.

Azure Storage provides access tiers which helps us to determine and auto manage the storage requirements.  Azure storage (storage generation v2) let us define life cycle policies at blob level.

The below diagram depicts this

storage tiers

As shown in illustration, there are three access tiers, hot, cool and archive. Hot and Cool access tiers can be set at the storage account level, and archive tier is set at the individual blob level.

We can define life cycle policies, where the blob movement between tiers from hot to archive and all the way to deletion can be automated to match our requirements.

Sample life cycle policy of a blob.


{
"rules": [
"enabled": true,
"name": "yearly backup rule",
"type": "Lifecycle",
"definition": {
"actions": {
"baseBlob": {
"tierToCool": {
"daysAfterModificationGreaterThan": 30
},
"tierToArchive": {
"daysAfterModificationGreaterThan": 60
},
"delete": {
"daysAfterModificationGreaterThan": 370
}
}
},
"filters": {
"blobTypes": [
"blockBlob"
],
"prefixMatch": [
"backups/annual"
]
}
}
}
]
}

You can see, under the filters section, we can specify the path, where the rule should be applied. In this way we can have more than one rule for a storage account addressing different paths.

Out of different options in the Azure storage, we should have a standard general purpose V2 storage, in order to get the access tier capability. Standard blob also has the access tier capability. Standard storage is powered by magnetic disks.

Whereas, Premium storage is powered by SSDs but does not offer access tier. Premium storage is intended for the page blobs, like virtual machine disks. Addition to the page blobs, we can use premium storage as blob storage and file shares.

At summary this is the high level view of the available options in Azure Storage.

stroage summary view

 

How to programmatically create Azure Storage account – .NET SDK

Azure provides Management APIs to manage Azure subscriptions programmatically. Management APIs are available in many languages including PowerShell cmdlets and Java SDK.

In order to create a acting agent to manage the Azure (our application code is an agent) we do have to authenticate to Azure using a certificate or Azure Active Directory. Refer to this article on how to create a certificate authentication with Azure. This article describes how to create a certificate, associate it with the Azure subscription and how to programmatically retrieve the X.509 certificate from the local machine.

The below code shows the continuation on how to create Azure Storage programmatically. In order to do this add the references of Azure Management Libraries to your project.

image

Now we have the right references in place, now we have to create the certificate cloud credentials in order to invoke the Azure Management Client classes. We need two parameters to create the certificate cloud credentials.

  1. Azure Subscription ID
  2. Azure Authentication certificate (steps to obtain this are described in this link)

So based on the above article we have established the trust between Azure and our agent. And we have the certificate in .NET. Let’s assume our certificate variable is “certificate”.

Now create the CertificateCloudCredentials object using the subscription ID and X.509 certificate.

   1: string subscriptionId = "your id";

   2: CertificateCloudCredentials credentials = new CertificateCloudCredentials(subscriptionId,certificate);

Now we can create the storage account using the blow code.

   1: private static void CreateStorageAccount()

   2: {

   3:     var storageClient = CloudContext.Clients.CreateStorageManagementClient(credentials);

   4:     

   5:     var response = storageClient.StorageAccounts.Create(new StorageAccountCreateParameters()

   6:     {

   7:         Location = LocationNames.EastAsia,

   8:         Name = "storage name",

   9:         Description = "storage from code"

  10:     });

  11:  

  12:     Console.WriteLine(response.StatusCode);

  13: }

 

Here the Create method is a blocking method, but Azure Management Libraries offer async methods as well as CreateAsync. So we can use them with Task<await>. Learn more about asynchronous programming here.