Deciding when to use Azure Blobs, Azure Files, or Azure Data Disks

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Microsoft Azure provides several features in Azure Storage for storing and accessing your data in the cloud. This article covers Azure Files, Blobs, and Data Disks, and is designed to help you choose between these features.

Scenarios

The following table compares Files, Blobs, and Data Disks, and shows example scenarios appropriate for each.

Feature Description When to use
Azure Files Provides an SMB interface, client libraries, and a REST interface that allows access from anywhere to stored files. You want to “lift and shift” an application to the cloud which already uses the native file system APIs to share data between it and other applications running in Azure.

You want to store development and debugging tools that need to be accessed from many virtual machines.

Azure Blobs Provides client libraries and a REST interface that allows unstructured data to be stored and accessed at a massive scale in block blobs. You want your application to support streaming and random access scenarios.

You want to be able to access application data from anywhere.

Azure Data Disks Provides client libraries and a REST interface that allows data to be persistently stored and accessed from an attached virtual hard disk. You want to lift and shift applications that use native file system APIs to read and write data to persistent disks.

You want to store data that is not required to be accessed from outside the virtual machine to which the disk is attached.

Comparison: Files and Blobs

The following table compares Azure Files with Azure Blobs.

Attribute Azure Blobs Azure Files
Durability options LRS, ZRS, GRS (and RA-GRS for higher availability) LRS, GRS
Accessibility REST APIs REST APIs

SMB 2.1 and SMB 3.0 (standard file system APIs)

Connectivity REST APIs — Worldwide REST APIs – Worldwide

SMB 2.1 — Within region

SMB 3.0 — Worldwide

Endpoints http://myaccount.blob.core.windows.net/mycontainer/myblob \\myaccount.file.core.windows.net\myshare\myfile.txt

http://myaccount.file.core.windows.net/myshare/myfile.txt

Directories Flat namespace True directory objects
Case sensitivity of names Case sensitive Case insensitive, but case preserving
Capacity Up to 500 TB containers 5 TB file shares
Throughput Up to 60 MB/s per block blob Up to 60 MB/s per share
Object Size Up to 200 GB/block blob Up to 1TB/file
Billed capacity Based on bytes written Based on file size
Client libraries Multiple languages Multiple languages

Comparison: Files and Data Disks

Azure Files complement Azure Data Disks. A data disk can only be attached to one Azure Virtual Machine at a time. Data disks are fixed-format VHDs stored as page blobs in Azure Storage, and are used by the virtual machine to store durable data. File shares in Azure Files can be accessed in the same way as the local disk is accessed (by using native file system APIs), and can be shared across many virtual machines.

The following table compares Azure Files with Azure Data Disks.

Attribute Azure Data Disks Azure Files
Scope Exclusive to a single virtual machine Shared access across multiple virtual machines
Snapshots and Copy Yes No
Configuration Connected at startup of the virtual machine Connected after the virtual machine has started
Authentication Built-in Set up with net use
Cleanup Automatic Manual
Access using REST Files within the VHD cannot be accessed Files stored in a share can be accessed
Max Size 1 TB disk 5 TB File Share and 1 TB file within share
Max 8KB IOps 500 IOps 1000 IOps
Throughput Up to 60 MB/s per Disk Up to 60 MB/s per File Share

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