Enterprise IT

Ultra Disk Storage Paves Way for Mission-Critical Enterprise Migration

A recent development from Microsoft may give organizations enough incentive to shift more core applications our of their private data centers and into the hyperscale cloud.

There has been an historical reluctance to move tier-one mission-critical workloads such as SAP or certain databases to the cloud, not because of security concerns but because of performance concerns.

However, Microsoft’s Azure Ultra Disk Storage managed disks recently became available by request in Eastern US, Northern Europe and Asia. The technology uses NVMe (non-volatile memory express) to offer sub-millisecond latency for I/O-intensive workloads like SAP Hana, NoSQL, OLTP databases, and other transaction-heavy applications.

A Cloud Option for High-Intensity Workloads

In keeping with its target use cases the Ultra Disk Storage is only available for the premium ESv3 and Dsv3 series virtual machine instances. Ev3-series instances are ideal for memory-intensive enterprise applications and Dsv3-series sizes offer a combination of vCPU, memory, and temporary storage for most production workloads. They’re the kind of instances you’d choose if you were hosting relational database servers, large caches, or in-memory analytics systems with tools like Hadoop, Spark, Hive, Kafka, or HBase.

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One of the first companies to use the service is Japanese gaming giant Sega. “Ultra Disk Storage enabled Sega to seamlessly migrate from our on-premise datacenter to Azure and take advantage of flexible performance controls,” Takaya Segawa, General Manager/Creative Officer at Sega, said in a blog post about the announcement. Cloud gaming is currently one of the hot properties in the sector as performance and capability means high-quality games can be streamed directly to any device without the need for specialized hardware like gaming consoles and the need to download multi-gigabyte files first.

In an article on Data Centre Knowledge, Michael Myrah, Azure's principal program manager, said: “Azure Ultra Disk Storage was designed to be one thing and one thing only: high-performance block storage. It leverages a direct channel to the underlying block storage and bypasses any unnecessary software layers. It offers sub-millisecond latency at extremely high IOPS, matching the performance characteristics seen in on-premises flash arrays.”

Like a Flash Array in the Cloud

The technology also leverages Azure’s Locally Redundant Storage technology, which saves three copies of data in three different racks in the same availability zone. This essentially gives customers a redundant Flash Array in the cloud, where storage operations go directly from the kernel-mode virtual disk client to storage servers in the Ultra Disk Storage cluster – without using the Azure Blob storage cache.

Microsoft anticipates these developments will make the service particularly interesting to enterprise clients and should help convince organizations to migrate more mission-critical apps to the cloud.

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