Azure NetApp Files

As of this blog, ANF is general availability, however, it is not available in the Azure Portal to all users. There is a waitlist to get whitelisted for provisioning, but if you would like that expedited, please contact me and I will get you provisioned.

What is Azure NetApp Files?

Microsoft Azure and NetApp have partnered to bring a first class NAS environment to Azure but utilizing NetApp’s ONTAP as a backed storage service.

Azure NetApp Files, henceforth referred to as ANF provides a resilient and performant NFS or CIFS environment for general file share, HPC, or Database environment. ANF also provides Ransomware protection via Snapshots. ANF is not available in every region but it is available in at least one region in most geographies.

ANF is a 1st-party service. This means that it is provided by Microsoft Azure. There is no NetApp Account team, no reseller (unless you are buying Azure through a reseller) and all ANF usage is billed directly from Azure.

How can I use ANF?

ANF is provisioned and administered directly in the Azure Portal, however, it is not available there until you have been whitelisted. There is a Waitlist for getting your ANF consumption approved and enabled.

How am I charged for ANF?

Getting whitelisted for ANF does not obligate you to buy ANF and if you decide to remove ANF from your Azure environment, you are no longer charged. It is truly subscription and consumption based like any other Azure service.

The base unit of ANF consumption is a Capacity Pool. Capacity Pools are minimum 4TiB and maximum 100TiB. You can provision more than one Capacity Pool. Upon creating you first Capacity Pool, you will be charged an hourly rate for the consumption of that Pool. The Capacity Pool will autogrow if you exceed it’s capacity. There are different performance levels available for a Capacity Pool and each of these are billed at different rates. Keep your eye out for a more in-depth page on the technical details of the different logical constructs within ANF and how they are used.

How does ANF compare to CVO?

Cloud Volumes Ontap (the software previously known as ONTAP Cloud) is a virtual machine deployed into your cloud environment. The virtual machine runs ONTAP and is able to provide all features and functionality of an ONTAP hardware appliance (other than Fiber Channel). CVO can run stand-alone or as an HA pair spanning Availability Zones. There is some flexibility with CVO, particularly if you want to use it for test/dev or as an ONTAP replication target.

Today ANF is a secure multi-tenant hardware appliance sitting adjacent to Azure. Because of this, it has substantial performance advantages over CVO. Because it is G1 as a 1st-party service, not every ONTAP feature is currently available for ANF.

In short, use CVO for all things ONTAP and use ANF for all things performance whether it be an clustered HPC environment or an Oracle Database.

Basic ANF pricing at MSRP
Note: I can provide better pricing if you contact me

Pricing details

Price (West US 2)
Standard Storage$0.000202/GiB/hour
Premium Storage$0.000403/GiB/hour
Ultra Storage$0.000538/GiB/hour

Getting Started

Microsoft Azure NetApp Files Waitlist Request
Note: I can get you provisioned quicker than the Waitlist

Cloud, Security, and Automation

Cloud, Security, and Automation are like three peas in a pod. They go together like peanut butter & chocolate, syrup & pancakes, or cheese & well… everything.

There is a lot of debate over what cloud means. To business leaders it tends to mean agility, intelligent frameworks, and business process automation. When they say “Cloud” they mean the fully realized promise of DevOps. Most often well tenured technologist hear “Cloud” and they think “Managed Services” or “Hyper-scale Infrastructure as a Service.”

I can think of quite a few organizations where leadership has asked for “Cloud” and what their teams are building, while technically “Cloud” are not what was asked for. Those projects tend to fail with nobody really understanding why. That’s why it can be really helpful to work with somebody who understands not only what “Cloud” is, but what different people mean when they say the word cloud. Perhaps we need a new cloud vocabulary. Like the Greek language, having something upward of 20 words for love (so there is no ambiguity), perhaps we should all be much more specific about what cloud means to us.

Why Automate?

While the DevOps model and philosophy may not work for everyone, the hallmark of a successful cloud project is Automation. Automation allows us to create tooling that is free from understanding what lies beneath. So instead of a queue of tasks waiting for one person with one skill set, that person templatizes their work and builds policies around the execution. The result is that anybody can now do this work pragmatically and the person who wrote the task can now focus on other things. This is the concept of agility through eliminating toil. Organizations that don’t have to wait for routine tasks to complete are much more efficient, not to mention freeing up the time of somebody who is able to do high-value work.

Automation is Security?

Automation also brings compliance through policy. An automated task is completed the same way every time with no missed steps or type-o’s. Updating the automation tooling is also a good time to update process documentation. This all leads to a much more consistent and supportable environment.

Automation ideally eliminates the need for privileged access. Often routine infrastructure tasks involve sensitive processes or sensitive information. This means they need to be completed by a qualified person and that person is one of few with the privileged access needed to complete the tasks. Typically these people share common administrative passwords that are tightly guarded. Part of the problem here is that they become the gatekeepers and simple things can get delayed by their lack of availability. Also the sharing of admin / root passwords makes for a security auditing nightmare. Sure Role-based access control can usually be configured but that is a significant time and maintenance investment.

A good middle ground is to use one password, but not allow any one at all access to it. The password is securely stored in your automation infrastructure. Users are allowed to request processes (possibly triggering an approval workflow) and then the automation tool executes the task while logging who requested it. No need to wait on or provide privileged access.

On-Prem, Off-Prem, DevOps, As-a-Service?

The short answer is that it doesn’t matter. The value of the “Cloud” is realized through automating tasks and providing services at a layer which abstracts the underlying platform from the end user. You can pay all of the monthly fees you want but you aren’t really going to have “Cloud” until the way those resources are consumed is programmatic.

I can help with tools that simplify some of the hyperscaler and hybrid complexities, automate tasks on or off prem, and can even help with getting an on-prem infrastructure under a subscription service model. Want to know more, please contact me.

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