Month: May 2013

No more data sovereignty blues…Azure coming to Australia

“Rest “Azure-d” we’re coming Down Under!
We’re excited to announce that we are expanding Windows Azure with a new region for Australia. This will allow us to deliver all Windows Azure services from within Australia, to make the cloud work even better for you!
The new Windows Azure Australia Region will be made up of two sub-regions in New South Wales and Victoria. These two locations will be geo-redundant, letting you store and back up data across the two sites. We know you’ve been asking for it, and we look forward to making this available to all Windows Azure users.”

With the launch of Windows Azure regions in Australia today it brings another option for customers looking at true cloud services where data can reside in Australian; particularly if they have any concerns about with where data resides and latency.

In my opinion this is a good thing for Australian consumers as when there is competition the consumer wins through price and innovation. It does help me when talking Cloud Integrated Storage (CIS) to customers.

Data Sovereignty

With StorSimple we obfuscate and encrypt any data before it goes into Azure, with the customer having sole knowledge and ownership of the private keys to decrypt the data, but there are still many instances of customers insisting that data remain on Australian soil. There are different driving factors behind this thought process which in some cases I do and don’t believe to be valid however it is still a hurdle we face. With the local regions now being available this challenge also goes away.

Network Cost and Performance

Data sovereignty is not the only thing that having local DCs helps with, it also helps with your network performance (latency) and potentially cost. Suddenly it is possible to get below 100ms latency from anywhere in the country and far less if you are located in Sydney or Melbourne. It also brings about the possibility of peering agreements with network service providers, including Telstra, AARNet, Pipe and others. I’m not saying when this will happen, or even that it will happen, as I don’t know, but it is a real possibility with DCs that are onshore.

Azure vs competition*

Since starting with Microsoft a little over two months ago I’ve been more impressed with every new feature and functionality that we can provide with Azure. When I look at what we provide with Azure for Australian hosted customers I see some clear value propositions:

1) Cost – other cloud providers with Australian DCs will charge different usage rates depending on which Geo you use (at least when I checked last week). With Azure we charge the same rate around the world, in US dollars, no matter which Geo you select.

2) Protection and redundancy – Azure Regions are always released in pairs…and for a very simple reason. Everything in Windows Azure Storage is replicated twice (to form a total of three copies) on separate hardware in the local Regions. Windows Azure then takes care of DataCentre redundancy, and takes in consideration the fault domains. This means that one copy is always in another geo-location. So if using the datacentres in Australia you will have three copies of your data in Sydney and three copies of your data in Melbourne by default.

3) Breadth – The variety of different services that we can provide with Azure are huge. The variety of different offers we can provide with Azure are huge….from PaaS (which supports Python, .NET, Java and many other development languages), Websites, IaaS, Mobile Services, Media, Storage and even Big Data as a Service.

Some of my colleagues have also blogged about this and you can read their blogs here:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ausblog/archive/2013/05/16/windows-azure-expands-downunder.aspx

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/davidmcg/

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/rockyh/

* When talking about cloud service providers I work on the assumption that a cloud service provider can provide  PaaS, IaaS, Storage and other services which are manageable and accessible via a self service portal AND RESTful API stack.

StorSimple Deep Dive 1 – An Enterprise iSCSI SAN

In my last post I did an introduction to Cloud Integrated Storage, the value proposition and how we address this at Microsoft. I figured for the next few posts I’d get into a bit of detail about StorSimple, which is the way we provide Cloud Integrated Storage to customers. This is a company that Microsoft acquired in October last year with much of the core team based out of Mountain View, CA. I was lucky enough to get over there in my second week in the role and meet the team, was great to get in there and hear how the solution came about and some of the success they have already had. This including a soothing ale with Marc Farley, who is currently writing a book on Cloud Integrated Storage.

StorSimple is a highly available, enterprise class iSCSI SAN. It is Flash optimised with redundant controllers, disks configured at RAID10 and hot spares….things you’d expect from your enterprise SAN.

SSHW

We currently provide between 2TB of useable capacity to 20TB of useable capacity on premise, at this stage, which is flash optimised, deduplicated and compressed….meaning you will be able to realise much more capacity both on premise and within Azure; generally anything from 3x to 20x space savings. There are soft limits on the amount of Azure capacity we can address and this ranges from 100TB on the 2TB appliance all the way to 500TB on the 20TB appliance.

ss models

I think it is great that Microsoft is embracing open standards with StorSimple. It is certified for and supports both Windows and VMware (VSS and vStorage APIs for Data Protection respectively are utilised) and it is still an open system that not only can connect to Azure, but still supports connectivity to Atmos, OpenStack, HP, AWS and other cloud providers. This is a big part of StorSimple’s DNA and, prior to acquisition, it was not only the Azure go to solution for Cloud Integrated Storage, it was the AWS go to solution. That said why would you want to use anything but Azure…but more on that in a future post.