Ankur Mandal

Azure Disk Storage: Best Practices for Efficient Data Management


Ankur Mandal

5 min read

Microsoft Azure is a premier cloud service provider that offers various services, from advanced cloud computing to optimized storage solutions. Organizations leverage Azure to host diverse applications, each with specific storage requirements. 

Azure Disk Storage is critical in enhancing performance, ensuring resource availability, and maximizing cost savings.

In this blog, we will explore Azure Disk Storage, a key component of any cloud infrastructure integrated with Azure. 

We will examine the different types of disks available and share best practices to help you optimize your Azure disk storage effectively.

Introduction to Azure Disk Storage

Azure Disk Storage is a high-performance and highly durable block storage service developed by Microsoft for Azure virtual machines (VMs). This versatile cloud block storage service supports both Windows and Linux-based operating systems, enabling VMs to store data and resources efficiently. It is ideal for various applications, including enterprise-grade software, development and testing environments, big data analytics, and more.

Key use cases for Azure Disk Storage include:

  • Relational Databases: Azure Disk Storage can scale to meet the performance demands of top-tier databases like SAP HANA, SQL Server, and Oracle.
  • NoSQL Databases: It provides consistent low latency for latency-sensitive NoSQL databases such as CouchDB and MongoDB.
  • Clustered Applications: Seamlessly migrate on-premises and high-availability applications to Azure, ensuring high performance and reliability.
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery: Utilize point-in-time snapshots built by Microsoft to reduce time, costs, and disruptions associated with backup and recovery activities.
  • Containerized Workloads: Benefit from high-performance, low-latency block storage for mission-critical applications running on Kubernetes.
  • Azure VMware Solution: Leverage Azure Disk Storage to run data-intensive and transaction-heavy workloads on the Azure VMware solution.

Azure Disk Storage Types

Azure offers several disk types that can be chosen based on your cloud infrastructure environments. The pricing and performance offered by each disk will vary based on your region, workloads, and infrastructure size.

1. Managed Disks: Azure Managed Disks simplify storage management for virtual machines by handling storage account logistics, ensuring high availability, and providing easy scalability. They offer a range of storage options, from Ultra Disk to Standard HDD, to meet diverse performance and cost requirements. 

Managed Disks also enhance reliability through automatic replication and support features like encryption and backup integration, making them a robust and efficient choice for cloud-based applications.

  • Standard SSDs: Offering high performance with up to 6000 IOPS and 750 MB/s, Standard SSDs are a cost-effective option for optimizing workloads requiring consistent performance at low IOPS levels. They are ideal for web servers and lightly used enterprise applications and support ZRS replication.
  • Premium SSDs: Providing up to 20000 IOPS and 900 MB/s per disk for P60 and larger disk sizes, Premium SSDs are best suited for mission-critical workloads and I/O intensive VMs requiring high throughput. They offer high performance, low latency, and a single-instance SLA of 99.9% availability.
  • Premium SSD v2: Compared to regular Premium SSDs, Premium SSD v2 delivers higher performance at a lower cost. It allows you to adjust performance parameters such as capacity, throughput, and IOPS anytime. It supports workloads like Oracle, SAP, and SQL.
  • Standard HDDs: With up to 500 IOPS and 60 MB/s per disk, Standard HDDs use magnetic drives and are highly cost-effective for applications with low IOPS and throughput requirements. They are suitable for VMs running latency-tolerant workloads, backups, archives, and infrequently accessed datasets.
  • Ultra Disks: Offering up to 100 TiB per region per subscription, Ultra Disks are the highest-performing storage option for VMs in Azure. They support higher storage on request and allow you to change performance parameters without restarting VMs. They are ideal for data-intensive and transaction-heavy workloads such as SAP HANA.

2. Unmanaged Disks: Unlike managed disks, Azure’s unmanaged disks require the manual creation of storage accounts and specification of performance parameters. They offer higher independence and centralized control over account management and storage configurations.

However, they require consistent performance monitoring and proactive management to effectively optimize VM performance.. 

Benefits Offered By Azure Disk Storage 

Azure managed disks offer several benefits that enhance the performance of your cloud infrastructure while maximizing cost efficiency, reliability, and availability.

  • High Availability and Durability: Managed disks are designed for 99.999% availability and maintain this by providing three replicas of your data. In case one or both replicas experience issues, the remaining replicas will continue to function, ensuring data preservation, durability, and failure tolerance.
    Locally redundant storage (LRS) and zone-redundant storage (ZRS) disks offer at least 99.999% durability. The architecture of managed disks consistently delivers enterprise-level durability for IaaS disks, with a 0% annualized failure rate.
  • Simple and Scalable VM Deployment: Managed disks offer high scalability, allowing you to create up to 50,000 VM disks of any type in a subscription per region. Using a Marketplace image or Azure Compute Gallery image, you can create up to 1,000 VMs in a virtual machine scale set, further enhancing scalability.
  • Cost Efficiency: Managed disks are more cost-effective as you can scale disks up or down based on traffic. You can rightsize resources to optimize disk storage costs, and snapshots are billed only for the used data size rather than the provisioned data size. Leveraging managed disks enhances overall performance while meeting cost-saving goals.
  • Integration with Availability Sets: An availability set is a logical grouping of VMs that ensures redundancy and availability. Managed disks integrated with availability sets ensure disks in a set are sufficiently isolated from one another to avoid failures. If a storage stamp fails due to hardware or software issues, only the VM instances with disks in that particular stamp will fail.
  • Integration with Availability Zones: Availability Zones protect applications from data center failures, ensuring maximum availability. Each zone is a unique physical location within an Azure region, with independent power, cooling, and networking. With a minimum of three separate zones in all enabled regions, Azure offers a 99.99% VM uptime SLA through Availability Zones.

Best Practices for Azure Disk Storage Optimization

Now that we've covered Azure's disk types and benefits of using Azure disk storage, it's time to delve deep into some of the best practices that can be followed to optimize the performance of your disks and achieve maximum cost-effectiveness that can reduce your cloud bill and help improve your bottom line. 

1. Select the Appropriate Azure Disk Type and Size

Azure offers several disk types and sizes, each with unique capabilities that can significantly impact your cloud environment's performance and cost optimization. Therefore, the initial step toward efficient disk storage optimization is understanding the characteristics of each disk type and size and how they align with your workload requirements and budget constraints.

When selecting a disk type, consider factors such as:

  • Performance Requirements: Evaluate the performance metrics (e.g., IOPS, throughput) offered by each disk type and choose the one that best meets your workload's performance demands. For example, if you require high IOPS and low latency, Premium SSDs or Ultra Disks may be suitable options.
  • Cost Optimization: Analyze the pricing structures of different disk types and assess their cost-effectiveness based on your budget constraints. While Premium SSDs offer high performance, they may be more expensive than Standard SSDs or HDDs. Consider your budgetary requirements and workload priorities when making your selection.
  • Workload Characteristics: Understand the nature of your workload and its storage requirements. For example, latency-sensitive applications may benefit from SSD-based disks, while HDD-based disks may adequately serve less critical workloads with lower performance demands.

Similarly, when determining the appropriate disk size, consider:

  • Storage Capacity: Estimate your storage needs based on the size of your data and projected growth. Choose a disk size that accommodates your current storage requirements without overprovisioning, which can lead to unnecessary costs. However, ensure that the selected size allows for future scalability as your storage needs evolve.
  • Cost Considerations: Evaluate the cost implications of different disk sizes and select a size that strikes the right balance between storage capacity and cost efficiency. Avoid selecting excessively large disk sizes that may result in wasted resources and increased expenses.

To maintain optimal Azure disk storage performance and cost savings, regularly review your storage requirements and adjust disk types and sizes as necessary. By staying informed about the capabilities and costs associated with each disk type and size, you can make informed decisions that align with your Azure cloud infrastructure's needs and budgetary considerations. 

2. Automate Storage Provisioning for Your Azure Disk

When considering Azure disk storage optimization, adjusting storage resources in real-time to reduce costs and boost performance is key to maintaining an optimal cloud environment. Alongside cloud computing and cloud visibility, storage plays a critical role in determining the state of your infrastructure. It has become necessary to monitor it to ensure it does not negatively impact the overall cloud bill and always remains available at peak performance when needed.

According to a study conducted by Virtana titled "State of Hybrid Cloud Storage 2023," which interviewed 350 individuals working within the IT industry, 94% of the respondents reported that cloud costs were constantly rising, and 54% claimed that their cloud storage expenses were increasing faster than their overall cloud bill. These results indicate that companies often overlook the storage aspect of cloud infrastructures, resulting in long-term financial consequences that they must bear for ignoring their storage conditions. This has also highlighted the need for an intelligent and efficient storage provisioning solution to optimize cloud costs and improve disk utilization.

This is where Lucidity comes to the rescue, addressing the following pain points of every cloud infrastructure:

Lucidity Managed Disk Auto-Scaler benefits
  • Overprovisioned Storage: Companies heavily reliant on cloud infrastructures sometimes provision more storage than necessary, fearing potential performance issues in the future. Consequently, unused storage capacities lead to inflated cloud bills as companies pay for storage they do not use, incurring unnecessary costs.
  • Underprovisioned Storage: Underprovisioning is also a significant issue in the cloud. Companies may exceed their usage against provisioned storage capacities, resulting in downtime as resources need to be right-sized to optimize existing capacities. This process also incurs heavy costs.
  • Inefficient Management: Manual resource scaling is time-consuming and requires constant attention and effort from IT teams. This causes delays between need and fulfillment, impacting user experiences and workload deliveries. Managing multi-cloud environments further complicates matters, necessitating proper cloud optimization tools.
  • Unpredictable Workloads: Storage demands can fluctuate due to seasonal spikes, sudden growth phases, and unexpected events. Hence, automated resource scaling is needed to ensure fluctuating workload demands are met instantly when required, maintaining optimal performance. 

By addressing the aforementioned challenges, Lucidity emerges as the industry's first block storage orchestration tool, providing expansion and live shrinkage services for your cloud's block storage. Its benefits have reached multiple companies across various industries, positioning it as a pioneer in cloud storage management.

Lucidity's flagship offering is its Block Storage Auto-scaler, a revolutionary tool that automates the real-time expansion and shrinkage of your cloud's block storage. It dynamically adjusts resources based on your usage and requirements, eliminating the need for manual intervention. This automated process eliminates unused capacities, maximizing potential cost savings while ensuring a safe and secure process without disrupting other applications running on your cloud. 

How Does Lucidity Work?

Before integration into your cloud, Lucidity initiates with the Storage Audit solution, conducting a comprehensive weekly audit at no additional cost. Once the audit concludes, the tool generates a detailed report pinpointing current storage inefficiencies and offering actionable insights on redundancies and opportunities for cost savings. Key insights in the report include disk spend analysis, disk downtime risks, and identification of idle resources for removal. The audit procedure is fully automated and does not require any manual tasks.

Wastage in Block storage when managing  manually

Following the storage audit, Lucidity will be deployed to your cloud infrastructure. Onboarding the tool is simple and straightforward, requiring only three steps and taking approximately fifteen minutes to complete. Lucidity actively monitors and provisions your cloud's block storage from this point.

Lucidity simple and fast onboarding steps

A key feature of Lucidity is its auto-scaler engine. The tool gather data such as IOPS, disk utilization, volume, throughput, burst, and other relevant parameters. This data is then transferred to the auto-scaling engine, which utilizes sophisticated algorithms to analyze the metrics and transmit commands regarding whether block storage should be expanded or reduced. This process is conducted securely, safeguarding data and applications while avoiding downtime.

Now that we have a solid understanding of Lucidity's functionality, let's explore a practical example of how the tool has benefited an organization through the following case study:

Company: Royal Sundaram

Industry: General Insurance

Problems Faced Before Lucidity: Before integrating Lucidity into its cloud infrastructure, Royal Sundaram encountered several challenges.

  • Inflated cloud storage costs without optimization opportunities.
  • Lack of granular storage visibility across their environment.
  • Overprovisioning leads to overspending by 71%.

Quantitative Results After Lucidity: After implementing Lucidity, Royal Sundaram observed the following quantitative improvements.

  • Potential 45% reduction in storage costs thanks to Lucidity's auto-scaler.
  • Increased disk utilization from 12% to 75-80%.
  • Prevention of three resources from high-risk downtime.

Now that we've deeply understood how Lucidity works and how it can benefit your cloud, reach out to us for a personalized demo if you'd like to know more about the product and its capabilities. By implementing the platform into your cloud, you can unlock its full potential and get the best services out of it, promoting higher cost-savings and performance for your Azure environment.

3. Use Azure Tools to Monitor and Optimize Disk Utilization

Analyzing Azure disk usage is paramount for improving the overall efficiency of your cloud infrastructure and maximizing cost savings. You can effectively manage your budget and allocate resources optimally by gaining insights into your infrastructure. Azure offers several tools that enable you to monitor your infrastructure and provide actionable insights to enhance disk performance and cost efficiency:

  • Azure Monitor: Microsoft's comprehensive platform, Azure Monitor, offers monitoring, analysis, and visualization of your Azure resources, including disk usage. This tool can identify trends, anomalies, and potential optimization opportunities by gathering valuable insights into performance metrics. Azure Monitor serves as your primary platform for collecting data on disk performance, usage patterns, and identifying potential bottlenecks.
  • Azure Advisor: Azure Advisor provides valuable information on disk usage, dormant resources, storage alternatives, and recommendations for optimizing disk sizes to enhance both performance and cost savings. Leveraging Azure Advisor's insights allows you to proactively identify opportunities for optimization and implement recommended actions to improve the efficiency of your disk utilization.

By leveraging these Azure tools effectively, you can gain valuable insights into your disk utilization, identify optimization opportunities, and implement proactive measures to enhance performance and cost efficiency within your Azure cloud infrastructure.

4. Remove Idle Managed Disks

Idle or unused managed disks in your Azure environment result in unnecessary expenditures, diminishing their value to your company. These disks accrue storage expenses without being associated with active VMs, leading to wasteful spending. Since managed disks are invoiced based on their provisioned size, retaining idle disks incurs additional storage charges for unused capacity.

Removing idle managed disks is essential to optimize cost efficiency and resource utilization within your Azure environment. 

Here's how you can effectively manage idle disks:

  • Delete Idle Managed Disks: Log into the Azure Portal and identify all idle managed disks that are no longer in use. Select the idle disks and initiate the deletion process to reclaim storage resources and eliminate unnecessary expenses. Regularly removing idle managed disks can prevent storage costs from accumulating and optimize your Azure budget.
  • Rightsizing Azure Resources: Implementing rightsizing practices allows you to adjust storage resources manually or automatically based on current workload demands and requirements. By aligning resource allocations with actual usage patterns, you can optimize resource utilization and minimize unnecessary spending. Consider resizing disks to match your workload's evolving storage needs and avoid overprovisioning.
  • Utilize Storage Audit Solutions: Leverage storage audit solutions such as Lucidity to effectively identify and manage unused resources. These tools provide insights into idle managed disks and other underutilized resources, enabling you to make informed decisions and optimize your Azure environment efficiently. Utilize the insights gained from storage audit solutions to identify cost savings and resource optimization opportunities.

By proactively removing idle managed disks and implementing rightsizing practices, you can optimize cost efficiency, enhance resource utilization, and maximize the value of your Azure environment. 

5. Use Reserved Capacity for Disks

Utilizing reservations for Azure disk storage alongside Azure reserved virtual machine instances can yield substantial cost reductions across your virtual machines. This integration seamlessly extends reservation discounts to associated disks within the specified reservation scope. The standout feature of this integration is its automated discount application, eliminating the need for manual assignment of managed disks for eligibility.

Leveraging reserved capacity for your disks provides several cost benefits and offers greater accuracy, thanks to its automation capabilities. The complexity associated with manual assignments is significantly reduced, and overall expenses are optimized within your Azure infrastructure.

By utilizing reserved capacity for your disks, you can:

  • Maximize Cost Reductions: Reserved capacity for disks allows you to benefit from the cost savings achieved through Azure reserved virtual machine instances. Extending reservation discounts to associated disks can optimize your cost management strategy and reduce overall expenditure.
  • Automate Discount Application: The automated discount application feature simplifies the process of applying reservation discounts to associated disks, eliminating manual intervention. This streamlines cost optimization efforts and ensures accurate discount application across your Azure environment.
  • Simplify Management: With reserved capacity for disks, the complexity of manual assignments is minimized, allowing for easier management of disk reservations. This simplification enhances operational efficiency and reduces administrative overhead associated with managing disk resources.
  • Optimize Expenses: By integrating reserved capacity for disks into your Azure infrastructure, you can optimize expenses and achieve greater cost efficiency. The automated discount application ensures that reservation discounts are applied accurately, optimizing spending across your disk resources.

Incorporating reserved capacity for disks into your cost management strategy enables you to maximize cost savings, simplify management, and optimize expenses within your Azure environment.

6. Regularly Optimize Performance Tiers

Azure Disk Storage offers multiple performance tiers based on IOPS and throughput requirements. Higher performance tiers require high costs, and vice versa. You must choose the right performance tier based on your required IOPS and throughput levels. Then, you must regularly monitor and optimize workloads’ performance and adjust the tiers accordingly to increase cost savings and maintain consistent performance. 

You’ll need to keep the following practices in mind when dealing with performance tiers:

  • Understand disk types and performance tiers: Azure offers several disk types with distinct performance capabilities. You can choose between Standard HDD, Standard SSD, Premium SSD, Premium SSD v2, and Ultra Disk.
  • Configure disk size appropriately: Once you match workload requirements with your preferred disk type, you can configure performance parameters to match the desired IOPS and throughput levels. 
  • Use Disk Striping for improved performance: Disk striping combines multiple disks into a single unit using RAID to achieve higher IOPS and throughput levels.
  • Monitor and Adjust Disks: Azure Monitor allows you to track disk performance using IOPS, throughput, latency, and other relevant parameters. This will help minimize performance bottlenecks and configure your disks to suit your needs properly.

Hence, optimizing performance tiers in your Azure disks begins with selecting the appropriate disk type, size, and configurations to optimize workload performance. 

Take Control of Your Azure Costs & Boost Performance Using Azure Disks

Maximizing the potential of your Azure infrastructure hinges on effective management and utilization of your disk resources. As a leading cloud service provider, Azure offers many benefits, provided your disks are maintained optimally. In addition to solutions like Lucidity, Microsoft offers diverse tools that can significantly enhance your cloud environment's performance, storage capabilities, and cost efficiency. 

By leveraging these resources, you can control your Azure costs, optimize your disk storage services, and elevate the overall user experience. With the right tools and strategies in place, you can unlock Azure's full potential, ensuring that your cloud infrastructure operates at peak efficiency while delivering maximum value to your organization.

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