How to Tier AFF Data to Azure Blob

[Cloud Tiering, Advanced, 6 minute read]

Managing the data lifecycle from when data is being actively used to the point where it moves to an archive state is one of the major challenges faced by storage admins. Adding to that challenge are the annual data growth challenges. Purchasing additional storage annually is not a scalable solution, since that would involve extensive capacity planning followed by significant CAPEX investments in storage boxes, hosting space, etc. The solution that most organizations are turning to in order to avoid excessive spending is the use of hybrid cloud architectures.

Cloud storage provides an easy alternative where required capacity can be purchased on demand in a pay-as-you-go manner. It is an ideal target for storing data that doesn’t have high performance demands, such as backup or archival data. Combined with an on-prem storage system in a hybrid storage solution offers the best of both worlds, as organizations can invest in superior hardware for storing data of performance intensive LOB applications while leveraging cloud-based storage for little-used data. For NetApp AFF and SSD-back FAS systems, the new Cloud Tiering Service fits the bill perfectly as it uses the all-flash storage solution on-premises for active/hot data while automatically tiering infrequently accessed data to object storage in the cloud. Azure Blob storage is one of the most preferred object storage solutions in the cloud, one that can be used as a cost-effective capacity tier that can meet any security, availability, and scalability requirements.

In this blog we’ll show you how to set up Cloud Tiering for Azure so you can address the data growth and lifecycle management challenges of your organization.

Configuring Cloud Tiering to Azure Blob


  1. Log in to NetApp Cloud Central. Cloud Central is the centralized management pane for all NetApp cloud based storage management services. Select “Cloud Tiering”:

    In Fabric View, select Cloud Tiering

  2. You will be redirected to the Cloud Tiering configuration page. From here, click on “Let’s start, Discover your first cluster”:

    Cloud Tiering configuration page
  3. Next, you’ll provide some information about your on-premises ONTAP cluster. This will be used to identity on-premises NetApp AFF or SSD-backed FAS system, and includes your cluster IP, username, and password. On the right-hand side, select a service control unit in an Azure VNet that has connectivity to your on-premises environment. When you’re done, click “Continue”:

    select a service control unit in an Azure VNet that has connectivity to your on-premises environment

  4. Once logged in, you will be redirected to the cluster dashboard where information about all your on-premises clusters will be loaded. Click on “Set up Tiering” to start the cloud tiering configuration:

    Click on "Set up Tiering" to start the cloud tiering configuration

  5. On the next page, select the "Tiering status" dropdown menu on the right. Check all the options listed and click on "Apply" to view all the volumes in the cluster:

    Check all the options listed and click on "Apply" to view all the volumes in the cluster:

    Optional step: Changing the tiering policy: By default the tiering policy is set to Auto. If you wish to change the tiering policy to snapshot only, click on the setting named "Auto" on the top:

    By default the tiering policy is set to Auto. If you wish to change the tiering policy to snapshot only, click on the setting named "Auto" on the top

    Change the tiering policy from the pop-out menu and click "Apply". 

    Volume Tiering Policy pop up

  6. Select the volume that you want to tier and click on continue:

    Select the volume you want to tier

  7. In the next step, select the IPspace you want to use. IPspaces are used for administrative segregation of single ONTAP cluster, so that clients from multiple network domain can access the cluster even while using overlapping IP address range. Make sure to select the correct IPspace to ensure that Cloud Tiering can connect your on-premises ONTAP to Azure blob storage:

    select the correct IPspace to ensure that Cloud Tiering can connect your on-premises ONTAP to Azure blob storage

  8. Select Azure as your object storage provider and click “Continue”:

    Object Storage Provider

  9. Select the region and tier where the Azure Blob storage will be created. Cloud Tiering will create the storage for you. Click on “Continue” when you’re done.
    Note: Currently only the hot access tier of Azure Blob is supported in Cloud Tiering. Cold access tier is in the roadmap to be supported in future.

    Select the region and tier where the Azure Blob storage will be created

  10. Review the selected configuration and click on “Tier Cluster” to enable tiering for the volume:

    Click on "Tier Cluster" to enable tiering for the volume

  11. Once the configuration is completed, you can see details such as tiering health, current savings based on volumes where tiering is enabled, and additional savings opportunity if you enable tiering on your remaining volumes. You can click on “More info” to get a detailed look into the tiering information of the cluster.

    Cluster Dashboard

  12. The “Total Used Capacity” tile shows the storage status for volumes enabled for tiering. In the example below, you can see that tiering is enabled for volumes at 6.5 TB capacity, of which 3.5 TB is tiered to cloud storage. The resultant cost saving by tiering cold data to Cloud is also shown (i.e. $16,906).

    you can see that tiering is enabled for volumes at 6.5 TB capacity, of which 3.5 TB is tiered to cloud storage

  13. The “Cluster Used Capacity” tile shows the additional savings opportunity if Cloud Tiering is enabled for the remaining volumes of the cluster. In this example, the total cold data in the remaining volumes in the cluster amounts to 2.5 TB, while the hot data is only 512 GB. You can click on “Set up Tiering” to configure tiering for the remaining volumes in your system, so that 2.5 TB of cold data can be tiered back to Azure blob storage resulting in significant cost savings:

    In this example, the total cold data in the remaining volumes in the cluster amounts to 2.5 TB, while the hot data is only 512 GB

Benefits of Cloud Tiering

More than 70% of data in an enterprise landscape can be tiered to cloud storage resulting in significant cost optimization. As seen in the example above, 2.5 TB of data can be tiered to Cloud storage which could cost only $55 per month. This gives a better value proposition than investing upfront in hardware devices. It also helps to avoid the tradeoff between cost and performance, where cheaper and low-performance storage devices are procured to lower costs.

With Cloud Tiering, mission-critical and performance-intensive data will be stored in the AFF or SSD-backed FAS storage on-premises, while the data which is not accessed frequently can be moved to cost-effective Azure Blob storage. To meet varying IT strategies, Cloud Tiering also gives you the flexibility to tier all data including snapshots to Azure Blob storage or to just tier the snapshots by themselves.

Cost savings are not the only benefits that Cloud Tiering provides. Other benefits include:

  • A reduced data center footprint with minimal effort. Data tiering is automatic and transparent to applications so that it avoids manual segregation and migration processes.
  • Cold data tiered to cloud will be tiered back on-premises when it is accessed by applications. Hence users will not feel any performance impact.
  • A simplified interface to manage cloud tiering configuration of all clusters from a single console.
  • With cold data being moved to cloud storage, customers effectively get 20X capacity of on-premises AFF, thus offering significant ROI on the storage hardware.
  • Minimized learning curve, as the same processes and tools can be used to manage the data lifecycle, but in a more efficient manner.

Try Cloud Tiering Yourself

Cloud tiering addresses the major pain points of data management in terms of capacity, cost, and performance by combining the benefits of high-performance NetApp storage systems and Azure Blob storage. It helps organizations to avoid the traditional CAPEX model which may not be viable in hybrid cloud architectures.

Cloud Tiering Free Trial

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