Azure, Veeam, and Gridstore, a match made in heaven!?


Microsoft Azure currently provides the best quality public cloud platform available. In a 2013 industry report benchmark comparison of performance, availability and scalability, Azure came out on top in terms of read, and write performance of Blob storage. 

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AzurePS19Veeam is a fast growing software company that provides a highly scalable, feature-rich, robust backup and replication solution that’s built for virtualized workloads from the ground up including VMWare and Hyper-V virtual workloads. Veeam has been on the cutting edge of backup and replication technologies with unique features like SureBackup/verified protection, Virtual labs, Universal Application Item Recovery, and well-developed reporting. Not to mention a slew of ‘Explorers‘ like SQL, Exchange, SharePoint, and Active Directory Explorer. Veeam Cloud Connect is a feature added in version 8 in December 2014 that allows independent public cloud providers the ability to provide off-site backup for Veeam clients.

AzurePS20Gridstore provides a hardware storage array optimized for Microsoft workloads. At its core, the array is composed of standard rack-mount servers (storage nodes) running Windows OS and Gridstore’s proprietary vController which is a driver that uses local storage on the Gridstore node and presents it to storage-consuming servers over IP.

The problem:

Although a single Azure subscription can have 100 Storage Accounts, each can have 500 TB of Blob storage, a single Azure VM can have a limited number of data disks attached to it. Azure VM disks are implemented as Page Blobs which have a 1TB limit as of January 2015. As a result, an Azure VM can have a maximum of 32 TB of attached storage.

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Consequently, an Azure VM is currently not fully adequate for use as a Veeam Cloud Connect provider for Enterprise clients who typically need several hundred terabytes of offsite DR/storage.

Possible solution:

If Gridstore is to use Azure VMs as storage nodes, the following architecture may provide the perfect solution to aggregate Azure storage:

(This is a big IF. To my knowledge, Gridstore currently do not offer their product as a software, but only as an appliance)

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  • 6 VMs to act as Gridstore capacity storage nodes. Each is a Standard A4 size VM with 8 cores, 14 GB RAM, and 16x 1TB disks. I picked Standard A4 to take advantage of a 500 IOPS higher throttle limit per disk as opposed to 300 IO/disk for A4 Basic VM.
  • A single 80 TB Grid Protect Level 1 vLUN can be presented from the Gridstore array to a Veeam Cloud Connect VM. This will be striped over 6 nodes and will survive a single VM failure.
  • I recommend having a maximum of 40 disks in a Storage Account since a Standard Storage account has a maximum 20k IOPS.
  • One A3 VM to be used for Veeam Backup and Replication 8, its SQL 2012 Express, Gateway, and WAN Accelerator. The WAN Accelerator cache disk can be built as a single simple storage space using 8x 50 GB disks, 8-columns providing 480 MB/s or 4K IOPS. This VM can be configured with 2 vNICs which a long awaited feature now available to Azure VMs.
  • Storage capacity scalability: simply add more Gridstore nodes. This can scale up to several petabytes.

Azure cost summary:

In this architecture, Azure costs can be summarized as:

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That’s $8,419/month for 80 TB payload, or $105.24/TB/month. $4,935 (59%) of which is for Page Blob LRS 96.5 TB raw storage at $0.05/GB/month, and $3,484 (41%) is for compute resources. The latter can be cut in half if Microsoft offers 16 disks for Standard A3 VMs instead of a maximum of 8.

This does not factor in Veeam or Gridstore costs.

Still, highly scalable, redundant, fast storage at $105/TB/month is pretty competitive.

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