My customer has a large on-premises file share environment based on Windows Server File Shares with petabytes of data. The maintenance and operations of those servers sounds like a simple task – but having this in a large and complex infrastructure can be challenging. If the file shares are run by multiple teams, then the overall SLA could be heavily impacted, and the run cost are very high.
Azure has viable alternatives to host files shares – in this post, I want to compare the different services – we will compare Azure Files (AZF) and Azure NetApp Files (ANF) to make the right choice when we migrate to Azure. In this post, I am comparing only the SSD tiers, AZF has additional HDD tiers.
Azure Active Directory Domain Services (Azure AD DS),
On-premises Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS)
Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) Azure Active Directory Domain Services (Azure AD DS) On-premises Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) via AD Connect (see Supported scenarios and restrictions)
please note: the prices are taken from Azure West Europe region for comparison – they may vary depending on the service/region.
The features table looks quite similar – but the details make this more interesting:
Protocol compatibility is a strength of ANF – more protocols and SMB combined with NFSv3: Some applications require both protocols, especially in an integration scenario. As of writing this, NFS is in Preview for Azure Files.
As of now, you must start with at least 4 TiB for ANF, for AZF it is only 100 GiB – if you only have a small scenario, then AZF scores here.
Hybrid connectivity is another important point for my customer – ANF is fully private with no way to expose it to the internet, AZF is accessible via the internet, privately via Private Link (additional cost!) or via ExpressRoute Microsoft Peering. Internet access can be disabled for AZF, too.
Azure NetApp Files
Azure Files Premium
Transaction & data transfer prices
Throughput (single volume/share)
Ultra: 128MiB/s per provisioned TiB (auto)
Premium: 64 MiB/s per provisioned TiB (auto)
Standard: 16MiB/s per provisioned TiB (auto)
Egress: 60MiB/s + 61.44 MiB/s per provisioned TiB Ingress: 40MiB/s + 40.96 MiB/s per provisioned TiB
Please note: Features and performance may have changed since publishing this post – please verify! For ANF there is a “What’s new page”, for AZF you can check Azure Update.
Now let us look at the service level. ANF is more flexible, file shares can be divided in 3 performance tiers, AZF has two tiers. If you provision large, 100 TB shares with ANF, you get 1600 MiB/s throughput with the standard tier – even for single files (file level throughput depending on volume size or manual quota). The flexibility on the ANF side is a big benefit.
Changing the service level on ANF can be done – please be aware of the cooldown period. Doing the same for AZF is possible, but its not as easy as with ANF.
The last two rows are very important regarding performance – both nconnect and multichannel allow to have multiple connections to the same to ANF drastically improving the bandwidth. Great stuff.
Comparing the identity aspects, then both integrate into a on-premises Active Directory. AZF requires to have the identities synced to Azure Active Directory (AAD), ANF directly integrates into Active Directory.
Encryption-wise, AZF supports SMB encryption – ANF does not have this yet.
Hopefully, this comparison helps you to make decisions.