Keep your files and volumes available with Windows Server 2016 and Microsoft Azure

Hi Community,

after having a great time at the MVP Summit and finishing chapter six of my first book. I wanted to turn some more effort into my blog again. The first thing I wanted to talk about is a scenario to expand your Windows Server 2016 Storage into the cloud and keep it available over branches.

The Scenario and use cases

Sometimes I have customers who need to have caches for fileservers and storage within their branch offices. In the past I needed expensive storage devices, complex software or I used DFS-R to transfer files.

With Windows Server 2016 we got Storage Replication, which gave me new opportunities to think about.

First Scenario I tried and built was with Windows Server 2016 based fileservers to replace DFS-R and establish asynchrony replication based on byte and not file level to reduce traffic etc.

You can use this kind of replication to move for file or backup data into the cloud.

The Technologies

What technologies did I use.

Windows Server 2016 Storage replication:

You can use Storage Replica to configure two servers to sync data so that each has an identical copy of the same volume. This topic provides some background of this server-to-server replication configuration, as well as how to set it up and manage the environment.

Source: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server-docs/storage/storage-replica/server-to-server-storage-replication

Microsoft Azure VMs https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/services/virtual-machines/windows/ 

The Infrastructure Architecture

In the first place you need a fileserver as source and fileserver as target. You need also to ensure that the data you want to replicate are on a different volume than the data that stays onsite.

1

The source can either run on Hardware or which would be the most cost efficient way on Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V Cluster together with other virtual machines like Domain Controller, Backupserver, Webserver or Database. With this kind of cluster you would also save the license costs for the Fileserver Datacenter License because you can use the Host License with AVMA and you can leverage the Windows Server 2016 License Mobility to Azure. Which enables you to use your Windows Server License for Azure virtual machines.

2

 

The Azure virtual machine should be a DS3 or above, because you need at least two disks. If you want to replicate more disks, you should be able to add more disks.

3

 

From the Network Site you need to implement VPN Site to Site Connection between your offices and Azure. You need a performance gateway to get the necessary throughput and latency. I would recommend to use Microsoft ExpressRoute and MPLS.

4

Scenarios how to use those fileserver Volumes

The first scenario I tested so far, was to get a geo redundant standby system for a fileserver with profile data and shares. Both Servers do not run in a cluster (didn’t try that yet). Both servers are part of an DFS-N. The on premises server is the primary DFS-N target for the clients. The fileserver in Azure is the secondary target. The secondary fileserver is disabled as target for Clients in DFS-N. The  access will be on the primary fileserver and the storage information will be replicated to secondary fileserver.

5

 

As long as everything went fine, you have only incoming traffic to Azure with no costs for traffic. If the primary volume or fileserver went offline you switch to the secondary fileserver by enabling the secondary fileserver in DFS-N and swapping the target volume to active. You can either do this manually or trigger it via automation services and monitoring e.g. Azure Automation and Operations Management Suite or System Center Operations Manager.

6

You can also use the fileserver as target for different fileservers.

7

 

A different approached could be achieved when using this scenario for backup. First you backup your data to the primary fileshare or volume and replicate it to the cloud.

8

After you finished the backup you switch the volume and transfer the backup to a cheaper location e.g. Azure Cold Storage Accounts.

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The Pro’s and Con’s

Pro Con
Easy to use ExpressRoute needed for best performance
Azure License for Azure VM might be covered by your on premises license Not documented yet and only Proof of concept
No need for expensive Storage Systems
Great to replicate File Data and Backups into the cloud

 

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3 Responses to Keep your files and volumes available with Windows Server 2016 and Microsoft Azure

  1. Hi Flo,

    what is you best DFS-N practice for the Client site?
    If one DFS-N node will fail. the Client need some time bevor recognize (cache)…?

  2. Pingback: “Cache Zones” with Storage Spaces Direct & Hyper-V for Azure & AWS – Flo's Datacenter Report

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