What is our primary use case?
I think Azure has three versions. They have Block Blob Storage, then they also have the Gen1 and the Gen2 versions. Gen2 was kind of under review until just recently in 2020, but I think they have officially launched Gen2 now. Block Storage is an Azure product, but I am not sure if it has a version. I just know it as Azure Block Blob Storage.
Our use case for Block Storage came about when we were building a database for one of our customers on public storage. The customer kept their data on-premises and on their own servers. We would get that data from them and put it into the Block Storage. So Block was being used as a file depository.
What is most valuable?
I think there are several valuable features in the product. The security technically is good, but they require a lot of security rules to be set up. Even so, it was kind of easy to configure. So the security is good.
I think the ease-of-use is also good because we can even upload files up from one machine onto other blob storage, another nice feature that is also provided. Apart from that, Azure also provides Azure Storage Explorer, which can be used to access Blob data once you map it onto a local machine.
I think also its scalability is a good feature. You can put terabytes of data into Blob Storage. So that is also one of the beneficial features of Blob.
What needs improvement?
Azure had the Blob version prior to Block. Azure also realized that Blob Storage did not really have any main space. So, that was a limitation of the Azure Blob product. But that is also the reason why they decided to develop the Gen2 version, which puts back all the right structure for the storage and capacity.
So, it is good to explore Gen2 as another solution. I think most of the users would eventually move from Blob Storage to Gen2 only because of the space limitations of Blob.
You also do not see the kind of folder search capability in Blob that you might expect. Like when you are in windows, you can just go to a particular folder and you can browse within that folder and you can go into subfolders and search there as well. That feature is kind of missing in the Blob product.
So the inability to easily search subfolders and also the space limitation of Blob are really the biggest limitations of the product.
What I would like to see in the next release — and I am not really sure if it is possible in cloud solutions — but it would be nice to provide a feature for being able to distribute large files.
For how long have I used the solution?
I was using Azure Block Storage for almost all of 2019.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
I think it a stable product.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
It is scalable.
I think our team that worked on the Blob project was about ten members. That company was would qualify as a large company itself. This was a new solution that we were going to build for the company. I would say the size of their team was smaller than ours, but in terms of the team size and what they needed for maintenance, I think Azure Block was an adequate product to use.
We had one admin on the team which is kind of required to set it up because of the security aspect. But I think Azure Block can be set up by just the developer alone. The main users of Azure Blob are always mostly developers and testers.
How are customer service and technical support?
I have had only one experience with Azure technical support and that was not for Blob. It was something else. But I am still really in touch with Azure support. I had put a call over there pending for a priority-one ticket. They have continued calling me to see if things are going okay and they are very friendly. So I would say I could definitely rate their technical support as nine-out-of-ten.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
When we approached the project for the client who we first deployed Block Storage for, this was a new platform for this customer. We looked at new opportunities. Prior to this, I used Hadoop. I was not the biggest consumer of the product but gained enough experience while using Hadoop as a file storage solution to see enough to know that setting it up takes a while. It was not very user-friendly. Azure is not even comparable because it is very user-friendly.
How was the initial setup?
Azure Blob Storage is very straightforward to setup. It is just about setting up a storage account, putting in a container, and that is all. It is pretty easy. It really takes just a few minutes.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
I have been looking into data warehousing technology for quite some time. I have experience on Teradata and I have experience on Azure. I have used Azure Data Factory and I have used Azure Databricks. I have been happy with the Azure products so this has played into my decisions.
What other advice do I have?
The advice I would give people about Block Storage is that I might recommend the product based upon the use cases and storage needs. Otherwise, if they are looking for something more robust, I would recommend using the Gen2 version, which is the biggest storage system of the Azure options.
On a scale from one to ten where one is the worst and ten is the best, I would rate Microsoft Azure Block Storage as at least seven-out-of-ten. This is a seven primarily because of this Gen2 release. When it comes down to it, Gen2 is a more advanced product and other than when it comes to the price most of the users will not see Block Storage as a better solution.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?