It never ceases to amaze me how rapidly Microsoft Azure continues to bring capabilities to market, and the latest example of NFS 4.1 support for Azure Files is no exception. An NFS file share in Azure supplements existing file share capabilities with SMB shares. Having an NFS file share at face value may seem like adding another storage protocol, but it has much more impact than that. Think of migrating existing applications to Azure, especially those that have unique characteristics such as being built around an NFS share or a Linux-heavy deployment. On the other side of the realm of possibility, consider if you have moved an application to a newer platform and need to hold on to a legacy deployment globally accessible in Azure. Migrating file shares and more are all possible in Azure now.

What are Azure Files?

What exactly is this then? This is a new type of file share that is supported for Azure storage accounts that supports NFS. Azure Files has supported the SMB 3.0 protocol from the start, and has now added support for NFS 4.1. NFS 4.1 on Azure Files runs on Premium Storage. This is critical as it will be ready to support any enterprise-class file workload. The news gets better as Veeam Backup & Replication can back up both NFS and SMB shares in Azure right now. Whether these files are for a mission-critical or legacy application, an Azure-hosted Windows Virtual Desktop, or any use case you can think of Azure storage accounts, bring many cloud storage options.

Backup Azure NFS file shares

Let’s break this down a bit. One of the most anticipated capabilities was the Enhanced NAS Backup that came in Veeam Backup & Replication v10. In my 10 years at Veeam, I’ve never had such enthusiasm for an upcoming capability, and it truly rocks. Everything from the smart incremental backups, scalability, long-term storage options in cloud storage such as Azure Blob and more (including lesser expensive storage types) made this a home run.

The excitement doesn’t need to be limited to on-premises file data profiles, however. Azure file shares can enjoy this backup capability as well. The figure below shows an Azure NFS File Share within a storage account:

From there, it’s easy to create a backup of Azure file shares. One of my favorite use cases of the Veeam backup engine for NAS or file systems is the fact that you can use it as a migration tool. Consider the on-premises legacy application moving to Azure Files, this is made easy as well when you consider Veeam’s Cloud Mobility capabilities with Veeam Direct Restore to Microsoft Azure that let image-based backups easily restore to Azure, including VMs as well as Windows and Linux physical servers and workstations.

Adding an NFS share that is hosted in an Azure storage account is straightforward and easy. What’s even better is you don’t need to have a Linux system performing an NFS mount for the Veeam backup to succeed, the share is mounted as needed for the backup. Like any Azure deployment, consideration should be given to the networking to ensure minimal latency and high performance. I have an NFS share that is in a storage account that is part of a resource pool (that also has the Azure VM with Veeam Backup & Replication installed on it) on a designated virtual network. The figure below shows an Azure storage account with an NFS share being inventoried in Veeam Backup & Replication:

Once the share is there, guess what? It just works! Would you expect anything less? You can find more information on the new Azure Storage NFS support in this Microsoft Docs link.

Locally redundant storage

Now that we have a backup engine, we have some interesting portability options. This includes cross-region backup and restore capabilities. While this is a central theme at Veeam (portability) this is an incredible opportunity to, from the start, deploy NFS and SMB file shares in Azure with multiple regions supported. Likewise, you could back up NFS and SMB file shares on premises and restore them to Azure. Powerful!

Possibly the most important consideration comes down to how Azure storage works. For example, standard file shares can use GRS (Geo-Redundant Storage) for a resiliency technique in Azure. However, premium shares cannot leverage GRS. Veeam Backup & Replication bridges that gap, enabling you to achieve geographic redundancy for your premium shares by backing them up to a storage account in another region.

You can see the performance and replication configuration for an NFS share in the Azure portal below:

Many NAS backup users have loved this capability for one single pain point removed in the industry: incremental backups. When subsequent backup job sessions are run, Veeam Backup & Replication copies only files and folders that have changed since the last backup job session through a powerful changed file tracking engine that works on Azure NFS and SMB shares. In addition, the file proxies will back up Azure files quickly and have compression for storage efficiency.

Using this new capability requires Veeam Backup & Replication v10a, but otherwise this is a straightforward process and easy to use. If you want to get started, you can download Veeam Backup & Replication Community Edition or a free trial of the fully-functional editions.

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