Microsoft Azure Data Box Disk Test Drive Review #blogtobertech

October 31, 2018 – 6:53 pm
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Microsoft Azure Data Box Test Drive #blogtobertech

Microsoft Azure Data Box Test Drive #blogtobertech

Microsoft Azure Data Box Test Drive is part three of four series looking at Data Box. View Part 1 Microsoft announced Azure Data Box updatesPart 2 Microsoft Azure Data Box Family, and Part 4 Microsoft Azure Data Box Disk Impressions.

Getting Started

The workflow for using Data Box involves selecting with the type of Data Box to use via the Microsoft Azure portal (here), or Data Box Family page (here).

Getting Started via the Microsoft Azure Data Box Family Page image via Microsoft.com
Getting Started via the Microsoft Azure Data Box Family Page image via Microsoft.com

First step of ordering a Data Box is to specify your Azure subscription, type of operation (e.g., import data into Azure, or export out), source country/region and destination Azure region.

Selecting Data Box from Azure Portal
Selecting Data Box from Azure Portal

The next step is to determine what type of Data Box, in this test I choose 40 TB Data Box Disks. Make a note of fees to avoid any surprises.

Selecting Data Box Disks (40 TB) From Azure Portal
Selecting Data Box Disks (40 TB) From Azure Portal

After selecting the type of Data Box, fill in storage account information using an existing resource, or create new ones as needed. Make a note of these selections as you will need them after the copy is done as this is where your data will be located.

Specify Azure Storage Account Information Where Data Will Transfer To
Specify Azure Storage Account Information Where Data Will Transfer To

Once the order is placed, an email is received confirming the order and also being a preview, indicating that it might take ten days to hear a status update or availability of the devices.

Email notification received after the order is placed
Email notification received after the order is placed

After about ten days, I was contacted by Microsoft via an email (not shown) confirming the amount of data to be copied to determine how many disks would be needed. Once this was confirmed with Microsoft, a status update was noted on the Azure dashboard.

Azure Data Box Dashboard Status after order placed
Azure Data Box Dashboard Status after order placed

After a few days, a box arrived with the Data Box disks, cables and return shipping labels enclosed. Also received was an email notification indicating the disks had arrived.

Email notice Data Box has arrived on site
Email notice Data Box has arrived on site (on-prem if you prefer)

The following is the physical box that contains the Data Box disks that I received from Microsoft.

The shipping box with Data Box Disks arrives
The shipping box with Data Box Disks arrives

Once you get the Data Box, go to the Azure portal for Data Box and access the tools. There are tools and commands for Windows as well as Linux that are needed for accessing and unlocking the disks. This is where you also obtain device IDs. You will also need to have the access key phrase you specified in an earlier step as part of placing the order.

Access Data Box Software Tools and Keys from Azure Portal
Access Data Box Software Tools and Keys from Azure Portal

Inside the shipping box was a pair of 8 TB SATA SSDs, SATA to USB cables, along with return shipping labels.

Contents inside the shipping box, two Data Box 8 TB disks
Contents inside the shipping box, two Data Box 8 TB disks

From the Azure portal, access the device IDs that will be needed along with passphrase for obtaining and unlocking the Data Box disks. You will also want to download the tools as well as follow other instructions on the portal for accessing disks.

Azure Data Box tools, device IDs and Keys
Azure Data Box tools, device IDs and Keys

The Windows system I used for testing is a virtual machine hosted on a VMware vSphere ESXi 6.7 host. After physically attaching the Data Box Disks to the VM host, a virtual or software attachment was done by adding USB devices to the VM.

Virtual Attach of Data Box Disks to VMware vSphere ESXi host and guest VM
Virtual Attach of Data Box Disks to VMware vSphere ESXi host and guest VM

Once the VM had the Data Box disks attached and mapped, they appeared to Windows. After downloading the Data Box software tools and unlocking the devices, they were ready to copy data to. Note that the disks appear as a regular Windows device once unlocked. Simply using bit locker does not unlock the drives, you need to use the Data Box tools. Speaking of Windows disks, there are a couple of folders on the Data Box disk when shipped including one for Block Blob and Page Blob along with verification items.

View of Data Box Disks (8 TB each) after attaching to Windows system
View of Data Box Disks (8 TB each) after attaching to Windows system

Note that you are given several days as part of the base transfer cost, then extra days apply. Since I had a few extra days, I used some of the excess capacity to do some staging and reorganization of data before the actual copy.

Data copy is done using your choice of tools, for example, Robocopy among many others. I used a combination of Robocopy, Retrospect among others. Also, note that for most data place them in the folder or directory structure of your choice in the Block Blob folder. Page Blobs are for VHDX to be used with virtual machines on Azure. After spending a few days to copy the data I wanted to move along with performing verification, it was time to pack up the devices.

As a reminder, blobs are analogous to and what Microsoft Azure refers to instead of objects (e.g., object storage). Also remember that Azure blobs include block, page (512-byte page aligned for VHDX) and append (similar to other vendors object storage). Microsoft Azure in addition to blobs, supports file (SMB and NFS) access, along with table (database) and queue storage services.

The following shows the return label attached to the shipping box that contains the Data Box disks and cables. I also included a copy of the shipping label inside the box just in case something happened during shipment. Once prepared for delivery, I took the box to a local UPS store where I received a shipment receipt (not shown). Later that day I also received an email from Microsoft indicating the shipment was in-progress.

Data Box disks packaged with return receipt (was in the box)
Data Box disks packaged with return receipt (was in the box)

The Azure portal shows status of Data Box shipment being sent to Microsoft, along with a follow-up email notification.

Azure Data Box portal status
Azure Data Box portal status

Email notification of Data Box on the way to Microsoft.

Notice data box is on the way to Azure
Notice data box is on the way to Azure

After a few days’ ways, checking the Azure Portal shows the Data Box arrived at Microsoft and copied operations underway. Remember the storage account you specified back in the early steps is where you will look for your data. This is something I think Microsoft can improve on by providing a link, or some reminder of where the data is being copied to in the status. Likewise, a copy completion email notice would be handy after getting used to the other alerts previous in the process.

Azure Data Box portal showing disk copy operation status
Azure Data Box portal showing disk copy operation status

Looking at the Azure storage account specified during the ordering process in the Blob storage resources the contents of the Data Box Disks can be found.

Contents of Data Box disks copied into specified Azure Blobs and storage account
Contents of Data Box disks copied into specified Azure Blobs and storage account

The following shows folders that I had copied from on-prem systems to the Data Box now located in the proper Azure Block Blobs. Not shown are Page blobs where I moved some VHDXs.

xMission accomplished, data folders now stored in Azure block blobs
Mission accomplished, data folders now stored in Azure block blobs

Where to learn more

Learn more about Microsoft Azure Data Box, Clouds and Data Infrastructure related trends, tools, technologies and topics via the following links:

Additional learning experiences along with common questions (and answers), as well as tips can be found in Software Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials book.

Software Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials Book SDDC

What this all means

Overall the test drive of the Azure Data Box Disk solution was positive, and look forward to trying out some of the other Data Box solutions, both offline and online options in the future. Continue reading Part 4 Microsoft Azure Data Box Disk Impressions as part of this series including Microsoft Azure Data Box Disk Test Drive Review.

Ok, nuff said, for now.

Cheers Gs

Greg Schulz – Microsoft MVP Cloud and Data Center Management, VMware vExpert 2010-2018. Author of Software Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials (CRC Press), as well as Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press), Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier) and twitter @storageio. Courteous comments are welcome for consideration. First published on https://storageioblog.com any reproduction in whole, in part, with changes to content, without source attribution under title or without permission is forbidden.

All Comments, (C) and (TM) belong to their owners/posters, Other content (C) Copyright 2006-2018 Server StorageIO and UnlimitedIO. All Rights Reserved. StorageIO is a registered Trade Mark (TM) of Server StorageIO.