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Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024

Azure Disk Storage Fundamentals

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Speaker
Prerita Agarwal
Data Specialist @
23 Jul, 2024 @ 01:30 PM

Introduction

Microsoft provides an intelligent solution for modern-day storage problems: Azure Storage. Several types of storage devices are used in storage networking, but the disk drive is by far the most important. If Harry Truman had worked in the storage network industry, he would have said the buck stops at the disk drive. Disk drive technology is as impressive as any other IT technology, with remarkable capabilities and physical characteristics. In this article, we will explore the subassemblies that make up a disk drive, discuss their strengths and limitations, and specifications.

What is Azure Disk Storage?

Azure Disk Storage provides disks for virtual machines. As with on-premises scenarios, applications and other services can access and use these disks as needed. An attached virtual hard drive allows data to be persistently stored and accessed. Disk drives have almost become ubiquitous gadgets available at volume discounts that we take for granted. 

Azure Disk Storage Fundamentals

Disks for Azure virtual machines are provided by Disk Storage. These disks can be accessed by applications and other services as needed, similar to how they would in on-premises scenarios. With disk storage, data is persistently stored on a virtual hard drive and can be accessed from it whenever needed.

Disks are available in various sizes and performance levels, SSD, HDD, etc., with varying performance tiers. You can use standard SSD and HDD disks for less critical workloads, premium SSD disks for mission-critical production applications, and ultra disks for data-intensive workloads such as SAP HANA, top-tier databases, and transaction-heavy workloads. Azure has consistently delivered enterprise-grade durability for infrastructure as a service (Iaas) disks, with an industry-leading ZERO% annualized failure rate.

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Major Parts of a Disk Drive

A disk drive is composed of several highly specialised parts and subassemblies designed to carry out a very narrowly defined purpose. These components are: 

1. Disk Platters

A platter is the physical media where data is stored in a disk drive. A disk platter is a rigid, thin circle that spins under the power of a drive spindle motor. Platters are built out of three primary layers:

a. The substrate: It gives the platter its rigid form

b. The magnetic layer: It is where data is stored

c. A protective overcoat layer: It helps minimize damage to the disk drive from microscopically sized dust particles

2. Read and Write heads

Read and write heads are the recording heads utilized for transmitting data to and from the platter. They record and play back data stored on disk platters' magnetic layers. As they write, they imprint magnetic signals on the magnetic molecules in the media, and as they read, they detect those signals. Disk drives' performance and capacity depend heavily on the technology used in their heads. 

3. Read/Write channel

Data is often viewed as a digital signal, but the actual recording is an analog signal. Somehow, digital logic has to be translated into magnetic media-friendly 0s and 1s. A disk drive's read/write channel provides a specialized digital/analog conversion. Signal processing techniques and signal amplifiers are used to implement the read/write channel in small, high-speed integrated circuits. 

4. Arms and actuators

As read and write heads are tiny, they are connected to disk arms that are thin, rigid, triangular pieces of lightweight alloys. Each disk arm is made with microscopic precision to ensure the read/write heads are precisely positioned next to the platters. Disk arms are connected to the drive actuator at the base, which positions them. The actuator's movements are controlled by voice-coil drivers, similar to the coils used in audio speakers. 

5. Drive Spindle motor and servo control electronics

Over long periods of time, the drive platters rotate under the power of the spindle motor. Most drive failures are due to motor failures. This does not mean the motors are poorly designed, but they constantly strive to increase speed while using less energy and noise and tightening tolerances. A spindle connects the platters to the motor's drive shaft. 

6. Buffer Memory

Disk drives have internal buffer memory to accelerate data transmissions between the drive and the storage controller.. Buffer memory in disk drives can improve I/O performance for applications that read and write small chunks of randomly accessed data. Disk drives typically have buffer capacities between 2 MB and 16 MB.

7. Disk Controller

Each disk drive has an internal target controller that responds to commands from the host or subsystem. In addition to interacting with the external initiator, a disk drive's storage controller executes commands within the drive as well. Software for disk drive controllers is known as firmware, and it is typically stored in e-prom chips in the circuit board.

Disk Drive Specifications

Disk drive specifications can confuse you and make it difficult for you to interrupt. This section highlights the most critical specifications used with disk drives in storage networking applications:

  • Mean time between failuresMean time between failures (MTBF) indicates the expected reliability of disk drives. MTBF specifications help create expectations for how often disk drive failures will occur when many drives are in an environment. 
     
  • Rotational speed: The capability of a disk drive is often measured through its rotational speed in rpm. The faster a disk drive spins, the faster data can be written and read from the disk's media. A 15,000-rpm disk drive can do more than twice the amount of work as a 7200-rpm disk drive. 
     
  • Average seek time: Seek time measures the time it takes the actuator to reposition the read/write heads from one track to another over a platter.
     
  • Media transfer rate: The media transfer rate of a disk drive measures the performance of bit read/write operations on drive platters. The media transfer rate is listed in bits. 
     
  • Sustained transfer rate:  The sustained transfer rate specification considers the physical delays of seek time and is closer to measuring actual user data performance than the media transfer rate. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are storage accounts in Azure?

The Azure Storage platform is Microsoft's modern cloud storage solution for contemporary data storage problems. It offers highly functional, massively scalable, limitless(virtually), enduring, and secure storage for various data in the cloud. 

What are three types of Azure storage?

  • Private: This is the default storage. Data is available to the account owner.
  • Blob: This enables public read access.
  • Container: Allows list and read access to the entire container.

What is the difference between blob and container in Azure?

A container organizes a set of blobs, similar to a directory in a file system. A storage account can include an unlimited number of containers, and a container can store an unlimited number of blobs.

Conclusion

In this article, we have extensively discussed Azure Disk Storage fundamentals, its major parts and specifications. Having gone through this article, I am sure you must be excited to read similar blogs. Coding Ninjas has got you covered. Here are some similar blogs to redirect: How to Prepare for a Microsoft Azure Certification Exam?Microsoft AzureAWS Vs Azure Vs Google Cloud?Microsoft Azure Certification. We hope that this blog has helped you enhance your knowledge, and if you wish to learn more, check out our Coding Ninjas Blog site and visit our Library. Here are some courses provided by Coding Ninjas: Basics of C++ with DSACompetitive Programming and MERN Stack Web Development. Do upvote our blog to help other ninjas grow.

Happy Learning! 

Topics covered
1.
Introduction
2.
What is Azure Disk Storage?
2.1.
Azure Disk Storage Fundamentals
3.
Major Parts of a Disk Drive
3.1.
1. Disk Platters
3.2.
2. Read and Write heads
3.3.
3. Read/Write channel
3.4.
4. Arms and actuators
3.5.
5. Drive Spindle motor and servo control electronics
3.6.
6. Buffer Memory
3.7.
7. Disk Controller
4.
Disk Drive Specifications
5.
Frequently Asked Questions
5.1.
What are storage accounts in Azure?
5.2.
What are three types of Azure storage?
5.3.
What is the difference between blob and container in Azure?
6.
Conclusion