Microsoft Heats Up Cold Storage War With Archive Blob

Microsoft introduced the lowest-cost storage option Wednesday to its Azure public cloud, challenging rivals Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform in a heating cold storage market.

Archive Blob Storage, launched in public preview, will be the Redmond, Wash.-based cloud giant's cheapest tier, intended to preserve data that's so rarely accessed, in the past it might have been discarded, said Kumail Hussain, senior program manager for Azure, in a Microsoft blog post.

The new option responds to archival solutions from Azure's top competitors – Google Coldline and AWS Glacier. Microsoft hasn't yet released pricing information for storing data in, or retrieving it from, Archive Blob Storage.

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Cold storage solutions are increasingly in demand as organizations discover the old data they thought had little value can yield important insights under the scrutiny of modern analytic techniques.

"Customers want to keep more of these data sets for a longer period but need a scalable and cost-effective solution to do so," Hussain said.

Archive Blob Storage builds on Cool Blob Storage, an option Microsoft introduced last year to reduce costs for customers looking to preserve data they rarely touched.

The new option presents the common cold storage tradeoff of even greater latency—on the order of hours to retrieve data, according to Hussain. All data in the tier is stored under encryption.

Microsoft expects Archive Blob to prove valuable to cloud customers obligated by industry continuity and compliance mandates to preserve specific data, like medical and financial records, Hussain said.

And advances in analytics and artificial intelligence are convincing many customers that data once thought worthless could have untapped value, he said.

Microsoft also on Wednesday introduced Blob-Level Tiering--the option of changing the access-level of data across Azure's three Blob storage tiers: hot, cool and archive.

Jim Hays, a solutions architect at New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner, said the ability to easily transition data across those tiers would have an even bigger impact on customers than the cold storage option alone.

Partners will be able to optimize their clients' spending by quickly and easily converting storage to different tiers through the Azure portal interface or programmatically, he said.

"This will allow clients to reevaluate and potentially greatly simplify their backup and archive strategies," Hays told CRN.

At the same time, "opportunistic enterprise backup and archiving software vendors will also benefit from leveraging these new options within their software’s architecture and feature set," he said

Drew Mellen, cloud services director at Trace3, a Microsoft partner based in Irvine, Calif., told CRN the new storage option shows Microsoft is "listening to the industry, assessing the competition and continuing to step up their game."

"The availability of archive level storage now enables partners to aid businesses with their end-to-end data management strategy, aligning it with the most appropriate storage tier based on access requirements," Mellen said.