Announcing Windows Azure Import/Export Service Preview

Announcing Windows Azure Import/Export Service Preview

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Windows Azure Storage team is excited to announce the preview of Windows Azure Import/Export service which provides an efficient solution for importing large amounts of on- premise data into Windows Azure Blobs or exporting your Windows Azure Blobs to you!

In this blog post, we will walk you through information regarding high level capabilities, how to enroll, getting started and when to use this service.

What is Windows Azure Import/Export service?

As described in our Getting Started Guide, Windows Azure Import/Export enables moving large amounts of data in and out of Windows Azure Blobs into your Windows Azure Storage account. You can ship TBs of encrypted data via hard disk drives through FedEx to our data centers where Microsoft’s high-speed internal network is used to transfer the data to or from your blob storage account.

The following requirements need to be followed:

  • The devices need to be up to 4TB 3.5 inch SATA II internal hard drives. Note, it easy to attach an off the shelf SATA II drive to most any machine using a USB connector allowing you to easily transfer data to/from your machine to the SATA II drive. See an example of connectors in the table below.
  • Drives shipped are required to be encrypted using BitLocker key.

To make drive preparation easy, we have provided a tool called WAImportExport.exe. More information on how to use the tool can be found here. Once the drives are prepared, you can login into Windows Azure Management Portal to

  1. Create Import/Export jobs
  2. Obtain the shipping address to the data center for where to ship the disks to
  3. Update the job with tracking numbers once the drives are shipped using FedEx to the location provided in step (2) above
  4. Manage the import/export jobs and monitor progress

The following MSDN article talks in depth about the steps involved and also answers some of the frequently asked questions. In addition to the management portal, you can also use the REST interface to create or manage your import/export jobs.

Management Interface

Users can choose one of the following methods to interface with Windows Azure Import/Export service:

  1. Windows Azure Management Portal Interface to manage jobs.
  2. REST Interface

Encryption

Mandatory requirement to encrypt data in the drive with a BitLocker key

Supported Device

3.5 inch SATA II hard drives

Note: You can easily transfer your data from your machine via USB to a SATA II drive by using one of the SATA to USB adaptors:

  • Anker 68UPSATAA-02BU
  • Anker 68UPSHHDS-BU
  • Startech SATADOCK22UE

Supported Maximum Disk Capacity

4 TB

Maximum Number of Jobs per Azure Subscription

20

Maximum number of drives per job

10

Supported file format

NTFS

Shipping

The following shipping options are available:

  • Packages(s) for an import job can be shipped either with FedEx Express or FedEx Ground.
  • Return shipping is free and provided via FedEx Ground.
Table 1 Quick requirement overview

When to use Windows Azure Import/Export Service?

If you have TB’s of data, Windows Azure Import/Export can move data in and out of Windows Azure blobs much faster than uploading and downloading data over the Internet.

The factors that come into play when choosing are to use the import/export service versus transferring the data over the internet are:

  1. How much data needs to be imported/exported?
    • What is network bandwidth to the region I want to copy data into or from?
    • What is cost of bandwidth?
  2. Does the preview support my region?

Large data sets take very long time to upload or download over the internet. 10 TB could take years over T1 (1.5Mbps) or a month over T3 (44.7 Mbps). Customers can ship the drive using Windows Azure Import/Export service and significantly cut down the data upload or download time. The Windows Azure Import/Export service would take only a handful of days in addition to shipping time to transfer the data versus weeks/months/years for transferring the data over the internet.

Customers can calculate the time it would take to transfer their data over the internet. If it is more than a handful of days and the import/export service is available for their region, then they should consider using Windows Azure Import/Export service. However, for customers already having good peering or for smaller amounts of data, Windows Azure Copy tool could instead be used to efficiently import/export data from/to on premise.

Regions Supported

The Import/Export service can only accept shipments that originate from U.S. locations during preview release, and can return packages only to U.S. addresses. The service supports importing data to and exporting data from storage accounts in the following regions:

  • East US
  • West US
  • North Central US
  • South Central US
  • North Europe
  • West Europe
  • East Asia
  • Southeast Asia

Note, the import/export service currently runs in only a few of the U.S. regions for preview. This means you may need to ship your drives to a different region from where you storage account resides.  If the storage account is different from the region to which you have to ship the drives you will see “The selected datacenter region and storage account region are not the same” in the portal when creating the job.

If your storage account resides in a European or Asian data center, you must ship your drive to one of the supported regions in the U.S., and the shipment must originate from within the U.S. The Import/Export service will then copy the data to or from your storage account in Europe or Asia.

Pricing

The Windows Azure Import/Export service will charge a drive handling fees of $80 per drive, and during the preview the drive handling fee will be at a discounted rate of $40 per drive. Regular storage transactions will apply for putting (import) and getting (export) the blobs from your storage account.

For import jobs, there is no ingress charge for the copy operation.

For export jobs, there will be data transfers fees for copying data between Windows Azure regions. For example, if your storage account resides in West Europe and you ship your drive to the East US data center, you will incur egress charges for moving the data from West Europe to East US in order to export it. In contrast, if your storage account resides in West US and you are told to ship your disks to West US then there are no egress charges for your export job.

More details on pricing can be found here.

How to enroll in the preview release?

This preview release is available only to users with a token. If you are interested in using this service, please send an email to waimportexport@microsoft.com with the following information:

  1. Regions you are interested in importing or exporting data to or from respectively
  2. Amount of data you would like to import or export
  3. The storage account name you want to import or export data to.

We will review the information before approving your request to allow you to use the service.

Summary

We are continuously making improvements to make this service better and very much value your feedback. Please feel free to leave comments and questions below or send an email to waimportexport@microsoft.com.

Please make sure to review legal supplemental terms of use for Windows Azure Import/Export Service prior to using this service.

 

Aung Oo, Jai Haridas and Brad Calder

 

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