Announcing Microsoft Azure Import/Export Service GA

Announcing Microsoft Azure Import/Export Service GA

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We are pleased to announce the GA Release of Microsoft Azure Import/Export service!

The preview release has been available in U.S. since November of 2013. We have made improvements to the existing features and also incorporated new features based on working with our preview customers.

In this blog post, we will walk you through information regarding new features in GA, high level capabilities, getting started and when to use this service.

What is New in GA?

We added several key features and improvements in GA release.

  • Available in more regions: In addition to being available in U.S. during preview, the service is now available in Europe and Asia Pacific. Customers who have storage accounts in any of the supported regions can ship the packages to the data center within those regions to import/export their data. There is a section later in this blog which explains more about supported regions and shipping details.
  • Available to all customers: We no longer require customers to obtain a token from us to use the service. Anyone who has a storage account in one of the supported regions will be able to use it.
  • Support for more hardware interfaces: During preview, we officially supported only SATA II drives. We now officially support both SATA II and III drive interfaces.
  • Convenience in return shipping: We can now bill to the customer’s carrier account number for return shipping. The customer needs to provide an account number from one of the supported carrier. This option enables customers to continue enjoy savings on shipping services, if they already have discounted pricing with a carrier.
  • Enhanced tooling: We made several improvements in WAImportExport tool to provide better customer experience:
    • We officially support three USB to SATA converters but incorporated several improvement in making the tool work with the majority of non-supported converters. This allows customers to try out the convertors that they already have to see if it works with the tool before purchasing one of the three supported converters.
    • Using the WAImportExport tool, customers can calculate the number of hard drives based on the available drive size and the amount of data that customers want to export.
    • The WAImportExport tool now provides more precise error messages and recovery options. If there is an issue during drive preparation, the tool generates a repair file along with the detailed errors so that the customer can rerun the tool by providing a repair file as an input to repair the errors.

What is Microsoft Azure Import/Export service?

As described in our Getting Started Guide, Microsoft Azure Import/Export enables moving large amounts of data in and out of Microsoft Azure Blobs into your Microsoft Azure Storage account. You can ship TBs of encrypted data in hard disk drives through FedEx to our data center 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:

  1. The devices need to be up to 4TB 3.5 inch SATA II/III internal hard drives. However, if you prefer USB devices, one of the recommended converters listed in below table can be used to transfer data in/out of SATA from/to USB devices prior to sending or after receiving the drives.
  2. Drives shipped require 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 Microsoft Azure Management Portal to

  1. Create Import/Export jobs
  2. Obtain the shipping address to the data center
  3. Update the job with tracking numbers once the drives are shipped using a supported carrier to the location provided in step 2 above
  4. Manage the import/export jobs and monitor progress
  5. Optional step: If there is a failure during an import/export process, the customer can use WAImportExport tool to repair the job.

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 Microsoft Azure Import/Export service:

  1. Microsoft 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/III hard drives

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

1. Anker 68UPSATAA-02BU

2. Anker 68UPSHHDS-BU

3. Startech SATADOCK22UE

Supported Maximum Disk Capacity

4 TB

Maximum Number of Jobs per Storage Account

20

Maximum number of drives per job

10

Supported file format

NTFS

Table 1 Quick requirement overview

When to use Microsoft Azure Import/Export Service?

Large data sets take very long time to upload or download over the network. 10 TB takes 2 years over T1 (1.5Mbps) or 1 month over T3 (44.7 Mbps). Customers can ship the drive using Microsoft Azure Import/Export service and significantly cut down the data upload or download time. The Microsoft Azure Import/Export service can take up to several days in addition to shipping as against weeks or months using a T1 or T3 link.

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

The factors that come into play when choosing are:

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

Customers can calculate the time it would take over their network. If it is less than several days and the import/export service is available for their region, then they should choose Microsoft Azure Import/Export service. However, for customers already having good peering or for smaller amounts of data, Microsoft Azure Copy tool described here can be used to import/export data from/to on premise.

Regions Supported

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

If you have a storage account in one of the supported regions, you will ship your drive to the physical location of your storage account. Our service will provide you a shipping address to ship your package upon successful creation of an import/export job.

You must follow the following important legal disclaimer when shipping cross international borders.

Please note that the physical media that you are shipping may need to cross international borders. You are responsible for ensuring the physical media and data are permitted to be imported and/or exported in accordance with the applicable laws. Before shipping the physical media, check with your advisors to ensure the media and data can be shipped to the identified data center to help ensure that it reaches us in a timely manner.

For instance, if your storage account resides in an European data center but you are shipping your package from U.S., it is your responsibility to ensure that you comply with all the applicable laws and complete all necessary forms to ship your package from U.S. to EU to avoid any delays. Microsoft is not responsible and will not engage with authorities to retrieve your package.

Pricing

The Microsoft Azure Import/Export service will charge a drive handling fees of $80 per drive.

Regular storage transactions charges 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.

More details on pricing can be found here.

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, on the Azure Storage MSDN forum or send an email to waimportexport@microsoft.com.

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

Aung Oo, Jai Haridas, Pradnya Khadapkar and Brad Calder

Resources

Getting Started guide

Download WAImportExport.exe tool

WAImportExport.exe guide

Microsoft Azure Import/Export Service REST interface

Pricing details

Microsoft Azure Copy tool

Microsoft Azure Services Terms

Supplemental Terms of Use for Microsoft Azure Previews and Microsoft Azure Import/Export Service

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