High-performance Premium Storage and managed disks for VMs

Azure Premium Storage delivers high-performance, low-latency disk support for virtual machines (VMs) with input/output (I/O)-intensive workloads. VM disks that use Premium Storage store data on solid-state drives (SSDs). To take advantage of the speed and performance of premium storage disks, you can migrate existing VM disks to Premium Storage.

In Azure, you can attach several premium storage disks to a VM. Using multiple disks gives your applications up to 256 TB of storage per VM. With Premium Storage, your applications can achieve 80,000 I/O operations per second (IOPS) per VM, and a disk throughput of up to 2,000 megabytes per second (MB/s) per VM. Read operations give you very low latencies.

With Premium Storage, Azure offers the ability to truly lift-and-shift demanding enterprise applications like Dynamics AX, Dynamics CRM, Exchange Server, SAP Business Suite, and SharePoint farms to the cloud. You can run performance-intensive database workloads in applications like SQL Server, Oracle, MongoDB, MySQL, and Redis, which require consistent high performance and low latency.

Note

For the best performance for your application, we recommend that you migrate any VM disk that requires high IOPS to Premium Storage. If your disk does not require high IOPS, you can help limit costs by keeping it in standard Azure Storage. In standard storage, VM disk data is stored on hard disk drives (HDDs) instead of on SSDs.

Azure offers two ways to create premium storage disks for VMs:

  • Unmanaged disks

    The original method is to use unmanaged disks. In an unmanaged disk, you manage the storage accounts that you use to store the virtual hard disk (VHD) files that correspond to your VM disks. VHD files are stored as page blobs in Azure storage accounts.

  • Managed disks

    When you choose Azure Managed Disks, Azure manages the storage accounts that you use for your VM disks. You specify the disk type (Premium or Standard) and the size of the disk that you need. Azure creates and manages the disk for you. You don't have to worry about placing the disks in multiple storage accounts to ensure that you stay within scalability limits for your storage accounts. Azure handles that for you.

We recommend that you choose managed disks, to take advantage of their many features.

To get started with Premium Storage, create your free Azure account.

For information about migrating your existing VMs to Premium Storage, see Convert a Windows VM from unmanaged disks to managed disks or Convert a Linux VM from unmanaged disks to managed disks.

Note

Premium Storage is available in most regions. For the list of available regions, in Azure services by region, look at the regions in which supported Premium Support size-series VMs (DS-series, DSV2-series, GS-series, and Fs-series VMs) are supported.

Features

Here are some of the features of Premium Storage:

  • Premium storage disks

    Premium Storage supports VM disks that can be attached to specific size-series VMs. Premium Storage supports DS-series, DSv2-series, GS-series, and Fs-series VMs. You have a choice of seven disk sizes: P4 (32GB), P6 (64GB), P10 (128GB), P20 (512GB), P30 (1024GB), P40 (2048GB), P50 (4095GB). P4 and P6 disk sizes are yet only supported for Managed Disks. Each disk size has its own performance specifications. Depending on your application requirements, you can attach one or more disks to your VM. We describe the specifications in more detail in Premium Storage scalability and performance targets.

  • Premium page blobs

    Premium Storage supports page blobs. Use page blobs to store persistent, unmanaged disks for VMs in Premium Storage. Unlike standard Azure Storage, Premium Storage does not support block blobs, append blobs, files, tables, or queues. Premium page blobs supports eight sizes from P4 to P50, and P60 (8191GiB). P60 Premium page blob is not supported to be attached as VM disks.

    Any object placed in a premium storage account will be a page blob. The page blob snaps to one of the supported provisioned sizes. This is why a premium storage account is not intended to be used to store tiny blobs.

  • Premium storage account

    To start using Premium Storage, create a premium storage account for unmanaged disks. In the Azure portal, to create a premium storage account, choose the Premium performance tier. Select the Locally-redundant storage (LRS) replication option. You also can create a premium storage account by setting the type to Premium_LRS in one of the following locations:

  • Premium locally redundant storage

    A premium storage account supports only locally redundant storage as the replication option. Locally redundant storage keeps three copies of the data within a single region. For regional disaster recovery, you must back up your VM disks in a different region by using Azure Backup. You also must use a geo-redundant storage (GRS) account as the backup vault.

    Azure uses your storage account as a container for your unmanaged disks. When you create an Azure DS-series, DSv2-series, GS-series, or Fs-series VM with unmanaged disks, and you select a premium storage account, your operating system and data disks are stored in that storage account.

Supported VMs

Premium Storage supports DS-series, DSv2-series, GS-series, Ls-series, and Fs-series VMs. You can use standard and premium storage disks with these VM types. You cannot use premium storage disks with VM series that are not Premium Storage-compatible.

For information about VM types and sizes in Azure for Windows, see Windows VM sizes. For information about VM types and sizes in Azure for Linux, see Linux VM sizes.

These are some of the features of the DS-series, DSv2-series, GS-series, Ls-series, and Fs-series VMs:

  • Cloud service

    You can add DS-series VMs to a cloud service that has only DS-series VMs. Do not add DS-series VMs to an existing cloud service that has any type other than DS-series VMs. You can migrate your existing VHDs to a new cloud service that runs only DS-series VMs. If you want to use the same virtual IP address for the new cloud service that hosts your DS-series VMs, use reserved IP addresses. GS-series VMs can be added to an existing cloud service that has only GS-series VMs.

  • Operating system disk

    You can set up your Premium Storage VM to use either a premium or a standard operating system disk. For the best experience, we recommend using a Premium Storage-based operating system disk.

  • Data disks

    You can use premium and standard disks in the same Premium Storage VM. With Premium Storage, you can provision a VM and attach several persistent data disks to the VM. If needed, to increase the capacity and performance of the volume, you can stripe across your disks.

    Note

    If you stripe premium storage data disks by using Storage Spaces, set up Storage Spaces with 1 column for each disk that you use. Otherwise, overall performance of the striped volume might be lower than expected because of uneven distribution of traffic across the disks. By default, in Server Manager, you can set up columns for up to 8 disks. If you have more than 8 disks, use PowerShell to create the volume. Specify the number of columns manually. Otherwise, the Server Manager UI continues to use 8 columns, even if you have more disks. For example, if you have 32 disks in a single stripe set, specify 32 columns. To specify the number of columns the virtual disk uses, in the New-VirtualDisk PowerShell cmdlet, use the NumberOfColumns parameter. For more information, see Storage Spaces Overview and Storage Spaces FAQs.

  • Cache

    VMs in the size series that support Premium Storage have a unique caching capability for high levels of throughput and latency. The caching capability exceeds underlying premium storage disk performance. You can set the disk caching policy on premium storage disks to ReadOnly, ReadWrite, or None. The default disk caching policy is ReadOnly for all premium data disks, and ReadWrite for operating system disks. For optimal performance for your application, use the correct cache setting. For example, for read-heavy or read-only data disks, such as SQL Server data files, set the disk caching policy to ReadOnly. For write-heavy or write-only data disks, such as SQL Server log files, set the disk caching policy to None. To learn more about optimizing your design with Premium Storage, see Design for performance with Premium Storage.

  • Analytics

    To analyze VM performance by using disks in Premium Storage, turn on VM diagnostics in the Azure portal. For more information, see Azure VM monitoring with Azure Diagnostics Extension.

    To see disk performance, use operating system-based tools like Windows Performance Monitor for Windows VMs and the iostat command for Linux VMs.

  • VM scale limits and performance

    Each Premium Storage-supported VM size has scale limits and performance specifications for IOPS, bandwidth, and the number of disks that can be attached per VM. When you use premium storage disks with VMs, make sure that there is sufficient IOPS and bandwidth on your VM to drive disk traffic.

    For example, a STANDARD_DS1 VM has a dedicated bandwidth of 32 MB/s for premium storage disk traffic. A P10 premium storage disk can provide a bandwidth of 100 MB/s. If a P10 premium storage disk is attached to this VM, it can only go up to 32 MB/s. It cannot use the maximum 100 MB/s that the P10 disk can provide.

    Currently, the largest VM in the DS-series is the Standard_DS15_v2. The Standard_DS15_v2 can provide up to 960 MB/s across all disks. The largest VM in the GS-series is the Standard_GS5. The Standard_GS5 can provide up to 2,000 MB/s across all disks.

    Note that these limits are for disk traffic only. These limits don't include cache hits and network traffic. A separate bandwidth is available for VM network traffic. Bandwidth for network traffic is different from the dedicated bandwidth used by premium storage disks.

    For the most up-to-date information about maximum IOPS and throughput (bandwidth) for Premium Storage-supported VMs, see Windows VM sizes or Linux VM sizes.

    For more information about premium storage disks and their IOPS and throughput limits, see the table in the next section.

Scalability and performance targets

In this section, we describe the scalability and performance targets to consider when you use Premium Storage.

Premium storage accounts have the following scalability targets:

Total account capacity Total bandwidth for a locally redundant storage account
Disk capacity: 35 TB
Snapshot capacity: 10 TB
Up to 50 gigabits per second for inbound1 + outbound2

1 All data (requests) that are sent to a storage account

2 All data (responses) that are received from a storage account

For more information, see Azure Storage scalability and performance targets.

If you are using premium storage accounts for unmanaged disks and your application exceeds the scalability targets of a single storage account, you might want to migrate to managed disks. If you don't want to migrate to managed disks, build your application to use multiple storage accounts. Then, partition your data across those storage accounts. For example, if you want to attach 51-TB disks across multiple VMs, spread them across two storage accounts. 35 TB is the limit for a single premium storage account. Make sure that a single premium storage account never has more than 35 TB of provisioned disks.

Premium Storage disk limits

When you provision a premium storage disk, the size of the disk determines the maximum IOPS and throughput (bandwidth). Azure offers three types of premium storage disks: P10, P20, and P30. Each premium storage disk type has specific limits for IOPS and throughput. Limits for the disk types are described in the following table:

Premium Disks Type P4 P6 P10 P20 P30 P40 P50
Disk size 32 GB 64 GB 128 GB 512 GB 1024 GB (1 TB) 2048 GB (2 TB) 4095 GB (4 TB)
IOPS per disk 120 240 500 2300 5000 7500 7500
Throughput per disk 25 MB per second 50 MB per second 100 MB per second 150 MB per second 200 MB per second 250 MB per second 250 MB per second
Note

Make sure sufficient bandwidth is available on your VM to drive disk traffic, as described in Premium Storage-supported VMs. Otherwise, your disk throughput and IOPS is constrained to lower values. Maximum throughput and IOPS are based on the VM limits, not on the disk limits described in the preceding table.

Here are some important things to know about Premium Storage scalability and performance targets:

  • Provisioned capacity and performance

    When you provision a premium storage disk, unlike standard storage, you are guaranteed the capacity, IOPS, and throughput of that disk. For example, if you create a P50 disk, Azure provisions 4,095-GB storage capacity, 7,500 IOPS, and 250 MB/s throughput for that disk. Your application can use all or part of the capacity and performance.

  • Disk size

    Azure maps the disk size (rounded up) to the nearest premium storage disk option, as specified in the table in the preceding section. For example, a disk size of 100 GB is classified as a P10 option. It can perform up to 500 IOPS, with up to 100 MB/s throughput. Similarly, a disk of size 400 GB is classified as a P20. It can perform up to 2,300 IOPS, with 150 MB/s throughput.

    Note

    You can easily increase the size of existing disks. For example, you might want to increase the size of a 30-GB disk to 128 GB, or even to 1 TB. Or, you might want to convert your P20 disk to a P30 disk because you need more capacity or more IOPS and throughput.

  • I/O size

    The size of an I/O is 256 KB. If the data being transferred is less than 256 KB, it is considered 1 I/O unit. Larger I/O sizes are counted as multiple I/Os of size 256 KB. For example, 1,100 KB I/O is counted as 5 I/O units.

  • Throughput

    The throughput limit includes writes to the disk, and it includes disk read operations that aren't served from the cache. For example, a P10 disk has 100 MB/s throughput per disk. Some examples of valid throughput for a P10 disk are shown in the following table:

    Max throughput per P10 disk Non-cache reads from disk Non-cache writes to disk
    100 MB/s 100 MB/s 0
    100 MB/s 0 100 MB/s
    100 MB/s 60 MB/s 40 MB/s
  • Cache hits

    Cache hits are not limited by the allocated IOPS or throughput of the disk. For example, when you use a data disk with a ReadOnly cache setting on a VM that is supported by Premium Storage, reads that are served from the cache are not subject to the IOPS and throughput caps of the disk. If the workload of a disk is predominantly reads, you might get very high throughput. The cache is subject to separate IOPS and throughput limits at the VM level, based on the VM size. DS-series VMs have roughly 4,000 IOPS and 33 MB/s throughput per core for cache and local SSD I/Os. GS-series VMs have a limit of 5,000 IOPS and 50 MB/s throughput per core for cache and local SSD I/Os.

Throttling

Throttling might occur, if your application IOPS or throughput exceeds the allocated limits for a premium storage disk. Throttling also might occur if your total disk traffic across all disks on the VM exceeds the disk bandwidth limit available for the VM. To avoid throttling, we recommend that you limit the number of pending I/O requests for the disk. Use a limit based on scalability and performance targets for the disk you have provisioned, and on the disk bandwidth available to the VM.

Your application can achieve the lowest latency when it is designed to avoid throttling. However, if the number of pending I/O requests for the disk is too small, your application cannot take advantage of the maximum IOPS and throughput levels that are available to the disk.

The following examples demonstrate how to calculate throttling levels. All calculations are based on an I/O unit size of 256 KB.

Example 1

Your application has processed 495 I/O units of 16-KB size in one second on a P10 disk. The I/O units are counted as 495 IOPS. If you try a 2-MB I/O in the same second, the total of I/O units is equal to 495 + 8 IOPS. This is because 2 MB I/O = 2,048 KB / 256 KB = 8 I/O units, when the I/O unit size is 256 KB. Because the sum of 495 + 8 exceeds the 500 IOPS limit for the disk, throttling occurs.

Example 2

Your application has processed 400 I/O units of 256-KB size on a P10 disk. The total bandwidth consumed is (400 × 256) / 1,024 KB = 100 MB/s. A P10 disk has a throughput limit of 100 MB/s. If your application tries to perform more I/O operations in that second, it is throttled because it exceeds the allocated limit.

Example 3

You have a DS4 VM with two P30 disks attached. Each P30 disk is capable of 200 MB/s throughput. However, a DS4 VM has a total disk bandwidth capacity of 256 MB/s. You cannot drive both attached disks to the maximum throughput on this DS4 VM at the same time. To resolve this, you can sustain traffic of 200 MB/s on one disk and 56 MB/s on the other disk. If the sum of your disk traffic goes over 256 MB/s, disk traffic is throttled.

Note

If your disk traffic mostly consists of small I/O sizes, your application likely will hit the IOPS limit before the throughput limit. However, if the disk traffic mostly consists of large I/O sizes, your application likely will hit the throughput limit first, instead of the IOPS limit. You can maximize your application's IOPS and throughput capacity by using optimal I/O sizes. Also, you can limit the number of pending I/O requests for a disk.

To learn more about designing for high performance by using Premium Storage, see Design for performance with Premium Storage.

Snapshots and Copy Blob

To the Storage service, the VHD file is a page blob. You can take snapshots of page blobs, and copy them to another location, such as to a different storage account.

Unmanaged disks

Create incremental snapshots for unmanaged premium disks the same way you use snapshots with standard storage. Premium Storage supports only locally redundant storage as the replication option. We recommend that you create snapshots, and then copy the snapshots to a geo-redundant standard storage account. For more information, see Azure Storage redundancy options.

If a disk is attached to a VM, some API operations on the disk are not permitted. For example, you cannot perform a Copy Blob operation on that blob if the disk is attached to a VM. Instead, first create a snapshot of that blob by using the Snapshot Blob REST API. Then, perform the Copy Blob of the snapshot to copy the attached disk. Alternatively, you can detach the disk, and then perform any necessary operations.

The following limits apply to premium storage blob snapshots:

Premium storage limit Value
Maximum number of snapshots per blob 100
Storage account capacity for snapshots
(Includes data in snapshots only. Does not include data in base blob.)
10 TB
Minimum time between consecutive snapshots 10 minutes

To maintain geo-redundant copies of your snapshots, you can copy snapshots from a premium storage account to a geo-redundant standard storage account by using AzCopy or Copy Blob. For more information, see Transfer data with the AzCopy command-line utility and Copy Blob.

For detailed information about performing REST operations against page blobs in a premium storage account, see Blob service operations with Azure Premium Storage.

Managed disks

A snapshot for a managed disk is a read-only copy of the managed disk. The snapshot is stored as a standard managed disk. Currently, incremental snapshots are not supported for managed disks. To learn how to take a snapshot for a managed disk, see Create a copy of a VHD stored as an Azure managed disk by using managed snapshots in Windows or Create a copy of a VHD stored as an Azure managed disk by using managed snapshots in Linux.

If a managed disk is attached to a VM, some API operations on the disk are not permitted. For example, you cannot generate a shared access signature (SAS) to perform a copy operation while the disk is attached to a VM. Instead, first create a snapshot of the disk, and then perform the copy of the snapshot. Alternately, you can detach the disk and then generate an SAS to perform the copy operation.

Premium Storage for Linux VMs

You can use the following information to help you set up your Linux VMs in Premium Storage:

To achieve scalability targets in Premium Storage, for all premium storage disks with cache set to ReadOnly or None, you must disable "barriers" when you mount the file system. You don't need barriers in this scenario because the writes to premium storage disks are durable for these cache settings. When the write request successfully finishes, data has been written to the persistent store. To disable "barriers," use one of the following methods. Choose the one for your file system:

  • For reiserFS, to disable barriers, use the barrier=none mount option. (To enable barriers, use barrier=flush.)
  • For ext3/ext4, to disable barriers, use the barrier=0 mount option. (To enable barriers, use barrier=1.)
  • For XFS, to disable barriers, use the nobarrier mount option. (To enable barriers, use barrier.)
  • For premium storage disks with cache set to ReadWrite, enable barriers for write durability.
  • For volume labels to persist after you restart the VM, you must update /etc/fstab with the universally unique identifier (UUID) references to the disks. For more information, see Add a managed disk to a Linux VM.

The following Linux distributions have been validated for Azure Premium Storage. For better performance and stability with Premium Storage, we recommend that you upgrade your VMs to one of these versions, at a minimum (or to a later version). Some of the versions require the latest Linux Integration Services (LIS), v4.0, for Azure. To download and install a distribution, follow the link listed in the following table. We add images to the list as we complete validation. Note that our validations show that performance varies for each image. Performance depends on workload characteristics and your image settings. Different images are tuned for different kinds of workloads.

Distribution Version Supported kernel Details
Ubuntu 12.04 3.2.0-75.110+ Ubuntu-12_04_5-LTS-amd64-server-20150119-en-us-30GB
Ubuntu 14.04 3.13.0-44.73+ Ubuntu-14_04_1-LTS-amd64-server-20150123-en-us-30GB
Debian 7.x, 8.x 3.16.7-ckt4-1+  
SUSE SLES 12 3.12.36-38.1+ suse-sles-12-priority-v20150213
suse-sles-12-v20150213
SUSE SLES 11 SP4 3.0.101-0.63.1+  
CoreOS 584.0.0+ 3.18.4+ CoreOS 584.0.0
CentOS 6.5, 6.6, 6.7, 7.0   LIS4 required
See note in the next section
CentOS 7.1+ 3.10.0-229.1.2.el7+ LIS4 recommended
See note in the next section
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 6.8+, 7.2+    
Oracle 6.0+, 7.2+   UEK4 or RHCK
Oracle 7.0-7.1   UEK4 or RHCK w/LIS 4.1+
Oracle 6.4-6.7   UEK4 or RHCK w/LIS 4.1+

LIS drivers for OpenLogic CentOS

If you are running OpenLogic CentOS VMs, run the following command to install the latest drivers:

sudo rpm -e hypervkvpd  ## (Might return an error if not installed. That's OK.)
sudo yum install microsoft-hyper-v

To activate the new drivers, restart the computer.

Pricing and billing

When you use Premium Storage, the following billing considerations apply:

  • Premium storage disk and blob size

    Billing for a premium storage disk or blob depends on the provisioned size of the disk or blob. Azure maps the provisioned size (rounded up) to the nearest premium storage disk option. For details, see the table in Premium Storage scalability and performance targets. Each disk maps to a supported provisioned disk size, and is billed accordingly. Billing for any provisioned disk is prorated hourly by using the monthly price for the Premium Storage offer. For example, if you provisioned a P10 disk and deleted it after 20 hours, you are billed for the P10 offering prorated to 20 hours. This is regardless of the amount of actual data written to the disk or the IOPS and throughput used.

  • Premium unmanaged disks snapshots

    Snapshots on premium unmanaged disks are billed for the additional capacity used by the snapshots. For more information about snapshots, see Create a snapshot of a blob.

  • Premium managed disks snapshots

    A snapshot of a managed disk is a read-only copy of the disk. The disk is stored as a standard managed disk. A snapshot costs the same as a standard managed disk. For example, if you take a snapshot of a 128-GB premium managed disk, the cost of the snapshot is equivalent to a 128-GB standard managed disk.

  • Outbound data transfers

    Outbound data transfers (data going out of Azure datacenters) incur billing for bandwidth usage.

For detailed information about pricing for Premium Storage, Premium Storage-supported VMs, and managed disks, see these articles:

Azure Backup support

For regional disaster recovery, you must back up your VM disks in a different region by using Azure Backup and a GRS storage account as a backup vault.

To create a backup job with time-based backups, easy VM restoration, and backup retention policies, use Azure Backup. You can use Backup both with unmanaged and managed disks. For more information, see Azure Backup for VMs with unmanaged disks and Azure Backup for VMs with managed disks.

Next steps

For more information about Premium Storage, see the following articles.

Design and implement with Premium Storage

Operational guidance

Blog posts