Thursday, December 22, 2016

Pricing a VM as an SMB share

I posted a recent article on pricing a 1TB file share using Azure that you can find here:

Clarification on Azure SMB file share transactions

The estimated cost for that was AU$115.35 per month.

Let’s repeat the exercise but this time price up the share in Azure using a virtual machine (VM) for storage.


I’m going to use the DS1_V2 machine as my base for two reasons. Firstly, it is low power, which is what we want if we are simply using it as a file share and secondly this machine supports premium storage, which I’ll also look at pricing as an option.


If I now price this using the Azure pricing calculator (and remembering that a DS2_V2 is the same as a D1_V2 in the calculator) I come up with an estimate of AU$139.30 per month.

However, this is just for the host machine. I now need to add additional storage of at least 1TB to host the file share.


You can see when I select basic storage (HDD) and 300,000 (i.e. 3 units) transactions as before, for 1TB of additional storage. This comes to a total of AU$104.36 for storage alone.

The total of the VM and storage here is AU$243.66.


Now, let’s say I select premium storage (SSD) for this additional 1TB rather than basic.

The first thing you’ll notice is that you are no longer charged for transactions, just a flat storage cost of AU$172.17.

I need to select the P30 to give me at least 1TB of storage. I could of course use multiple disks striped together but one big disk works out cheaper anyway. Thus, the total cost of the VM + premium storage is AU$311.47 per month. This is about a 28% premium over the basic storage option above.


So let’s now say I want to go with the cheapest VM (host) available. That would be an A0 machine as shown above. However, choosing an A0 machine now means I don’t have premium storage available as an option.


That means my additional storage option is back to AU$104.36, giving me a total cost of AU$131.84. Which is about a 50% discount on the basic storage option and 58% discount on the premium storage option.

So in terms of pure cost, Azure SMB file shares wins out at AU$115.34 while the cheapest VM share option is AU$131.34. However, in terms of flexibility the VM is probably the winner because:

1. You can potentially run other processes on the VM.

2. The VM supports low level NTFS permissions inside the share which the Azure file solution currently doesn’t.

3. It is easy to upgrade the base VM and add more storage if required.

But wait, there is still something else that hasn’t yet been considered here. How do you access the share?

With an Azure SMB File share you simply map a drive on any modern machine by running a command but how would an end user map a drive with a VM?

For an end user to easily map a drive letter to an Azure VM they are typically going to need to have in place a site to site VPN from on premises to Azure.


As you can see from above the cost of a standard Azure VPN gateway is AU$180.05 per month. There is also the need to factor transfers out of Azure (you don’t pay for data into Azure, only out from). Let’s say that half of our data (i.e. 500GB) is transferred per month out of Azure. That leaves the total cost of the VPN gateway to be AU$267.06.

The inclusion of the VPN gateway now inflates our original DS1_V2 scenario with basic storage to a cost of AU$510.71 which is much more expensive than the initial Azure SMB file share option considered previously. However again, a VPN to Azure is going to provide a huge amount of flexibility when it comes to the infrastructure going forward.

So what this means is that as a pure stand alone file share solution the Azure SMB file share option is going to be typically the most cost effective. However, in terms of an overall shift of on premises infrastructure to the cloud, the VM share option is going to provide the flexibility and growth capability that you are going to want.

Which should you choose? In reality, both. Why? The scenario for most SMB customers is a desire to move the majority, if not all of their infrastructure, to the cloud. However they are not going to do it all immediately. It will be a process undertaken over time. Thus, an Azure SMB file share makes good sense initially but in the long run a VM share solution is probably the most effective solution.

The great thing is that because everything is Azure you can set all of this up under one tenant and add and remove components as you need over time and only be billed for what you consume. That’s the real flexibility here. Azure gives you a range of tools that you can use to solve just about any infrastructure challenge. That’s why it needs to be part of your toolbox!

Yes, there are lot more ‘if’s and but’s’ than if you simply went out and purchased an on premises NAS for storage but that doesn’t give you the flexibility for what is ultimately the end game of migrating infrastructure to the cloud now does it?

We live in a world where everyone wants more options. SMB resellers also need to get comfortable with the fact that there is really no end to a ‘migration’ because it simply continues on in other forms. That should be music to IT resellers ears as it means growing demand by customers for assistance and the opportunity to generate more revenue.

Yes, the world may be different and pricing may be a little more involved than it used to be but there is no beating the flexibility that is now available thanks to Azure.