July 18, 2024

Azure Managed Disk vs Unmanaged Disk

9 min read
If you're considering using Azure for your cloud storage needs, it's important to understand the differences between managed and unmanaged disks.
Two disks

Two disks

When it comes to storing data on Microsoft Azure, there are two types of disks available: managed and unmanaged. Both offer their own unique advantages and drawbacks, making it important for cloud architects to understand the differences between them. In this article, we will explore the key differences between managed and unmanaged disks, covering everything from pricing to use cases and beyond.

Understanding Azure Disks

To better understand the differences between managed and unmanaged disks, let’s first define what we mean by Azure disks. In Microsoft Azure, a disk is any virtual or physical resource that stores data, such as a virtual hard disk (VHD), an Azure Storage account, or a cloud-based hard disk. Disks in Azure can be used to store a wide range of different types of data, from operating systems to application data, configuration files, virtual machines, and more. In short, disks are a key building block of the Azure cloud platform, and are essential for anyone looking to store data and build applications in the cloud.

Managed disks are a newer feature in Azure that simplify disk management by handling storage account management and disk creation for you. With managed disks, you no longer need to worry about managing storage accounts or manually creating and attaching disks to virtual machines. Instead, you simply specify the disk size and type, and Azure takes care of the rest.

Unmanaged disks, on the other hand, require you to manually create and manage storage accounts, and then create and attach disks to virtual machines. While this gives you more control over the storage configuration, it also requires more manual effort and can be more complex to manage at scale.

What are Managed and Unmanaged Disks?

When it comes to disks in Microsoft Azure, there are two different types to choose from: managed and unmanaged.

Managed disks are Azure-managed resources that can be created or deleted directly through the Azure portal, PowerShell or Azure CLI. These disks are designed to simplify the process of creating and managing disk images and are managed by the Azure platform, which takes care of disk maintenance and updates, ensuring that users always have the latest features and security updates. Managed disks also come with a guarantee of high availability and reliability, since they are stored in multiple locations across Azure datacenters.

Unmanaged disks, on the other hand, are simply virtual hard disks that are created and managed by users. In other words, these disks are not managed by Azure and require users to take care of all maintenance and updates themselves. This means that unmanaged disks can be more difficult to manage, especially for users who are not familiar with disk management or who lack the resources to properly maintain their disks.

One of the main advantages of using managed disks is that they offer better scalability than unmanaged disks. With managed disks, users can easily scale up or down their disk capacity as needed, without having to worry about managing the underlying infrastructure. This makes it easier for users to adapt to changing business needs and to optimize their disk usage and costs.

Another advantage of managed disks is that they offer better security than unmanaged disks. Managed disks are encrypted by default, using Azure Storage Service Encryption, which provides encryption at rest for all data stored on the disk. This helps to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access and ensures that data is always stored securely, even in the event of a security breach or other security incident.

Differences Between Managed and Unmanaged Disks

While both managed and unmanaged disks are used to store data in the Azure cloud, there are a number of differences between the two that cloud architects should be aware of. These differences include:

Management:

The key difference between managed and unmanaged disks is that managed disks are managed by Azure, while unmanaged disks are managed by users. This means that managed disks are easier to create and manage, while unmanaged disks require more work from users, including creating VMs, configuring VMs and more.

Reliability:

Managed disks offer a higher level of reliability and availability than unmanaged disks, since they are stored in multiple locations across Azure datacenters. Meanwhile, unmanaged disks are only stored in a single location, making them more vulnerable to downtime and data loss.

Pricing:

Managed disks come with a higher cost compared to unmanaged disks thanks to its managed service offering.

Scalability:

Another important difference between managed and unmanaged disks is scalability. Managed disks can be easily scaled up or down based on the needs of the user, while unmanaged disks require more manual intervention to scale. This means that managed disks are more flexible and can adapt to changing workloads more easily than unmanaged disks.

Benefits of Using Managed Disks

Managed disks offer a number of benefits compared to unmanaged disks, including:

Ease of Use:

Managed disks are easier to create and manage than unmanaged disks, saving developers valuable time and resources. With Managed disks, users don’t have to worry about disk creation, configuration or maintenance, since Azure takes care of all of that. This frees up time for developers, allowing them to focus more on building and shipping software.

Reliability and Availability:

Managed disks are incredibly reliable and offer a high level of availability, thanks to its multi-site replication and easy recovery features. With managed disks, hardware and software maintenance is managed by Azure, saving users from having to maintain their own hardware. Managed disks also offer point-in-time restore and backup, making data recovery easy and quick.

Performance:

Managed disks offer improved VM boot and unprovisioning times compared to unmanaged disks, thanks to its improved APIs and the ability to leverage premium storage accounts for higher IOPS.

Cost Savings:

Using managed disks can also lead to cost savings for users. With managed disks, users only pay for the storage they use, rather than having to pay for an entire storage account. Additionally, managed disks offer better scalability, allowing users to easily increase or decrease their storage capacity as needed, without having to worry about over-provisioning or under-provisioning.

Advantages of Unmanaged Disks

While managed disks offer a number of benefits, there are also some advantages to using unmanaged disks, such as:

Cost:

Unmanaged disks are less costly than managed disks, making them ideal for budget-conscious developers who want to save on costs.

Customization:

Unmanaged disks offer a higher level of customization than managed disks, allowing users to select the type of virtual machine and storage account they prefer.

Flexibility:

Unmanaged disks provide greater flexibility in terms of storage capacity and performance, as users can choose the specific size and type of disk they need for their workload. This allows for more efficient use of resources and better performance optimization.

Pricing Comparison between Managed and Unmanaged Disks

When it comes to pricing, there are some key differences between managed and unmanaged disks that cloud architects should be aware of. Managed disks come with a higher cost than unmanaged disks thanks to its managed service offering, which can be charged by the hourly charage or monthly basis depending on azure portal usage. So, users must keep this in mind while creating managed disk for their infrastructure.

How to Migrate from Unmanaged to Managed Disk

If you’re currently using unmanaged disks in Microsoft Azure and want to move to managed disks, there are a few steps you’ll need to follow:

Create a managed disk:

Log in to the Azure portal or use Azure CLI or PowerShell to create a managed disk.

Attach disk:

Attach the managed disk to the virtual machine that you want to use it with.

Swap disk:

Swap the original unmanaged disk with the managed disk using the Azure portal/CLI or PowerShell script.

Best Practices for Managing Azure Disks

To get the most out of Azure disks, there are some best practices you should follow. These include:

Choose the Right Type of Disk:

Make sure you choose the right type of disk, whether it is managed or unmanaged, based on your workload needs. Managed disks are ideal for mission-critical workloads, while unmanaged disks are better for less important tasks.

Use Managed Disks with Premium Storage:

If run workloads that require better performance, leverage managed disks with premium storage for higher input/output per second (IOPS).

Backup Data:

Always create backups of your data, whether you are using managed or unmanaged disks. This will ensure that you can recover your data quickly and easily in case of any service interruptions or data loss.

Performance Comparison between Managed and Unmanaged Disks

While both managed and unmanaged disks offer similar functionality, there are some differences in terms of performance. Managed disks offer improved VM boot and unprovisioning times compared to unmanaged disks, thanks to its improved APIs and the ability to leverage premium storage accounts for higher IOPS.

Security Considerations for Azure Disk Management

When it comes to security, there are some key considerations that cloud architects should keep in mind when managing Azure disks. These include:

Encryption:

Always encrypt your data at rest and in transit to ensure that it is protected from unauthorized access. Azure Managed Disks come with built-in encryption capability.

Access Control:

Manage access to disks by controlling who has access to the disk and limiting access to only those who need it.

Choosing the Right Type of Disk for Your Workloads

When choosing the right type of disk for your workload, there are a few things to consider. For example, if your workloads require high availability and reliability, managed disks are the way to go. If you are looking for cost savings, unmanaged disks may be the better choice. In addition, it is important to consider the requirements of your workload, such as IOPS, and the level of customization you need.

Use Cases for Managed and Unmanaged Disks

Managed and unmanaged disks can be used for a wide range of different use cases. For example, managed disks are ideal for mission-critical workloads that require high availability and reliability, while unmanaged disks are better for less important tasks or those with lower costs. Some common use cases for managed and unmanaged disks include:

Managed Disks:

  • Enterprise applications
  • Big data workloads
  • Virtual Machine images
  • Development and testing environments

Unmanaged Disks:

  • Temporary VMs
  • Non-critical workloads
  • Disaster recovery

Troubleshooting Common Issues with Azure Disks

While Azure disks are generally reliable, there are some common issues that can arise, such as:

Not enough disk space:

Make sure that you allocate enough disk space for your workloads so that they have enough storage to run smoothly.

Data loss:

Always backup your data in case of data loss, which can occur due to a variety of reasons, such as hardware failures, system failures, or human error.

Performance issues:

If you’re experiencing performance issues, make sure that you have allocated the correct amount of resources, such as IOPS, and that you are using the right type of disk for your workload.

Future of Azure Disk Management: Trends and Predictions

The Azure cloud platform is constantly evolving, and disk management is no different. Some key trends and predictions for the future of Azure disk management include:

Automation:

More automation capabilities will be added to Azure disk management, making it easier for developers to create and manage disks.

Improved APIs:

Microsoft will likely continue to improve the APIs behind Azure disk management, making them more powerful and easier to use.

Innovative features:

With competition heating up in the cloud space, Microsoft will likely release innovative features that differentiate Azure’s disk management capabilities from its competitors.

Conclusion

When it comes to Azure disk management, there is no one size fits all solution. Instead, developers must consider their specific workload requirements and choose the right type of disk for their needs. Whether you opt for managed disks or unmanaged disks, be sure to follow best practices, backup your data, and keep security considerations in mind. With careful planning and attention to detail, you can optimize your Azure disk management strategy for success.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *