Microsoft: Blobs can be WORMs in the new, regs-compliant Azure

Storage goes immutable as Redmond plays catch-up

Microsoft emitted a preview of immutable storage for Azure Storage Blobs yesterday in an effort to win the hearts and minds of industries weighed down by regulation.

The feature, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Amazon's Glacier Vault Lock, is the latest move in a series of tit-for-tat feature updates as Microsoft seeks to erode the lead of AWS.

Suggestions of "put a screwdriver through it" or "use the platters as small, deadly frisbees" with regard to ensuring discs are wiped are unlikely to be implemented in either Microsoft's or Amazon's data centre...

Blobs, in Azure, are massive amounts of unstructured data, such as text or binary data. They are typically used to store objects such as documents.

With immutable storage, administrators can configure policies where Blobs can be created and read, but not updated or deleted. Being able to retain data in a Write Once Read Many (WORM) form without having to actually to write the stuff to something like optical media is attractive to industries subject to retention regulations.

Got to store data, stay compliant

Microsoft was keen to point to features such as time-based retention, where data is stored immutably for a period of time and legal-hold, where data can be locked down during an event such as a criminal investigation. The software giant reckons that users will be able to ensure compliance with a whole raft of regulations, including SEC 17a-4(f), CFTC 1.31©-(d) and FINRA.

Of course, financial institutions, healthcare providers and other customers subject to retention rules have had this facility in AWS since 2015, thanks to Amazon's Glacier Vault Lock, which allows controls to be set on individual Glacier vaults and enforced through a lockable policy. Like the Azure feature, Amazon's functionality is geared towards institutions that need to retain records in a non-erasable and non-rewritable format.

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A source in the UK's financial services industry cautiously welcomed the functionality, telling The Register that it could help with headaches such as the lengthy storage and control of records required by, as an example, the UK’s tax collectors, HMRC.

The source, who asked not to be named, also raised the spectre of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), warning that immutability could cause headaches when personal data requires rectification or erasure. He advised customers take a long, hard look at the terms of use to ensure that when data has to be deleted, it really is deleted.

His suggestions of "put a screwdriver through it" or "use the platters as small, deadly frisbees" with regard to ensuring discs are wiped are unlikely to be implemented in either Microsoft's or Amazon's data centres.

Azure users will be pleased to hear that the cost of using immutable storage will be the same as mutable data. ®




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