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Microsoft ExpressRoute: Office 365, Azure Government Cloud, more partners, simplified billing

Today at AzureCon we wanted to share the progress we have made in expanding Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute and providing more options to reach Microsoft Cloud services.

Today at AzureCon we wanted to share the progress we have made in expanding Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute and providing more options to reach Microsoft Cloud services. We’re announcing:

  • General availability to access Office 365 including Skype for Business
  • General availability to reach Microsoft’s Azure Government Cloud via ExpressRoute
  • ExpressRoute connections to Microsoft Dynamics, by end of year
  • Enablement of Azure Resource Manager with ExpressRoute
  • More bandwidth options
  • Simplified billing options with unlimited data or metered data plans on all bandwidth options from 50 Mbps up to 10 Gbps
  • Continued expansion of our global partner ecosystem

These enhancements will provide you even more options to reach Microsoft’s cloud services bypassing the Internet for better and predictable network performance, better privacy, better security, lower latency, and higher bandwidths.

The ExpressRoute vision: Bringing Microsoft’s cloud to your network

ExpressRoute provides private high throughput network connectivity to Microsoft cloud services. Since the Internet is bypassed, customers experience predictable network performance, higher network throughput, and better security and privacy. By having ExpressRoute Meet-Me sites near Microsoft datacenters new scenarios have emerged with customers placing their high-performance databases and Storage Area Networks (SANs) in the ExpressRoute Meet-Me locations. With latencies to a Meet-Me site as low as 1 to 2ms, customers get a network experience similar to one as if they had physically placed their hardware in our datacenters.

In May 2014 we announced ExpressRoute General Availability access to Azure private and public services. Azure private services allow you to connect your private IP address space to Azure and access your virtual machines (compute services) in an Azure Virtual Network. Azure public services via ExpressRoute means you can reach Azure services that can be accessed via the Internet such as Storage, SQL, and Media Services. At that time, we launched with seven partners and three ExpressRoute Meet-Me sites in the US and London.  We now have 28 partners and 21 Meet-Me sites strategically located around the world.

To help our customers provide services and applications that are geographically close to their own user base we continue to expand our global datacenter footprint. Our commitment is to have ExpressRoute near all Microsoft Cloud datacenters. For example, this summer we announced plans for Canadian datacenters. We will provide Canadian ExpressRoute Meet-Me sites close to our physical datacenters. Similarly, we already announced ExpressRoute Meet-Me sites for India in Mumbai and Chennai. To see all our sites please visit ExpressRoute partners and peering locations. Anytime you hear about new Microsoft datacenters being announced you can expect that soon there will be a local ExpressRoute Meet-Me site.

Office 365 and Skype for Business

Our vision is to provide private connectivity to any Microsoft cloud service. Azure was the first Microsoft cloud service supported by ExpressRoute. We’ve been coordinating with Office 365 and Skype for Business to provide a similar ExpressRoute experience and this is now generally available. Enterprise customers using Office 365 and Skype for Business can now enjoy the same ExpressRoute benefits via our launch partners: BT, Equinix, Tata Communications, Telecity Group, and Verizon. There is some technical heavy lifting required in terms of routing configuration and Quality of Service (QoS) to make a great customer experience so we’re working closely with the rest of the ExpressRoute partner ecosystem to continue to expand this list. Check our website for the latest partner status and Meet-Me locations.

Microsoft Azure Government

We are also excited to announce the general availability of ExpressRoute for customers utilizing Microsoft Azure Government, a physical and network isolated instance of Microsoft Azure designed to meet the requirements of the U.S. Public Sector and operated by screened U.S. personnel. Azure Government cloud customers can now get the same ExpressRoute benefits of private network connectivity to our Azure Government datacenters.

This is a natural extension of Microsoft’s commitment to provide accessibility, reliability, and security to U.S. government agencies and the partners that serve them. For example ExpressRoute for Azure Government is already helping customers and partners like Riverside County in California as Planet Technologies is working to move Riverside’s entire datacenter to Azure Government.

“ExpressRoute is allowing us to migrate our datacenter into Microsoft Azure Government with the confidence that our workloads hosted in the cloud will be as accessible and reliable as our on-premises datacenter” says Kelleen Caster, chief information officer for Riverside County, Department of Public Social Services. “The availability of ExpressRoute for Microsoft Azure Government was a key deciding factor in our decision to augment our datacenter operations with Microsoft’s cloud.”

“Microsoft Azure Government brings private, secure, dedicated, low-latency connectivity to Microsoft’s cloud services. As such, Planet Technologies views ExpressRoute as a critical cloud enablement technology that will allow our government customers to augment or even replace their on-premises datacenters with Microsoft Azure Government,” says Scott Gruenemeier, senior cloud strategist for Planet Technologies.

The initial Microsoft Azure Government’s ExpressRoute partners include AT&T, Equinix, Level3, and Verizon and the initial Azure Government ExpressRoute Meet-Me sites are in Washington DC and Chicago. Please contact us for more information.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

ExpressRoute has proven to be very popular with businesses. In fact, some of our key Dynamics CRM customers have been asking for it to help increase control, performance and security over their network connections. So today I’m pleased that we announced that we will be delivering Azure ExpressRoute to Dynamics CRM Online customers later this year. This takes the dedicated network connectivity we provide to customers through a private connection from their network to Microsoft Azure and extends the same option of connectivity to CRM Online.

More bandwidth options and new billing model

We’ve been listening closely to your feedback regarding our model of Exchange Providers (EXP), Network Service Providers (NSP) and the different bandwidth options and billing models associated with the EXP and NSP models. Although there are technical differences in the deployment models, we are removing the distinction in terms of a business model. Now you can choose any of our circuit sizes via any of our partners with either unlimited data or metered data billing. This means you can now get a 10 Gbps ExpressRoute circuit connected to your MPLS WAN if your provider supports 10 Gbps. We are also introducing 2 Gbps and 5 Gbps options so you can choose the best circuit size along with the best billing option that meets your requirements. We are also lowering prices on our unlimited data circuits relative to our previous unlimited data plans. Details on the new pricing is available here.

The growing global ExpressRoute ecosystem

In the spirit of providing more customer choice we’re also excited to announce new ExpressRoute partnerships that we’ve made in the last couple of months. These partners include China Telecom Global, Comcast, CoreSite, euNetworks, IIX, Megaport, MTN, and Softbank. We’ll continue to expand the ExpressRoute partner ecosystem. In the meantime, if your provider is not an existing ExpressRoute partner you can still use ExpressRoute by getting connectivity to an ExpressRoute Meet-Me location. See the ExpressRoute FAQ for details.

Azure Resource Manager

The Azure Resource Manager provides a new way to deploy and manage your solutions. You can use declarative templates to define, deploy and manage compute, network, and storage resources on Azure. This simplifies the deployment and management of complex applications. You can now use Azure Resource Manager to deploy and manage your ExpressRoute circuits.

Parting thoughts

Our mission is to allow you to seamlessly and simply extend your network to reach Microsoft’s cloud services with a great networking experience. We have a global backbone network that supports all of our services including Azure, Bing, Dynamics, Office 365, OneDrive, Skype, and Xbox. We also have a global ExpressRoute partner ecosystem that includes the major global network carriers. At Ignite we made our global network available to you via the ExpressRoute Premium-Add so you can reach any of our public cloud datacenters from any public ExpressRoute Meet-Me site. In terms of cloud services, we’ve now added support for Office 365 and Skype for Business in addition to Azure. We’ll continue to grow the global ExpressRoute partner ecosystem, number of Meet-Me sites, and access to Microsoft Cloud services. Stay tuned…