Office 365 customers seeking to add an extra layer of security and minimize service disruptions will soon be able to use a secure connectivity option that is currently available for other Azure-backed cloud services from Microsoft.
ExpressRoute, a private, secure link to Microsoft's Azure data centers via partner network and data center operators, is coming to Office 365, the company announced March 17. In collaboration with telecommunications and IT infrastructure giants such as AT&T, Verizon, Level 3 Communications, BT, TelecityGroup and Equinix, Microsoft is able to directly connect businesses with their Azure cloud services, providing more stable network bandwidth while side-stepping concerns about exposing their data to the public Internet.
Microsoft officially launched ExpressRoute last May, initially covering Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C., and London. In July, Microsoft and Equinix announced a major expansion of the service to Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Seattle, Hong Kong and Singapore. British Telecom and Equinix both helped introduce ExpressRoute to London, while Internet Initiative Japan (IIJ) brought the cloud networking option to that country.
"This is something our customers have been asking for since ExpressRoute launched last year," said Julia White, general manager for Microsoft Office 365, in a March 17 announcement. "Currently, ExpressRoute provides customers with dedicated network connectivity through a private connection from their network to Microsoft Azure, and we're excited to extend the same option for connectivity to Office 365."
ExpressRoute addresses one of the biggest issues holding back public cloud adoption among some enterprises: network reliability. Microsoft, whose fortunes increasingly hinge on the cloud, is working to quell the fears of IT managers tasked with keeping their users (and bosses) happy.
"With network performance as predictable as your own on-premises environments, you might think of ExpressRoute for Office 365 like having the full Office 365 productivity solution in your own datacenter," stated White. "ExpressRoute will offer Office 365 customers more predictable network performance, the ability to better manage network availability and the reliability that comes with dedicated connectivity."
Network outages are rare, she claimed, courtesy of ExpressRoute's built-in redundancies and her company's own enterprise-grade data center networking capabilities. "Each ExpressRoute circuit automatically delivers two active physical connections for high availability, and the Microsoft networking elements are backed by our connection uptime SLA [service-level agreement] of 99.9 percent."
In an era of massive data breaches and government cyber-spying, security-conscious businesses are also wary of the data that they let escape onto the Internet. Microsoft has that covered as well, asserted White.
"ExpressRoute delivers the benefits of public cloud, while surpassing the network reliability and privacy of the Internet," she said. "It is a great option for organizations that require premium, managed connectivity to their productivity services."
Customers are in control, White added. "You can define all aspects of your network connectivity provider's connection from Microsoft to your users," she pledged. "You can also use multiple ExpressRoute providers to establish ExpressRoute circuits in different geographic locations for additional redundancy and geo-resiliency."