Microsoft Launches Azure ExpressRoute

Microsoft officially flips the switch on its business-friendly, high-performance hybrid cloud connection service and introduces new Azure-powered file, security and disaster recovery solutions.

Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute is open for business, announced the software giant during its TechEd conference in Houston.

ExpressRoute provides a private, secure link to Azure cloud services via partner network and data center services providers, enabling businesses to blend the security and manageability of on-premises IT systems with the scalability and elasticity of the public cloud. Since ExpressRoute data is spared the unpredictability of the public Internet, Microsoft claims that it can deliver faster, more reliable connections at lower latencies.

In effect, the company's Azure-powered hybrid cloud solution enables organizations to roll out responsive applications and services. However, the benefits of a hybrid cloud typically come at the cost of complexity, according to Microsoft's Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Windows Server and System Center.

"This is why Microsoft has invested in new services designed to simplify the transition," stated Anderson in a blog post. "To connect on-premises technology with the public cloud, we've announced the general availability Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute, as well as other enhanced computing and networking capabilities."

Microsoft has teamed with big-name data center operators and network services providers on ExpressRoute. Currently, partners include AT&T, Verizon, Level 3 Communications, BT, TelecityGroup and Equinix.

ExpressRoute offers two connectivity options, according to a Microsoft support document. Customers can pick between an Exchange Provider that provides direct Layer 3 connectivity to Azure services or Level 3 connectivity through a Network Service Provider.

Bandwidth options range from 10M bps to 1G bps for the Network Service Provider option (AT&T, Level 3 MPLS VPN). Prices start at $600 per month for unlimited inbound and outbound data at 10M bps.

Going the Exchange Provider route (Equinix, Level 3) entitles organizations speeds of 200M bps to 10G bps. Plans start at $200 per month for unlimited inbound data and 3TB of outbound data at 200M bps, with overages costing $0.035 per gigabyte.

During TechEd, Microsoft also unveiled Azure Files. The offering, now in preview, "streamlines cloud storage by enabling a single file share from multiple virtual machines, helping save customers time and money," said the company in a statement.

On the security front, Microsoft announced a preview of Antimalware for Azure, which enables customers to install antivirus protection for cloud services and virtual machines. In addition, Microsoft is expanding the Azure security ecosystem by working with Symantec and Trend Micro on solutions that integrate with virtual machines on Azure.

Finally, the company announced Microsoft Azure Site Recovery, formerly Hyper-V Recovery Manager. Scheduled to be available as a preview in June, the disaster recovery product allows customers to recover virtual machines and services on Azure if their primary data centers suffer an outage.

Echoing the "mobile-first, cloud-first" mantra that is defining the post-Steve Ballmer Microsoft, Anderson said in a statement, "Mobility and cloud are the future of business, and the future is now." He added that his company's "differentiated cloud innovations, comprehensive mobile productivity solutions and developer tools help all of our customers realize the true potential of the cloud era."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...