Networking is a foundational component of any Microsoft Azure solution, but it’s often not discussed in customer conversations until the customer brings it up. Partners are missing the opportunity to present the value of the Microsoft Cloud by neglecting to talk about this with customers up front. The Azure networking story continues to develop and evolve, as evidenced by announcements made at Ignite 2016. In a blog post outlining these announcements, corporate vice president for Azure Networking, Yousef Khalidi, highlights several new networking services that provide customers with greater performance, higher availability, better security, and more operational insights.
The topic of the December 8 Azure Partner Community call is on one of those networking services – Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute.
Introduction to ExpressRoute
Before joining Microsoft, I was at a network service provider, working with customers to design their WAN strategy. I would often get questions about how traffic was prioritized in the backbone and how redundant the network was. While I answered these questions, I also pointed out that the biggest determining factor on network performance is not the customer LAN or the carrier network. It’s the connection between the two. This is still the case with public and hybrid cloud.
ExpressRoute is an Azure networking service that enables a private connection to the Microsoft cloud, providing more reliability, higher throughput, and predictable performance when compared to other virtual private networking (VPN) connectivity options, such as site-to-site VPN. Customers can provision high bandwidth connections from 50 Mbps to 10 Gbps to the Microsoft Cloud using their connectivity provider Essentially making the Microsoft cloud just another node on their WAN.
The benefits of ExpressRoute include:
- Layer 3 connectivity between your on-premises network and the Microsoft Cloud through a connectivity provider. Connectivity can be from an any-to-any (IPVPN) network, a point-to-point Ethernet connection, or through a virtual cross-connection via an Ethernet exchange.
- Connectivity to Microsoft cloud services across all regions in the geopolitical region
- Global connectivity to Microsoft services across all regions with ExpressRoute premium add-on
- Dynamic routing between your network and Microsoft over industry standard protocols such as Border Gateway Protocol (BGP)
- Built-in redundancy in every peering location for higher reliability
- Connection uptime Service Level Agreements
- Quality of service and support for multiple classes of service for Skype for Business
ExpressRoute Premium add-on
While the standard ExpressRoute service will meet most customer application requirements, there are some limitations to the standard ExpressRoute offering. The maximum number of routes for Azure private peering with ExpressRoute is 4,000, and the maximum number of virtual networks per ExpressRoute circuit is 10, no matter what the circuit size is. Using the standard ExpressRoute service, customers can only connect to a region within the same geopolitical region as where the ExpressRoute service was provisioned. As an example, the East US and West US Azure regions are both in the North America region. If a customer provisions an ExpressRoute circuit in Washington DC, they can still send/retrieve data to/from the West US region without any additional fees since they are in the same geopolitical region. However, they cannot send/retrieve data to/from the West Europe region as that region is in the Europe geopolitical region.
For customers that require a large number of Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routes, global connectivity, or more Azure virtual network links per circuit, Microsoft recommends they upgrade to the ExpressRoute Premium add-on. The ExpressRoute Premium add-on increases the limit for private peering from 4,000 to 10,000 routes and allows more than 10 virtual network links per ExpressRoute circuit, with the exact limit depending on the circuit bandwidth. In addition, global connectivity is allowed. An ExpressRoute circuit created in any region (excluding China and government cloud) will have access to resources across any other region in the world. In the above example, with ExpressRoute Premium add-on, that customer will now be able to access virtual networks in the Europe geopolitical region, even though their ExpressRoute circuit was provisioned in the North America geopolitical region.
Over the past few Azure Partner Community calls, we have talked about Azure Site Recovery and Operations Management Suite, highlighting Microsoft focus and leadership with hybrid cloud solutions. Microsoft Azure networking services, including ExpressRoute, also align to our focus and leadership with hybrid cloud. ExpressRoute not only supports hybrid cloud, it helps encourage customers to move more workloads to the cloud for benefits like greater performance, higher availability, and more operational insights.
According to Markets and Markets, the global forecast for the hybrid cloud market is $91 billion by 2021, with a compound annual growth rate of 22.5%. For many customers, networking issues are often a showstopper for them in moving more workloads to the cloud. Start more of your customer conversations with Azure networking for the opportunity to demonstrate additional value, drive incremental services revenue, and increase Azure consumption.
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