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Equinix Rolling Out Microsoft Azure Express Route Preview

Equinix Inc. is rolling out connections to Microsoft's public cloud by adding Microsoft's Azure ExpressRoute technology to its datacenters worldwide.

The Redwood City, Calif.-based company, which provides network-neutral connection services to companies, is partnering with Microsoft to address customer needs for high-throughput, low-latency connections. Microsoft's Azure ExpressRoute is a switch fabric that enables connections to Microsoft's cloud computing datacenters in a way that bypasses the public Internet.

The Azure ExpressRoute service is currently at the "preview" stage. It will be rolled out to approximately 16 markets via Equinix International Business Exchange (IBX) datacenters. Equinix provides various space, power and interconnection products and services to companies.

The preview of the new Azure ExpressRoute service is currently available in the U.S. West and East regions, as well as in the London area. Those preview services will be rolled out as "general availability" services sometime this spring. Equinix also plans to expand the service into the European, Asia-Pacific and South American markets later this year.

The Equinix partnership with Microsoft will provide a way for organizations with hybrid cloud environments to get quality of service and security via private connections to Microsoft's cloud computing infrastructure. Organizations can install their private cloud infrastructure within Equinix's datacenters or work with a partner to do that, according to Chris Sharp, vice president of cloud innovation at Equinix, in a phone call.

Equinix's facilities and the Azure ExpressRoute addition can support multiple types of workloads. For instance, financial services organizations can use it for high-speed connectivity to the public cloud to run compute models. The infrastructure can also be leveraged for data warehousing purposes and big data analytics. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is also a typical use case since VDI implementations typically have high-throughput, low-latency requirements, Sharp explained.

Microsoft has also partnered with network service providers, such as AT&T, BT and Verizon, on the Azure ExpressRoute rollouts. However, Equinix fits the "exchange provider" category, which means, in part, that it's capable of addressing heavy workloads. Sharp explained the difference.

"Let's say you need a 10-gig capacity into the Azure cloud -- a huge amount of data you want to do a compute cycle against," Sharp said. "You'd want to come into the Equinix facility so that you can get that 10-gig connectivity to the Azure cloud. Now, if you were trying to do a 10-gig WAN segment across a network service provider, it would be rather expensive...because of the WAN connectivity portion of that."

Using a public Internet connection may be adequate for some organizations. For others, it may not meet an organization's requirements, especially if they are trying to move something like 50-gigabyte workloads around, according to Sharp.

"What we're seeing is that the traditional Internet today is highly saturated and extremely inconsistent," Sharp explained. "So when you're out there and you're trying to service your customers with a public cloud offering, you're really betting on the Internet -- that it's going to be there when you need it. A lot of companies don't feel comfortable with that."

Equinix has been around for about 15 years and has 975 networks provisioned within its facilities, according to Sharp. The company claims that its global platform spans "more than 450 cloud and 600 IT service providers."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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