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Microsoft Extending ExpressRoute Connections to Office 365 Services

Microsoft is expanding its ExpressRoute service as a connection option for organizations, with plans to extend its use with Office 365 services as well.

Currently, the ExpressRoute service enables private network connections to Microsoft Azure services. Organizations typically contract with Microsoft's network service provider partners or exchange service provider partners to use the ExpressRoute service. Those partner networks are leveraged to bypass the public Internet, providing high-bandwidth connections to various Azure services, and now to Office 365 services, too.

Organizations might use the ExpressRoute service as a way to connect with Azure or Office 365 services if they need pipelines supporting 10Mbps to 1Gbps connections or if they have security concerns in which they need to bypass the public Internet. ExpressRoute is conceived as a solution for data migration, disaster recovery and business continuity types of scenarios, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft rolled out ExpressRoute connections for Azure users last year, but organizations can expect to see a commercial ExpressRoute service come to fruition for Office 365 sometime in the third quarter this year, according to Microsoft's announcement today. The announcement, attributed to Julia White, general manager for the Office 365 team, noted that ExpressRoute for Office 365 is currently available for testing today.

Last month, Microsoft announced the availability of free ExpressRoute connections of 10Mbps as a limited-time promotional offer for accessing Microsoft Azure services. The offer extends through June of this year. The details of that free service offer depend on the particular network service provider involved, and could involve some costs, depending on those details. AT&T, Verizon, Level 3 and British Telecom are some of the network service providers involved with the promotion.

It's not clear from Microsoft's announcement today if that free offer also applies to Office 365 connections, though there's likely some free trial available.

Microsoft has its ExpressRoute service located in three service zones, consisting of various regions, as described in its pricing page FAQ:

  • Zone 1: West US, East US, North Central US, South Central US, East US 2, Central US, West Europe, North Europe
  • Zone 2: East Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia East, Australia Southeast
  • Zone 3: Brazil South

Typically, ExpressRoute subscribers can only connect within their zone. They can't connect between zones. However, Zone 2 is even more limited. Zone 2 subscribers can only connect within their particular region, according to Microsoft's FAQ.

White said that organizations "can also use multiple ExpressRoute providers to establish ExpressRoute circuits in different geographic locations for additional redundancy and geo-resiliency," so that may be one way around the interzonal restrictions of the service.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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