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Microsoft Injects Azure with Major Network Boosts

If you're attending Microsoft's annual TechEd conference in Houston or watching the keynote and sessions on Channel 9, it's hard to escape hearing some of the many upgrades to the Azure cloud service that were made this week. Microsoft is emphasizing the newly added resiliency of its infrastructure, which now has 12 global datacenters in service with four more scheduled to go online by year's end.

As I noted in passing on Monday, Microsoft announced the general availability of ExpressRoute, which lets organizations connect their datacenters directly to Azure without using a public Internet connection. The service is based on MPLS connectivity from carriers and colocation operators including AT&T, BT, Equinix, Level 3, SingTel, TelecityGroup, Verizon and Zadara Storage.

"You can just add us to your existing MPLS contract or your MPLS WAN and we're also redundant," said Brad Anderson, corporate VP for Microsoft's server and tools business. "Literally, we provision two circuits with every single connection so you have that redundancy for this high connection, dedicated pipe that you have."

Letting organizations use carrier-grade connections via ExpressRoute is likely to make Azure more appealing to enterprise users who don't want to use slower and less reliable Internet connections, experts say. That's especially the case when reliability is critical and for organizations moving large amounts of data that require high bandwidth links.

Microsoft's new Azure Import/Export service, which the company this week announced is generally available, lets organizations move extensive amounts of data in and out of storage blobs. The service can leverage ExpressRoute. Enterprises building hybrid clouds may also require more extensive network connections. Microsoft released several new network features to support those requirements.

Azure Virtual Network now supports multiple site-to-site VPN connections, Microsoft announced. Until now it only allowed for a single connection. This new vnet to vnet option lets organizations connect multiple virtual networks. Microsoft said this is suited for disaster recovery, notably when using SQL Server 2014's new AlwaysOn feature.

Azure users can now reserve public IP addresses using them as virtual IP addresses with Microsoft's new IP Reservation option. Microsoft noted this is important for applications requiring static public Internet IP addresses or for swapping reserved IP addresses to update apps.

Microsoft's new Azure Traffic Manager is also now generally available. It supports both Azure and external endpoints for applications requiring high availability. And Microsoft said that two new compute-intensive virtual machine instances -- A8 and A9 -- are now available to support faster processors and links, more virtual cores and larger memory.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/14/2014 at 11:56 AM


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