#WindowsAzure Express Routing and the importance for Enterprises

Windows Azure just released a new set of features and updates as it was published by Scott Guthrie on his blog post “Azure: ExpressRoute Dedicated Networking, Web Site Backup Restore, Mobile Services .NET support, Hadoop 2.2, and more”.

From this announcement I would like to start focusing on the ExpressRoute Dedicated Networking features.

For a lot of years now I’ve been working with enterprises and helping them to become more agile, increase revenue, reduce costs, and so on and of course for about 7/8 years now doing that leveraging the cloud and helping enterprises create the best possible strategy in order to take advantage of the public cloud.

While doing this a lot of discussion happen from the ones that say everything needs to go into the cloud, to the ones that say nothing can/should go into the public cloud. I’m on the group that says that everything needs to be seen in the specific context where the company you’re talking about is included.

My experience tells me that currently there is no way an enterprise is going to deploy everything solely on public cloud, not even solely on a single cloud provider, since that would be “putting all your eggs in a single basket”. What we need to understand is that the enterprises have a lot of systems that will remain On-Premises for a few more years because the laws need to change or the legacy systems need to be rebuilt, so until then Hybrid is the way to go in the enterprise space.

Now that we’ve understood that Hybrid is the right way to go at this stage for enterprises, we need to also understand that one of the common misunderstandings around the public cloud is that it is a complete black box which we can’t control, and this isn’t actually true, since they provide us ways to connect both On-Premises and Public Cloud providers, in Windows Azure’s case this would mean until now leveraging Windows Azure Virtual Network and Site-to-Site VPN. By having this possibility Windows Azure provided a way for enterprises to leverage the real power of the public cloud and still be in control and secured, but this was an IPSEC tunnel going over the Internet which can have some significant impacts for the performance and quality and costs of the system. But let’s dig deeper on those 3:

  1. Performance
    • Since we’re talking about the Internet we’re talking about a lot of different hops we need to do in order to go from On-Premises to the Windows Azure Data Center, which means our latency is going up and so our performance is going significantly down.
    • This is actually the reason why in some cases we create shadow copies of the On-Premises data used by the solutions deployed in Windows Azure so we can have lower latency and so affect less the performance, but this isn’t possible every time.
  2. Quality
    • Again due to the internet based connection we will have QoS issues with it because there is rarely a great SLA around out internet connections and there is no way for us to improve our quality massively.
  3. Cost
    • One thing that usually happens in these situations is in order not to affect the regular internet connectivity of the company, we will get a new dedicated internet “pipe” which at the same time will create a separation between what’s this VPN connection traffic from all other traffic and also allow us to have much better QoS on it, which comes with a huge price bump also, without even considering the issues on getting everything connected, all the routing done and so on.


With the announcement of the ExpressRoute functionality in Windows Azure enterprises will definitely have their life a lot easier and much more secure, since “ExpressRoute enables dedicated, private, high-throughput network connectivity between Azure datacenters and your on-premises IT environments. Using ExpressRoute, you can connect your existing datacenters to Azure without having to flow any traffic over the public Internet, and enable–guaranteed network quality-of-service and the ability to use Azure as a natural extension of an existing private network or datacenter.”

Now enterprises will be able to establish dedicated connection either through Equinix datacenters and in the future also Level 3 since that partnership was also part of the announcement, or by leveraging their MPLS VPN provided currently in the US by AT&T.

In summary, this basically approaches Windows Azure and Enterprises much more a much better quality and strategy for the future.

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