Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, December 3, 2022

Microsoft Installs Direct Line To Azure Cloud 

A public cloud is only as good as the networks it links into, and so Microsoft has begun to offer dedicated connections to the Windows Azure public cloud. The links, called ExpressRoute, are akin to the Direct Connect service at Amazon Web Services and enable users to bypass the public Internet.

"ExpressRoute offers private, reliable and low-latency connections between customers' datacenters and Azure," noted Azure general manager Steven Martin in a recent blog post. "ExpressRoute is an important step in our journey to help customers maximize their existing on-premises investments and take advantage of cloud computing."

Microsoft is positioning the technology as a way for customers to extend their network in Windows Azure as part of a hybrid IT approach. Other potential scenarios envisioned by Microsoft include periodic data migration, replication for business continuity, disaster recovery and other high availability strategies.

For HPC and enterprise users with data-intensive workloads, a direct high-speed connection can be the differentiator that makes cloud viable. ExpressRoute will make it more convenient to transfer large datasets into and out of the cloud. Application developers can use connections to move large virtual machines between their dev/test environment in Azure and an on-premises production environment.

Windows Azure ExpressRoute Options

Microsoft has contracted with datacenter operator Equinix and network service providers AT&T and Level 3 to make ExpressRoute operational. To take advantage of the new service, customers can either place their systems in ExpressRoute-linked datacenters, which connect to Azure on Level 3 fiber, or they can connect from their local infrastructure using a wide-area network enabled by AT&T's MPLS VPN service.

Pay as you go pricing under the Exchange Providers model starts at $300 a month for a 1 Gb/sec redundant dual-port link, which includes unlimited inbound data transfer, and 15 TB of outbound data transfer per month, with each extra gigabyte costing $0.035. Prices for the Network Service Providers model start at $300 per month for an anemic 10 Mb/sec dual-port link; all inbound and outbound data transfer is included at no additional charge. Faster port options are also available, up to 10 Gb/sec links for exchange customers and 1 Gb/sec for WAN customers. Plans are offered for six and twelve months at discounted rates.

The service, currently in preview mode, is only available in the US. Prices are set to double when ExpressRoute enters general availability, the date for which has not been disclosed.

About the author: Tiffany Trader

With over a decade’s experience covering the HPC space, Tiffany Trader is one of the preeminent voices reporting on advanced scale computing today.

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