Microsoft Challenges Amazon: Azure Gets VPN Ties

Microsoft teams with AT&T's NetBond to give customers a private network-like linkage to the Azure cloud. This option takes aim at Amazon's Direct Connect.
9 Vendors To Watch At Interop NY 2013
9 Vendors To Watch At Interop NY 2013
(click image for larger view)
Microsoft has come up with a general purpose VPN connection to its Windows Azure cloud that puts it on a more equal footing with Amazon's Direct Connect service.

Microsoft and AT&T have teamed up to give Azure customers a private network-like linkage through AT&T's NetBond service. NetBond uses an AT&T multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) network to establish a VPN over the Internet from the customer to Azure.

Azure appears on the customer's network as just another destination that can be invoked like any other, said Venkat Gattamneni, senior product marketing manager for Azure, in an email exchange on the new service. Microsoft and AT&T have bridged the two systems so that invoking them "will be a seamless experience," said Gattamneni.

A customer can then send workloads and data over the VPN to an Azure data center, rather than using only the public Internet. Azure's compute and storage services may be accessed through the NetBond linkage.

[ Want to learn more about Amazon's Direct Connect? See Amazon Web Services Enables Private Cloud Connections. ]

NetBond delivers the workload or data stream without further network manager-required assistance or configuration. Such a connection in the past has been tied to manual intervention.

"By bringing the security and performance of our virtual private network to Windows Azure, we expect to energize enterprise demand" for Azure infrastructure-as-a-service, said CEO Andy Geisse, AT&T Business Solutions. Enterprises are looking for guarantees of secure connection and operations in the cloud. Making the NetBond service available "is a game changer" for companies that have held back from the cloud out of privacy and security concerns, he said in the announcement of the service Wednesday.

Forrester Research reports that 70% of multinational corporations already use MPLS services. AT&T's own MPLS-based IP service is available in 187 countries with 3.5 million existing business customers, Geisse noted.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft executive VP of Cloud and Enterprise, added in the announcement: "It's critical we help enterprises embrace the cloud on their terms."

The Azure/NetBond integration gives Microsoft an answer to Amazon Web Services' Direct Connect service. Direct Connect feeds a customer's workload into an AWS data center by moving it over a VPN to an Equinix data center, where it's transferred to a high-speed, private line to finish its journey to the data center. Equinix data centers are built in locations where they have a wide variety of telecommunication carrier connections.

AWS's Direct Connect charges are added to the customer's AWS bill. With Azure's private-line service, the user "will have relationships with both companies," Gattamneni wrote, but billing details have yet to be worked out.

The service will become available in the first half of 2014.

Learn more about cloud security and management by attending the Interop conference track on Cloud Computing and Virtualization in New York from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4.

Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing