Equinix is now offering private, managed connections to Microsoft Office 365, the Software-as-a-Service version of Office. The service will be available in 15 markets worldwide in the third quarter.
Equinix’s cloud connectivity services are "moving up the stack," able to access a true enterprise SaaS application for the first time. Equinix's Cloud Exchange has so far only focused on providing connectivity to cloud compute and storage services. The private, managed connections to the application make the SaaS more suitable for the enterprise.
The announcement is big on a few fronts. The move will likely trigger similar private connectivity to other enterprise SaaS applications and suites out of Equinix and other colocation providers. In addition to making Microsoft’s SaaS offering a little more attractive to the enterprise, it makes Equinix more attractive to an enterprise looking to use SaaS.
“This removes another barrier of control and visibility from the end-consumer experience,” said Chris Sharp, vice president of cloud innovation at Equinix. “There’s been some great discussions on how customers will have to re-architect their architectures for these apps because of the delivery method. You need a different way to consume these services, and now we’re providing private connectivity down to the app.”
Microsoft’s Office 365 has enjoyed explosive growth, however a lot of enterprises remain reluctant to move to the online office suite, with unpredictable performance of SaaS being one key concern. Direct Access is a more secure, reliable, and guaranteed way to connect to these apps, according to Equinix.
A recent Forrester report, Beware the Pitfalls Within Networking for Hybrid Cloud (registration required), found end-user experience should be a company’s top priority when considering cloud connectivity options for business productivity applications.
“The enterprise is looking for a multi-cloud solution,” said Sharp. “We’re creating an environment with as much choice as possible.”
Equinix isn’t selling Office 365; it’s providing the connectivity through its cloud exchange, and customers will still have to buy through Microsoft. Equinix and Microsoft are enabling the enterprise to use existing MPLS or wide area network (WAN) infrastructure to get high-speed secure access to Office 365 for a better end-user experience.
As with the Azure offering, customers initiate the sale through a Microsoft portal. Once they set it up, it flows through Equinix’ APIs, and customers are able to dynamically map through APIs or leverage Equinix portals.
Office 365 Direct Access will require an existing port on the Equinix Cloud Exchange. If companies access Azure ExpressRoute through Equinix Cloud Exchange, they can dynamically manage and allocate their bandwidth requirement, ensuring that specific applications get the priority they need to deliver the performance required.
Equinix and Microsoft began working on private Azure connectivity in 2013, with the relationship formally launching in April 2014, offering ExpressRoute in 15 Equinix markets. The two share a lot of multi-national customers in need of consistent global access.
Direct Access to Office 365 will be available in all 15 shared markets, including Amsterdam, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Osaka, Seattle, Silicon Valley, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, and Washington, D.C.