Colocation provider Equinix was founded with a mission to help companies and networks connect to one another in a single location. Now it would like to do the same thing with clouds. Today Equinix has announced a key step towards that goal: a strategic relationship with Microsoft that will enable customers in Equinix data centers to connect directly to the Windows Azure cloud.
"This creates an environment in which existing customers can get a secure, high throughput, low-latency connection to the Windows Azure cloud," said Chris Sharp, General Manager of Cloud and Content at Equinix.
Equinix already provides direct access to the Amazon Web Services cloud platform. Now customers in some Equinix data centers in the U.S. will be able to connect their infrastructure directly to Windows Azure as well, establishing a private network connection that may reduce network costs and latency and provide more consistent network performance than connections across the Internet.
The companies didn't announce any specific locations where the service will be rolled out, but said a "small number" of customers will participate in beta testing this year prior to an official launch in multiple U.S. data centers in the first half of 2014.
For Equinix, the addition of Azure is part of a broader strategy to forge a central role in the network connections that tie together the global cloud.
"Customers want access to the multi-cloud environment," said Sharp. "We've been working with all the major cloud providers to help them understand the benefits of their customers having a private direct connection. It can drastically change the types of workloads and infrastructures that customers can deploy. We see this as a step toward the maturity of the (cloud computing) model."
"Fifteen years ago we brought networks together to solve their connectivity problems," he added. "We see the same problems existing in the cloud. We see this strategy as a key underpinning to the development of cloud computing."
The Equinix data center network serves as an interconnection point for companies to connect to networks and cloud platforms, and is home to more than 950 networks among its 4,000-plus customers.
"Windows Azure provides customers with a variety of ways to connect in a manner that is private, fast and secure," said Satya Nadella, executive vice president of Cloud and Enterprise for Microsoft. "The relationship with Equinix gives customers yet another seamless way to extend their on-premises network to Windows Azure by strategically using Equinix’s global data center footprint where businesses are already connecting to the cloud."
Sharp said Windows Azure has been in demand because many Equinix customers operate .net environments. While the companies didn't announce sites for direct Azure conenctions, Sharp says Equinix has a vision for the markets that will become focal points for cloud connections.
"We see 10 major markets around the world as cloud hubs, and Equinix is the only one serving all those markets," he said.