Delivering High-Performance, Resilient and Direct Connectivity to Microsoft Services with MAPS

By Mark Daley, Director of Digital Strategy & Business Development at Epsilon.

  • 10 months ago Posted in

Microsoft has become the go-to productivity and collaboration software provider worldwide. Its cloud services, including Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics, and Microsoft Azure, are used by over a million companies.

Enterprises need to pick a connectivity option that ensures a seamless and direct route that supports, and even enhances, their application performance and security. With various methods available to connect to Microsoft services, some may find it challenging to choose the best option for their business.

While Microsoft 365 applications, such as Outlook, SharePoint, and Microsoft Teams, have been designed to be accessed through the internet, public internet connectivity presents some challenges for enterprises. As the adoption and reliance on Microsoft services continue to grow, there is an increasing need for enterprises to enhance the performance, reliability, and resilience of their connectivity with alternative solutions.

Drawbacks of Public Internet Connectivity

Connecting to Microsoft’s cloud services via the public internet is a popular choice for enterprises due to its simplicity and cost-efficiency. However, relying solely on the public internet comes with its drawbacks and exposes businesses to a number of risks:

· Performance – High latency and best-effort internet connectivity often results in an inconsistent and poor user experience, limiting organisational productivity.

· Security – The public internet lacks adequate security measures, making enterprises vulnerable to data breaches, DDoS attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks, and a range of other cyber threats.

· Availability – There are no guarantees or end-to-end Service Level Agreements (SLAs) when using the public internet. This challenges enterprises when trying to maintain business continuity and ensure uptime.

· Cost – An unstable internet connection can result in significant downtime costs. These costs can amount to approximately $9,000 per minute due to revenue loss, decreased employee and end-user productivity, business disruptions, and potential financial penalties. The actual amount varies across industry verticals, organisation size and business models, with some cases reaching as high as $60 million per hour, according to the Ponemon Institute.

Alternatives to Public Internet Connectivity

There are options available to optimise connectivity to Microsoft services and address the drawbacks of using the public internet:

· Direct Connectivity via ExpressRoute – ExpressRoute services include connectivity options that do not route through the public internet, such as extending your on-premise networks to the Microsoft cloud over a private connection with the help of a connectivity provider. ExpressRoute Direct enables users to establish a private and direct connection to the Microsoft global network at peering locations around the world. These solutions eliminate the risks and exposures of the public internet, but may not be ideal for a geographically dispersed cloud solution design like Microsoft 365. This is because it centralises end users’ traffic into a single egress, leading to potential issues such as high egress costs, increased network latency, and suboptimal network and application performance, especially when data or services are widely distributed across the globe.

· Peering at an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) – Organisations can peer with Microsoft’s global network (AS8075) and exchange internet traffic at world-leading IXPs. Businesses that have their own unique 16-bit identification number, known as an autonomous system number or ASN, can utilise the advantages of ‘peering’ directly with Microsoft.com. This is done via an internet exchange (IX), as well as many of their business suppliers and partners, all through a single connection. This approach also removes the risks and exposures of the public internet.

Microsoft Azure Peering Service (MAPS) – MAPS is an IP-based service that utilises the concept of peering to offer optimal and reliable routing directly to the Microsoft cloud. This direct interconnection is enabled through ‘private peering’, which uses the infrastructure of IXs. This solution is great for enterprises looking to capitalise on the advantages of peering whilst ensuring a direct connection to the Microsoft cloud. It eliminates the need to compete with other Microsoft traffic, further increasing the performance, security and user experience of the network and relevant business applications.

MAPS is a relatively new partnership programme between service providers, IX partners and Microsoft to deliver best-in-class private internet connectivity to enterprise users. This is achieved by providing direct, highly available, geo-redundant connections and optimised routing to Microsoft cloud services including their application environment.

MAPS ensures that a business’ traffic stays on the Microsoft network, rather than routing through various other networks before returning to the business’ last mile network. This provides the business with more control and performance assurance on how their traffic will be handled, compared to normal internet routing.

By leveraging MAPS, enterprises can reduce the round-trip time (RTT) from their sites to the Microsoft Global Network, improving their user experiences when connecting to Microsoft services.

With the right MAPS provider, enterprises can benefit from local and geographic redundancy to ensure maximum availability, as well as optimal routing with low latency and highly reliable connectivity. Moreover, MAPS offers full visibility into traffic and routing, enabling enterprises to make intelligent and informed decisions. It also provides control over traffic routing, empowering them to choose their preferred paths for superior quality and reliability.

Connectivity Fit for the Future

An experienced MAPS partner combines global reach and an ecosystem of IX partners with end-to-end SLAs and expert support, enabling enterprises to maximise the value of MAPS through a simple and seamless model.

Enterprises that choose MAPS gain robust, secure and high-performance internet connectivity to any public Microsoft cloud service, including Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and more. With a scalable, low latency connection, plus reliable uptime, advanced security and end-to-end SLAs, enterprises can rest assured that their business applications will always remain up and running.

To ensure the optimal user experience with Microsoft services, enterprises must connect to them in the most efficient manner possible, with the support of an expert partner by their side.

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