Microsoft takes ExpressRoute to orbit to sling Azure services at backwaters via satellite

Your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition, er, we mean Redmond pals up with SES, Intelsat and Viasat

Updated Microsoft has buddied up with a trio of satellite operators to hook up its Azure cloud to locations lacking connectivity.

ExpressRoute is aimed at extending an on-premises network into Microsoft's cloud via a private connection courtesy of a connection provider. Rather than the public internet, express routes keep things private and so are, in theory, a tad more reliable and secure than is typical.

Of course, in a remote or isolated location where there may not be a handy access point, things are a little trickier. Getting the data into the cloud from sensors springing up on farms, mines and servers lurking in hard-to-access places is a challenge.

To that end, Microsoft has added satellite connectivity into the mix, courtesy of new best friends SES, Intelsat and Viasat.

SES told The Register that its multi-orbit service, comprising geostationary and medium Earth orbit satellites, would give ExpressRoute customers "fibre-like" performance and global coverage.

Sadly, the company was not so forthcoming when it came to actually putting a figure on the speed and latency a customer might expect when connected to Azure via a space-borne ExpressRoute link.

Intelsat and Viasat did not immediately respond to our requests for more information.

Still, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella showing no signs of following Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos into space, leveraging someone else's satellites makes sense.

Naturally, ExpressRoute is not the only game in town. Amazon's Direct Connect and Google's Dedicated Interconnect also allow a customer high- speed dedicated connectivity to each giants' data centres. Microsoft's step just simplifies things a little for Azure customers looking to plug in from somewhere with poor connectivity.

Azure is no stranger to orbital shenanigans. While everyone else was gawping at the HoloLens 2 during February's Mobile World Congress, Microsoft and Inmarsat snuck out an announcement to the effect that Azure IoT devices would be able to fling their data into the cloud via Inmarsat's network.

Again, handy for flaky connectivity.

The addition of ExpressRoute, however, ups the ante. The predicted explosive growth in commercial constellations means that there should be plenty of private bandwidth to go around.

For a price, of course. ®

Updated to add 12:39 UTC 16/09/19

While Intelsat continues to maintain a dignified silence, Viasat got in touch to boast about its bandwidth and vertically integrated network, "which we believe is the best way to get high bandwidth delivery".

The company was unable to provide any specifics but said: "We expect improvements in the ground latency and stability."

Viasat Direct Cloud Connect will hit later this year (along with pricing) and will initially be US only. The UK will get to join the party "in the future".

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