So you’ve made it to the cloud – bravo!

If you’re reading this blog (thanks, by the way), chances are that you’ve probably decided on Azure as your gateway to the cloud. Whether it was the reduced cloud/licensing bundles that got you, the comfort of the Microsoft ecosystem, their overall aggressive pricing, or just a flip of a coin – you’ve made a fine choice, and this blog will serve to help make it an even finer one. Yes, finer is an actual word. Look it up.

Being that you’re on Azure, the numbers say that you’re most likely running a hybrid cloud environment (i.e. one or multiple physical data centers or private cloud, plus Azure). According to the RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud report, there’s a 92% chance that’s the case, so let’s carry on…

In this blog, I’m going to educate you on how to not only run architectural best practices for a hybrid cloud environment and reduce those evil egress costs by up to 80%, but also get the best possible Microsoft SLA’s while you’re at it – all with one mighty product: EXPRESS ROUTE!

Here’s how Azure ExpressRoute can step up your hybrid cloud SLA game:

Best Practice Hybrid Architecture for Availability:

Shamrock Consulting Group works with a bevy of clients who use Azure for their cloud deployments, and every single one of them uses Azure within a hybrid cloud architecture. Why is this important? Glad you asked.

When connecting to Azure over the public internet, it becomes incredibly difficult to predict performance. After all, the internet is a “network of networks,” and a problem in any area could easily impact the whole. In other words, you’re leaving both your organization and your clients open to certain vulnerabilities. It’s for this reason that companies are often reluctant to promise high levels of reliability, often erring on the side of caution when designing their own SLAs.

At the end of the day, failing to meet service level targets can be extremely costly to both your reputation and your bottom line. On the other hand, having a weak SLA could mean losing out to a competitor who offers more assurances. Balance in this respect is key – and that’s where Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute comes in.

With ExpressRoute, all “dedicated circuitry” is covered by Microsoft’s 99.9% availability guarantee – not too shabby, right? By definition, ‘dedicated circuitry’ entails all logical representation of connectivity between the Azure services you use and your exchange provider or network service provider. This means that you can confidently offer a similar level of bright and shiny 99.9% availability to your clients, although savvy B2B decision makers will always want to mix in a margin, just in case of non-ExpressRoute-related failures.

How can Microsoft offer such impressive assurances, you ask? Good question.

Since ExpressRoute connections are private, they offer higher security and reliability with consistently lower latencies. They also offer built-in redundancy through a pair of cross connections, providing ultra-high availability. The ‘pair’ of cross connections is key, so if there’s a problem with one of the pair, the connection automatically fails over to the other. And for even more redundancy, you can setup ExpressRoute connections in different peering locations. Go ahead, treat yourself.

Connecting to ExpressRoute

The inherent beauty of connecting to ExpressRoute is that it really couldn’t be easier. There are 34 ExpressRoute peering locations globally, along with hundreds of partners (i.e. carriers, exchanges, and data centers) that offer the connectivity needed to get you there.

With so many partners to choose from, the only real challenge is finding the BEST connectivity partner for your business. In case you’re wondering, Shamrock can help with that, free of charge, and all of our Express Route Services have a guaranteed best price sticker slapped on them (metaphorically, of course).

How Does Microsoft Compensate Me When They Screw Up Their SLAs?

The folks over at Microsoft know how to keep it real. If Microsoft fails to meet their SLA, they will compensate their clients with credit towards future monthly service fee payments.

It should be noted, though, that the type of claim clients can put in depends on whether they are signed up to individual services or a suite. For individual services, a claim can be made per service. If affected services are part of a suite, the credit will be pro-rated. But don’t get over-zealous with your claims, people: in all cases, only one service level claim per service is permitted, with compensation limited to a maximum of 100% (i.e. a full fee refund).

At the time of writing this article, network availability between 99.0% and 99.9% would be compensated with 10% credit. Alternatively, anything under 99.0% availability would be compensated with 25% credit.

Finally, when ExpressRoute is provided by a third-party reseller, Microsoft will base their credit on a “reasonable” retail price.

To ensure your SLA claim against Microsoft Azure is processed quickly and successfully, it’s important to send in all of the requested information as early as possible, so don’t you dare get lazy. Required information includes a detailed description of the incident; the time it occurred and its duration; the number and location of affected users; and what action was taken to restore service.

For connection issues with Azure itself, incidents must be reported within two months of the end of the relevant billing cycle. For individual service issues, claims need to be sent in by the end of the following month.

Availability agreements do not apply in situations which are outside of Microsoft’s control. These include:

  • War, terrorism and natural disasters
  • Problems with devices or networks outside of the ExpressRoute VPN
  • Problems with third-party software or services
  • Inadequate bandwidth provisions
  • Poor security/compliance practices

No freebies, either. SLAs also will not apply to free tiers or trial and beta versions of Azure services.

File the following under ‘things that are good to know’: Microsoft aims to process claims during the subsequent month and resolve it within 45 days of receipt. This should help to guide you on creating an investigation and compensation timeframe for your clients’ SLAs.

Specific Service SLA Examples

Microsoft provides different SLA requirements for specific Azure services. Below is a small selection of popular services and their corresponding SLAs (services and SLAs are subject to change, so make sure you check out the updated information directly with Azure).

Active Directory

Microsoft guarantees at least 99.9% availability of both the Basic and Premium services. Availability is defined as an end user being able to log in, access apps on the Access Panel and change their passwords. Admin availability is defined as the ability to create, read, write and delete entries and to provision or de-provision users to apps.

Analysis Service

Microsoft guarantees that Client Operations executed on the Azure Analysis Server will succeed 99.9% of the time.

Machine Learning Studio

Microsoft offers a 99.95% availability guarantee for API transactions using the Request Response Service (RRS), and 99.9% availability for management APIs and transactions using the Batch Execution Service (BES).

Mobile Services

There is a 99.9% availability guarantee in place for REST API calls to all provisioned Mobile Services running in the Standard and Premium tiers.

Visual Studio App Center

Microsoft offers a 99.9% availability guarantee on the execution of build, test and push notification operations on the appropriate services.

VPN Gateway

Microsoft guarantees 99.9% availability of their VPN Gateway and 99.95% availability for their Ultra Performance Gateway.

Shamrock Consulting Group: Your Azure ExpressRoute Experts

Azure ExpressRoute is the most cost-effective way to create private connections to and from the cloud, but the process isn’t always cut and dry.

If you have questions about Azure ExpressRoute, then consider the experts at Shamrock Consulting Group as your secret weapon. We’ve helped dozens of enterprise clients reduce costs by in Azure by average of 34%, and we offer a free consultation to determine the best solution for you.

Don’t waste time or money trying to build the perfect Azure solution yourself – let Shamrock do it for you.

Jay Carvin

Jay Carvin

Jay Carvin brings over 8 years of industry experience as Shamrock’s Director of Sales. His mission is to provide Shamrock clients with the expertise and resources they need to drive their business forward while saving them time and money. From pricing & legal language negotiation to innovative network design, Jay’s expertise has been invaluable for helping our clients get the most bang for their buck. Prior to coming on board with Shamrock in 2016, Jay drove high-value sales for Level 3, TW Telecom, Cogent, and several other service providers in the medium & enterprise space. Away from work, Jay enjoys traveling, camping, and going to music shows.