AT&T, Microsoft Join Forces To Boost Azure Enterprise Adoption

The partnership, according to the companies, is a "game-changer," allowing businesses to access Azure using their own private networks, and, as a result, eliminating the security or bandwidth issues that often come with using a public cloud service.

"The service allows businesses to connect to Windows Azure using their virtual private network, completely bypassing the public Internet," said Rene Dufrene, assistant vice president, Network Enabled Cloud, AT&T Business Solutions. "Customer traffic is isolated and customers aren't exposed to the public Internet, which can be vulnerable to attacks, outages and other risks."

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Douglas Grosfield, president and CEO of Xylotek Solutions, an Ontario-based solution provider and Microsoft partner, said he's seen security concerns hinder enterprise cloud adoption and is glad to see companies like AT&T and Microsoft working together to remove that barrier to entry.

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"If telcos invest as AT&T is doing in the U.S., allowing organizations -- who may be nervous about recent revelations on public Internet encryption not being as secure as once believed -- to protect their data as it is transferred to and from data centers in the cloud, I believe it will go a long ways toward accelerating adoption and assuaging fears," Grosfield said.

The joint AT&T and Microsoft service works by leveraging AT&T's VPN to let customers connect applications and services from their own data centers -- or private clouds -- to Windows Azure.

AT&T said its cloud integration technology NetBond is being used to create the tie between AT&T's VPN and the Azure platform.

Microsoft, for its part, views the AT&T partnership as a way to accelerate enterprise adoption of Azure, giving users a more secure and reliable way to access that service. "There's no question that the time for cloud computing is now, and it's critical we help enterprises embrace the cloud on their terms,” said Satya Nadella, executive vice president of Cloud and Enterprise for Microsoft, in a statement.

Azure's integration with AT&T's private network is one of several updates Microsoft has made to its cloud service platform over the past few months. The software giant in April announced general availability for its Windows Azure Infrastructure Services, which it described as the final component of its cloud services lineup. Also in April, Microsoft announced it would slash the costs of its virtual machines and cloud services by 21 to 33 percent, in a bid to match Amazon Web Services (AWS) prices for cloud compute and storage services.

Microsoft partners, meanwhile, considered the company's cloud services portfolio to be a bright spot in an otherwise bumpy fourth quarter, during which Microsoft took a $900 million charge for its Surface RT tablet.

The new AT&T and Microsoft cloud solution will be available during the first half of 2014. According to AT&T, customers will continue to purchase Windows Azure from Microsoft and AT&T VPN from AT&T and will be billed separately by each company.