Office 365 has been a choice of platform for small business enterprises who are Microsoft shop & doesn’t have large user base and specialized skills within their in-house IT. There are quite a number of offerings within Office 365

  • SharePoint Online
  • Lync Online
  • Exchange Online
  • Exchange Online Protection
  • One Drive for Business
  • Yammer
  • Office Online etc. etc.

Success of moving and eventually consuming the Office 365 depends on several factor and one of them being how fast are your WAN links. Over a period of time & as your user base grow, you would notice that your cloud based services, in this case Office 365 exchange online may suffer from performance issue due to WAN bottleneck, you can use Azure Express Routes Service.

Azure Express Route service is premium service which offers direct private connectivity to the Microsoft hosted environment offering your business low latency and high speed network. This takes pressure off your WAN links while significantly improving the performance of your Office 365 cloud services.

Here is work flow that you need to follow to setup Azure Express Route from your customer/client side. You would still need to work with Azure Dedicated Circuit provider to complete the setup.

  • Define a VNET
  • Create virtual subnets and
  • Create Gateway subnets
  • Create Virtual network Gateway (only one per VNET)
  • Create Express Route
  • Create Peering and Connections

Assuming you already have Azure Account or You can setup new one if are you not using Azure. You would still need to get an Azure Subscription or you can partner with your Express Route provider to get you a Microsoft Azure Pass for trial.

Login to https://portal.azure.com

Go to Subscription to check you have a valid subscription. In my case, I have applied MS Azure Pass J

First of all we need to create a Virtual Network. It will be your default isolated virtual network and lets you connect outwards. It’s similar to AWS default VPC.

Go to New > Networking > Virtual Network

Select deployment model as Resource Manager and click on Create

Now you would be presented with Virtual Network form. Fill in it with correct details. The form has dynamic checks and would show you error if you enter any incorrect or overlapping values.

Once done, Click Create.

Next, we need to create a virtual gateway for virtual network that we have just created. It acts like a router and provide you a way to communicate outside your VNet.

Important to note: You can associate Virtual Gateway to Virtual Network one at a time.

Go to New > Networking > Virtual Gateway

Give it a Name.

Select the Virtual Network that was created earlier.

You would need to create a Public IP address and name it.

Gateway Type would be Express Route, Select your subscription and location.

Don’t forget your coffee break as provisioning may take up to 45 mins.

The next step is to create Express Route Circuit. We going to same place i.e. under networking and Select Express route.

As mentioned earlier, you would need to work with the service provider who will provide you a private link to Microsoft Azure environment, so some of the details would be provided to you by your provider. Express Route bandwidth can be between 50mbps to 10Gbps. Once you have filled all the fields, Click finish.

Once provisioned, provide your service provider, the service key. He would need the service key to provision Express Route Circuit from his side. On that being completed, you would need to complete the Microsoft Peering (Remember you would require a Premium Subscription to complete peering with Microsoft office 365 environment). Details would be provided to you by your private link partner.

Microsoft would now start advertising routes to your partner router, which in turn advertise routes to your routers. You should now be able to use Azure Express Routes for Office 365 services.