Microsoft has had a strong relationship with the education sector for many years. As part of this long-standing commitment, we wanted to share some exciting news! Microsoft has just entered into two new peering agreements with Janet, the UK’s research and education network, and Internet2, the US’s research and education network, to provide a faster and more secure connection for these institutions’ cloud-based IT services.

What is most exciting about this news is the wealth of new capabilities that are now available for millions of Internet2 and Janet staff and students, such as:

• Enabling improved access to infrastructure and application services such as websites, disaster recovery, virtual learning environments, and research projects. 

• Creating a secure connection between Windows Azure and Internet members, protecting data as it transfers between the two networks.

• Offering a private connection between the two networks that eliminates the need for data to navigate across the public Internet.

• Managing bandwidth over a private connection that will yield a fast connection to Windows Azure services, ensure high-speed delivery with no delay, and enable a high-bandwidth connection for students and staff to use Windows Azure and Office 365 Education.

Because Windows Azure is an open and flexible cloud platform, institutions will be able to quickly build, deploy, and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed datacenters. This week’s news reinforces the many investments that we have made in Windows Azure over the years to ensure that it remains one of the most powerful infrastructures with fast processors, large memory, and low-latency high bandwidth networking.

Microsoft and Internet2

This agreement is the next milestone in Microsoft’s long relationship with Internet2, and will allow students, staff and researchers from more than 220 institutions and 42 Regional and Education Networks across the US to benefit from this new agreement.

Since our announcement with Internet2 last year, Microsoft has worked with Internet2 and the university community to release and update special terms and conditions that accommodate the unique needs of education (e.g. FERPA, HIPAA, FISMA, etc.) for both Microsoft Windows Azure and Microsoft Office 365. We have added a host of new services for the community, including on-premise and cloud-integrated appliances.

This new agreement enables improved access to infrastructure and application services that support virtual learning environments and large-scale data intensive research projects, through the use of Microsoft’s high performance computing clusters, collaboration tools, and disaster recovery services. Campuses around the world will have enhanced access to two Internet2 NET+ offerings from Microsoft – Windows Azure and Microsoft Office 365 Education.

Internet2 recently completed a dramatic expansion to its network—the nation's first 100 gigabit per second nationwide open, software-defined network—that is built to support advanced services and cloud applications to spur new waves of innovation in education, research and industry.

Funded in part through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), along with Internet2 partners, the upgraded network uses brand new 100G technology and has an unprecedented 8.8 terabits of capacity. The Internet2 Network is the first national network to deploy 100G waves on its entire footprint, and the most sophisticated research and education platform in the world.

Microsoft and Janet

The move to peer the Microsoft Windows Azure datacenter to the Janet network comes as part of our new strategic alliance with Janet that was signed earlier this week and will benefit more than 18 million students, staff and researchers at institutions across the UK.

The alliance also means any UK education institution can also access the standard terms and conditions on Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity software suite Office 365, negotiated by Janet. An early beneficiary of this arrangement is Goldsmiths, which is also one of a select group of institutions responsible for initiating work on the alliance. Basem El-Haddadeh, Director of IT Services at Goldsmiths told us that the work on Office 365 will save the sector considerable time and money and accelerate adoption of Office 365. In fact, Goldsmiths staff and students are already enjoying using the new system today.

We see this as just the beginning of our collaborative relationship with Janet. It’s great to see the cloud momentum taking hold with these research and education institutions. Professor of Computing Science at Newcastle University Paul Watson says that the new link between Janet and Windows Azure will help institutions like Newcastle University explore a greater range of research projects that fully exploit the benefits of cloud computing.

We are excited to help Internet2 and Janet further advance their technology innovation, and we look forward to the new opportunities that Windows Azure can bring to both organizations.