Azure ExpressRoute

Natasha Ong
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4 min read

In a nutshell:

Azure ExpressRoute is a private highway to Microsoft's cloud, ensuring faster, safer, and more reliable connections.
Data avoids the internet when it passes through ExpressRoute - so it's super secure!
Four ways to use Azure ExpressRoute: Co-location at a cloud exchange, point-to-point Ethernet connection, any-to-any networks, and direct connections at peering locations.

Azure ExpressRoute

Azure ExpressRoute is a private highway that connects your on-premise networks with the Microsoft cloud. This gives your on-premise networks access to Microsoft cloud services, like Azure. Your data doesn't travel over the public internet (this is super important!!), so it's faster, safer and more reliable than typical internet connections.

An ExpressRoute connection between your on-premise network and the Microsoft cloud is called an ExpressRoute Circuit. Each office, data centre or other on-premise facility would have its own ExpressRoute Circuit.

Why people love Azure ExpressRoute

  • Global connectivity: You can connect from anywhere to Microsoft's services worldwide.
  • Dynamic routing: It finds the best route for your information to travel. ExpressRoute uses BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) to do this, remember BPG from our previous module?
  • Built-in redundancy at every peering location: There are backup systems in place at each connection point, so if one part of the network has a problem, the backup takes over to keep the connection strong and reliable. Note: A peering location is the point where your network directly connects to Microsoft's network for data exchange.
  • Security: Since ExpressRoute doesn't use the public internet, it's super secure. Your data is like a hidden treasure, safe from prying eyes.

Four ways you can use Azure ExpressRoute

ExpressRoute supports four connectivity methods that you can use to connect your on-premises network to the Microsoft cloud:

  1. Co-location at a cloud exchange: Co-location means having your datacenter or office being physically located with a cloud exchange*, such as an internet service provider (ISP). If your facility is co-located at a cloud exchange, you can request a virtual cross-connect** to the Microsoft cloud.
*Cloud exchange: Think of it as a meeting place for clouds. It's where data centres or offices can connect directly to cloud services like Microsoft's.
**Virtual cross-connect: A secret tunnel to the cloud. If you're near a cloud exchange, you can ask for a private connection to Microsoft's cloud.
  • Point-to-point Ethernet connection*: using a private connection from your on-premise facility to the cloud.
*An Ethernet connection uses a cable to transmit data between devices, such as computers, routers, and switches. It's known for its reliability and speed, making it a common choice for connecting devices within a local network.
  • Any-to-any networks: In an any-to-any network, you can connect your wide area network (WAN)* with the Microsoft cloud. This means that your branch offices and data centres can communicate with each other and the cloud seamlessly, almost as if they are all part of the same network.
*A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a network that connects multiple networks over a large geographical area, such as a city, country, or even across the globe. WANs are designed to facilitate long-distance communication and data exchange across different offices, data centres, or branches of an organisation.
  • Direct from ExpressRoute sites: You can connect directly into the Microsoft's global network at a peering location (i.e. a meeting spot for connecting directly into Microsoft's network) strategically distributed across the world. This is called ExpressRoute Direct!

Which Microsoft cloud services can you connect to?

ExpressRoute enables direct access to these services in all regions:

  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365
  • Azure compute services, such as Azure Virtual Machines
  • Azure cloud services*, such as Azure Cosmos DB and Azure Storage
*Azure cloud services like Azure Cosmos DB and Azure Storage offer specific, managed services designed for particular data storage and database needs, reducing the operational overhead for those specific use cases. To compare, Azure compute services like Azure Virtual Machines provide more control and flexibility for running and managing custom applications.