May 29, 2024

Azure Virtual Network Gateway vs Azure ExpressRoute Gateway

8 min read
If you're looking to connect your on-premises network to Azure, you have two options: Azure Virtual Network Gateway and Azure ExpressRoute Gateway.
Two interconnected cloud networks

Two interconnected cloud networks

Cloud computing has revolutionized how businesses operate, offering flexibility, scalability, ease of deployment, and cost savings. One of the most popular cloud platforms is Microsoft Azure. However, with so many services, features, and configurations, it can be challenging to select the optimal solution for your needs, especially when it comes to networking. In this article, we will compare and contrast two important gateway solutions offered by Azure – Virtual Network Gateway and ExpressRoute Gateway – and explore their features, advantages, disadvantages, use cases, and best practices.

What is a Virtual Network Gateway in Azure?

Azure Virtual Network Gateway is a managed service that enables you to connect your Azure virtual networks to other on-premises or cloud networks securely and seamlessly. It acts as a gateway between your virtual network and the internet, allowing you to access cloud resources, endpoints, web apps, and services. Virtual Network Gateway supports multiple connectivity options, such as point-to-site, site-to-site, and VNet-to-VNet, as well as VPN protocols, such as PPTP, SSTP, L2TP, and IKEv2. You can also use Virtual Network Gateway to encrypt your traffic and enable peering between virtual networks in the same region or across regions.

One of the key benefits of using Virtual Network Gateway is that it provides a highly available and scalable solution for connecting your virtual networks to other networks. This means that you can easily scale your network connectivity as your business grows, without having to worry about downtime or performance issues.

Another advantage of using Virtual Network Gateway is that it provides a secure and reliable way to connect your on-premises networks to your Azure virtual networks. This is particularly important for businesses that need to maintain strict security and compliance requirements, as Virtual Network Gateway uses industry-standard encryption and authentication protocols to ensure that your data is protected at all times.

What is an ExpressRoute Gateway in Azure?

Azure ExpressRoute Gateway is another managed service that enables you to create a dedicated and private connection between your on-premises infrastructure and your Azure resources, bypassing the public internet. ExpressRoute Gateway provides a direct and low-latency link between your network and Azure data centers, ensuring consistent performance, reliability, and security. ExpressRoute Gateway supports multiple connectivity options, such as point-to-point, any-to-any, and VNet-to-VNet, as well as industry-standard protocols, such as BGP, OSPF, and static routing. You can also use ExpressRoute Gateway to leverage Microsoft peering, which provides access to Microsoft cloud services, such as Azure, Office 365, Dynamics 365, and more, with guaranteed quality of service.

Key differences between Virtual Network Gateway and ExpressRoute Gateway

Both Virtual Network Gateway and ExpressRoute Gateway offer networking solutions for Azure customers. However, they have key differences in terms of connectivity options, performance, reliability, cost, and availability:

  • Virtual Network Gateway uses VPN protocols and the public internet to connect to Azure, while ExpressRoute Gateway uses private connections and dedicated connections from Azure partners.
  • Virtual Network Gateway is suitable for small to medium workloads and non-critical applications, while ExpressRoute Gateway is suitable for large and complex workloads and mission-critical applications.
  • Virtual Network Gateway provides lower bandwidth and higher latency than ExpressRoute Gateway, but it is more affordable and widely available. ExpressRoute Gateway provides higher bandwidth and lower latency, but it is more expensive and limited to certain regions and partners.

Pros and cons of using Virtual Network Gateway in Azure

Virtual Network Gateway has several advantages and disadvantages that you should consider before using it:

  • Pros:
    • Easy to set up and use.
    • Flexible and scalable connectivity options.
    • Affordable and suitable for small to medium workloads.
    • Provides encryption and peering capabilities.
    • Works with various VPN protocols and devices.
  • Cons:
    • Lower performance and reliability than ExpressRoute Gateway.
    • Higher latency and lower throughput than ExpressRoute Gateway.
    • Limited bandwidth and VPN gateway SKUs.
    • Requires public IP addresses and firewall rules for VPN traffic.
    • May have connectivity issues in high-traffic or congested networks.

Pros and cons of using ExpressRoute Gateway in Azure

ExpressRoute Gateway also has several advantages and disadvantages that you should consider before using it:

  • Pros:
    • Dedicated and private connectivity to Azure.
    • High performance and reliability.
    • Low latency and high bandwidth.
    • Guaranteed quality of service for Microsoft cloud services.
    • Integrated with Azure services, such as load balancer and firewall.
  • Cons:
    • More complex and expensive to set up and use.
    • Requires specific hardware and partnerships with Azure partners.
    • Not available in all regions and Azure services.
    • May have limited connectivity to non-Microsoft cloud services.
    • Requires additional monitoring and troubleshooting.

How to choose between Virtual Network Gateway and ExpressRoute Gateway?

Choosing the right gateway solution for your Azure network depends on your specific requirements and constraints. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Bandwidth: If you need high bandwidth and low latency, choose ExpressRoute Gateway.
  • Criticality: If your workloads are critical and require high availability and reliability, choose ExpressRoute Gateway.
  • Cost: If you have budget constraints and need an affordable solution, choose Virtual Network Gateway.
  • Complexity: If you have specific hardware or partners and need customized configurations, choose ExpressRoute Gateway.
  • Locations: If you need to access Microsoft cloud services or regions exclusively, choose ExpressRoute Gateway.
  • Security: If you need encryption and peering capabilities, choose Virtual Network Gateway.

Factors to consider when selecting a gateway solution in Azure

Once you have decided which gateway solution to use, here are some best practices to follow for configuring and managing your gateway:

  • Design your network topology to optimize performance, security, and scalability.
  • Choose the appropriate gateway SKU and pricing model based on your traffic volume and type.
  • Select the appropriate VPN protocol and encryption algorithm based on your security and compatibility requirements.
  • Configure your on-premises VPN device or partner connection to match your gateway configuration.
  • Use a network performance monitor and troubleshooter to diagnose and resolve connectivity issues.
  • Enable network security groups and firewall rules to protect your virtual network and resources.
  • Monitor your gateway logs and metrics to detect and respond to security or performance incidents.
  • Follow Azure best practices for compliance, governance, and risk management.

How to set up Virtual Network Gateway in Azure?

To set up Virtual Network Gateway in Azure, follow these steps:

  1. Create a virtual network in Azure or use an existing one.
  2. Create a public IP address or use an existing one.
  3. Create a virtual network gateway and select the appropriate SKU, pricing model, and VPN protocol.
  4. Configure your VPN device or client to match your virtual network gateway settings, such as IPsec parameters, shared key, and local network prefix.
  5. Test and verify your VPN connection by pinging or accessing your Azure resources.
  6. Configure VNet peering or VPN gateways to connect to other virtual networks.

How to set up ExpressRoute Gateway in Azure?

To set up ExpressRoute Gateway in Azure, follow these steps:

  1. Select an ExpressRoute provider or use an existing one.
  2. Create an ExpressRoute circuit and associate it with your subscription, region, and peering type.
  3. Create an ExpressRoute gateway and select the appropriate SKU, pricing model, and routing protocol.
  4. Configure your on-premises network and express route connection settings, such as peering locations, routes, and BGP parameters.
  5. Test and verify your express route connection by pinging or accessing your Azure resources.
  6. Configure load balancer, firewall, or network traffic manager to optimize your traffic and workload.

Best practices for configuring and managing Virtual Network Gateway in Azure

To configure and manage Virtual Network Gateway in Azure more effectively, follow these best practices:

  • Choose the right SKU and pricing model based on your traffic volume and type.
  • Select the appropriate VPN protocol and encryption algorithm based on your security and compatibility requirements.
  • Use Azure network security groups and firewall rules to control traffic flow and protect your resources.
  • Configure VNet peering or VPN connections to connect to other virtual networks or on-premises networks.
  • Monitor your Virtual Network Gateway logs and metrics to diagnose and resolve issues.
  • Optimize your virtual network and subnet configurations for performance, scalability, and security.

Best practices for configuring and managing ExpressRoute Gateway in Azure

To configure and manage ExpressRoute Gateway in Azure more effectively, follow these best practices:

  • Choose the right SKU and peering type based on your bandwidth and locations.
  • Select the appropriate routing protocol and BGP settings based on your network topology and preferences.
  • Use Azure load balancer and firewall to regulate traffic and protect your resources.
  • Configure redundant ExpressRoute circuits and gateways for high availability and disaster recovery.
  • Monitor your ExpressRoute Gateway logs and metrics to diagnose and resolve issues.
  • Optimize your network design and routing configurations for performance, scalability, and security.

Security considerations for using Virtual Network Gateway in Azure

To ensure the security and privacy of your Virtual Network Gateway in Azure, consider the following security measures:

  • Use SSL or TLS encryption for your VPN traffic.
  • Restrict access to your Virtual Network Gateway by using network security groups and firewall rules.
  • Use strong passwords or certificates for your VPN client authentication.
  • Configure your VPN device or partner connection to use secure and compliant protocols and algorithms.
  • Monitor and audit your Virtual Network Gateway activities and logs for suspicious or anomalous behavior.
  • Follow Azure security best practices for securing your virtual network, data, and applications.

Security considerations for using ExpressRoute Gateway in Azure

To ensure the security and privacy of your ExpressRoute Gateway in Azure, consider the following security measures:

  • Activate Azure Firewall and network security groups to protect your ExpressRoute traffic and resources.
  • Follow Azure security best practices for securing your ExpressRoute circuit, such as using encryption, using validated BYO devices, and disabling unsafe protocols.
  • Use trusted ExpressRoute providers and partners that comply with Azure security standards and regulations.
  • Enable ExpressRoute Private Peering and Microsoft Peering to isolate your traffic and ensure secure connectivity to Microsoft services.
  • Monitor and audit your ExpressRoute Gateway activities and logs for suspicious or anomalous behavior.
  • Follow Azure security best practices for securing your virtual network, data, and applications.

Performance comparison between Virtual Network Gateway and ExpressRoute Gateway

Finally, let’s compare the performance and latency of Virtual Network Gateway and ExpressRoute Gateway:

  • Virtual Network Gateway:
    • Max throughput: 20 Gbps per VPN gateway
    • VPN latency: 250 ms to 500 ms
    • Peering latency: 1 ms to 100 ms
  • ExpressRoute Gateway:
    • Max throughput: 100 Gbps per ExpressRoute circuit
    • PEP latency: 1 ms to 5 ms
    • Microsoft Peering latency: 10 ms to 20 ms

As you can see, ExpressRoute Gateway provides higher bandwidth, lower latency, and better performance than Virtual Network Gateway, but it also comes with higher costs, complexity, and requirements. Therefore, you should evaluate your specific needs and constraints before choosing one or the other.

Conclusion

In this article, we have explored the differences, advantages, disadvantages, and best practices of Azure Virtual Network Gateway and ExpressRoute Gateway in detail. We have covered a wide range of topics, from connectivity options and performance comparison to security considerations and deployment guidelines. By following these recommendations and guidelines, you can make informed and optimal decisions for networking in Azure and achieve your business goals efficiently and securely.

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