June 14, 2024

Azure Virtual Network vs Azure ExpressRoute

9 min read
Discover the differences between Azure Virtual Network and Azure ExpressRoute in this informative article.
Two connected networks

Two connected networks

In today’s digital age, businesses require fast and reliable network infrastructure to effectively communicate and collaborate with employees, partners, and customers. Cloud computing platforms like Microsoft Azure offer powerful tools to achieve these goals, with two primary options for networking: Azure Virtual Network and Azure ExpressRoute. In this article, we explore the similarities and differences between these two networking solutions, and dive deep into their features and capabilities so that you can make an informed decision.

Understanding Azure Virtual Network

Azure Virtual Network is a service within Microsoft Azure that enables users to create isolated virtual networks. These networks can be used to securely connect different virtual machines (VMs) and services within Azure data centers, as well as with on-premise infrastructure over a VPN connection. This allows for seamless integration of cloud and on-premise resources and provides a flexible way to manage networking resources.

Azure Virtual Network enables users to define network topology, control IP addresses, and setup required routing tables and security rules. This makes it easy to fully customize your network infrastructure to meet your specific business needs. With Azure Virtual Network, customers can set up multiple virtual networks to segregate and secure each department or application’s traffic. This isolation provides an added layer of security and ensures that traffic from one application cannot impact the operation of another.

Understanding Azure ExpressRoute

As an alternative to Azure Virtual Network, Azure ExpressRoute provides a dedicated, private connection between on-premise infrastructure or colocation facility and Azure data centers. This connection can be used to extend your on-premise data center into the Azure Cloud and access cloud resources directly without passing traffic over the public internet. This provides lower latency and enhanced security for your data and applications. Azure ExpressRoute comes with several benefits: reliability, predictable performance, and security.

Azure ExpressRoute provides a dedicated connection to a specified Azure region, allowing for the creation of a private route for data exchange. This private route provides a secure and consistent connection that is not subject to the performance fluctuations of the public internet. This provides predictable performance and availability for critical applications or services.

Comparing Azure Virtual Network and Azure ExpressRoute

Both Azure Virtual Network and Azure ExpressRoute provide powerful networking capabilities and can be used to meet different networking requirements. The fundamental difference between these two solutions is that Azure Virtual Network provides an isolated virtual network environment within Azure, while Azure ExpressRoute provides a private and dedicated connection between on-premise infrastructure and Azure.

Azure Virtual Network is suitable when collaborating amongst teams within Azure or when only accessing resources within Azure, whereas Azure ExpressRoute is ideal for organizations with sensitive data that require greater control over their network. Azure Virtual Network is best when you don’t require high-speed data transfer, while Azure ExpressRoute is ideal for high-speed data transfer and more dependable connectivity.

When to use Azure Virtual Network

Azure Virtual Network is best used when you want to create multiple subnets and control routing between them or want to isolate different departments or applications traffic. Azure Virtual Network is also suitable when you require a secure connection between different virtual machines within Azure or want to connect to on-premise infrastructure over a VPN connection.

Azure Virtual Network comes with multiple features to secure the network traffic, such as user-defined routes, network security groups, and Azure Firewall. This provides an added layer of security on top of the secured connection which is a VPN connection. Also, multiple parties can connect to Azure Virtual Network using Azure Private Link, a private connectivity service that offers secure access to Azure resources.

When to use Azure ExpressRoute

Azure ExpressRoute is best used when you require uninterrupted data transfer between Azure data centers and on-premise infrastructure. Azure ExpressRoute is also suitable when you want to guarantee the consistency of the network performance and reduce the risk of packet loss. It is ideal for critical applications and data that require low latency and high-throughput data transfer.

Azure ExpressRoute provides different bandwidth options to meet different business needs. A dedicated connection between your on-premise and Azure data center provides a guaranteed performance level. Azure ExpressRoute provides a private circuit connection between your on-premise and Azure data center, which ensures that your traffic does not traverse the internet, providing maximum security. It also offers multiple routing options for fault tolerance and load balancing.

Benefits of using Azure Virtual Network

Azure Virtual Network provides several benefits. It enables you to create an isolated virtual network environment, secure traffic between Azure resources, on-premise infrastructure, or partner facilities using VPN, and segregate traffic between different applications and services.

Azure Virtual Network allows you to control the IP address range and assign static IPs to your network interfaces, which simplifies management. It also provides the options to scale your network interfaces and subnets to meet the growing business requirements. Azure Virtual Network provides security through Network Security groups, allowing you to define inbound and outbound traffic rules and restrict access to resources within the virtual network.

Benefits of using Azure ExpressRoute

Azure ExpressRoute provides several advantages. It provides a private connection between your on-premise infrastructure and Azure data centers, allowing for reliable and dedicated performance without the risks associated with the public internet. It also offers flexible bandwidth options to scale to meet your business needs.

With Azure ExpressRoute, you can integrate your on-premise infrastructure and Azure cloud solution seamlessly. This provides the ability to centrally manage your IT infrastructure through hybrid computing. For sensitive data, Azure ExpressRoute offers enhanced security, including data encryption during transit and dedicated routing.

Limitations of using Azure Virtual Network

One of the limitations of Azure Virtual Network is that it can only connect to Virtual Machines in Azure. You have to use VPN gateways when you want to connect your Virtual Network to other resources such as Azure Load Balancer, Azure Application Gateway, and Azure Functions.

Another limitation of Azure Virtual Network is the limited bandwidth that is available. Bandwidth between virtual machines within Azure is restricted unless you use Azure ExpressRoute to increase the bandwidth. Also, more VMs connected to the same virtual subnet can result in performance and latency challenges because of the restricted bandwidth and increased load.

Limitations of using Azure ExpressRoute

One potential limitation of Azure ExpressRoute is that it is an expensive solution. It requires additional hardware such as routers and circuit providers, and a separate circuit is required for each connection that needs the service. Additionally, once set up, it may take more time to make changes to the network, making it more challenging to adjust to changing business requirements or infrastructure changes.

Another limitation of Azure ExpressRoute is that there are limited geographical availability and a prerequisite for a provider with peering arrangements. This could limit connectivity and increase costs if a service provider with peering arrangements does not exist in the desired location.

Security features in Azure Virtual Network

Azure Virtual Network provides several security features to protect your network traffic. Azure Virtual Network can be secured by Network Security Groups, which allow for defining rules that control traffic flow to and from Azure resources, including virtual machines, IP addresses, and subnets. These rules can be defined based on protocol, source, target, and port number.

Another security feature available in Azure Virtual Network is the Azure Firewall, which provides a network-level firewall capability to protect your resources. Azure Firewall can be used to centrally manage multiple virtual networks and offer protection for outbound traffic, inbound traffic, and hybrid connectivity over a VPN or Azure ExpressRoute.

Security Features in Azure ExpressRoute

Azure ExpressRoute utilizes different security features to protect data in transit. One such security feature is the ability to encrypt data in transit, which minimizes the risk of data loss or interception. Encryption is performed using an Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) tunnel or a secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection.

Another security feature available in Azure ExpressRoute is the ability to use Internet Protocol Security (IPsec)/ Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) for private and public peering connections. It provides dedicated connectivity between Azure data centers and on-premise infrastructure without transferring traffic over the public internet.

Pricing comparison between Azure Virtual Network and Azure ExpressRoute

When planning your networking solutions, pricing is one of the critical factors to consider. The cost of Azure Virtual Network is primarily based on the number of virtual networks and subnets you create, the amount of outbound data transfers (ingress of data is free), and the number of VPN gateways you use. The cost of Azure ExpressRoute, on the other hand, is based on the type and number of circuits.

Azure Virtual Network is a cheaper option when you only require interconnecting virtual machines within Azure or require VPN connectivity to on-premise infrastructure. Azure ExpressRoute is more expensive but provides more control, availability, and performance when compared to Azure Virtual Network. With Azure ExpressRoute, you pay for the dedicated circuit rather than data transfers.

Setting up and configuring an Azure Virtual Network

Setting up an Azure Virtual Network is a straightforward process. To create an Azure Virtual Network, you must create a virtual network and configure it based on your business requirements. You can create a virtual network and subnets by using the Azure Portal, the Azure CLI, or Azure PowerShell. When you create a new virtual network, you can specify your preferred IP address range, define your subnets based on your requirements, and assign IP addresses to your network interfaces.

You can also control traffic that traverses your virtual network by using the Network Security Groups, which allow you to control inbound and outbound traffic from and to Azure resources. Azure Firewall can also be used to secure the traffic and centrally manage inbound and outbound connectivity from your virtual network.

Setting up and configuring an Azure ExpressRoute

Setting up Azure ExpressRoute is a more involved process than setting up Azure Virtual Network and requires purchasing a circuit from a support provider. Once you have a circuit available, you will need to coordinate the circuit setup with your service provider and Microsoft support. After the circuit is established, you can create a virtual network gateway in Azure and specify your preferred peering route. You can then configure your virtual network to use the new gateway and associate any needed subnets.

Once configured, Azure ExpressRoute can offer predictable network performance, reliability, and security. You can manage multiple connection sites, configure redundant connections, and monitor bandwidth usage through the Azure Portal, Azure CLI, and PowerShell.

Performance comparison between Azure Virtual Network and Azure ExpressRoute

Azure Virtual Network provides the connectivity for the public internet, and network bandwidth could become limited when sharing resources across multiple applications. Traffic needs to traverse several gateways to go from Azure Virtual Network to on-premise infrastructure, which can impact network performance.

In contrast, Azure ExpressRoute offers reliable connectivity, low latency, and high-throughput performance, ideal for critical applications that require consistent and high-speed data transfer. With dedicated connectivity between Azure data centers and on-premise infrastructure, you can have better control and lower network performance issues when compared to Azure Virtual Network.

Scalability comparison between Azure Virtual Network and Azure ExpressRoute

Azure Virtual Network is scalable enough to handle medium to large-scale internet-facing applications by using Azure Load Balancers and Azure Packets. Azure Virtual Network lets you manage multiple disjoint IP ranges and deal with different site locations through VPN tunnels. This capability allows you to scale horizontally, which means your network will grow along with your business requirements.

Azure ExpressRoute also provides scalable bandwidth, from 50 Mbps to 10 Gbps, using a single connection. Azure ExpressRoute helps meet business growth requirements through bandwidth scaling, load-balancing, and increased availability through connectivity over dual ExpressRoute circuits. In other words, capacity can be increased soon after the business expansion, and unscheduled downtime is prevented.

Best practices for implementing an efficient network infrastructure in Microsoft Azure with either option

When implementing either Azure Virtual Network or Azure ExpressRoute, several best practices can help to create an efficient and robust network infrastructure. The following are different best practices to consider for both solutions.

  • Planning your network architecture
  • Controlling IP addresses and subnets
  • Securing your resources
  • Monitoring your network
  • Optimizing network connectivity
  • Finding the right service provider

By following these best practices, you can create a reliable and efficient network infrastructure in Microsoft Azure with either Azure Virtual Network or Azure ExpressRoute.

Conclusion

Both Azure Virtual Network and Azure ExpressRoute are powerful networking solutions for businesses of all sizes and requirements. Each solution has its strengths and weaknesses that should be carefully considered before determining which solution is best for your business. By following the best practices and using the features of either Azure Virtual Network or Azure ExpressRoute, you can keep your network infrastructure secure, efficient, and scalable as your business needs change over time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *