Connected clouds on a circuit board.
Image: kras99/Adobe Stock

Enterprises require technology solutions that enable quick, reliable, private and secure connections between their data centers and infrastructure. Azure ExpressRoute is one of these solutions that offers private connectivity to the Microsoft Azure cloud.

SEE: Putting Azure to work: Tips for IT pros (TechRepublic Premium)

In this review of Azure ExpressRoute, learn more about how it works, its pros and cons, and other possible solutions for private data center connective infrastructure.

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What is Azure ExpressRoute?

The Microsoft Azure logo.
Image: Microsoft

Azure ExpressRoute is a service that empowers its users to make private connections between Azure data centers and infrastructure on-premises or in a co-location environment. It enables users to extend their on-premises networks into the Microsoft cloud via a private connection enabled by a connectivity provider. In order to use ExpressRoute, users must also incorporate ExpressRoute Circuit and ExpressRoute Gateway into their tech stacks.

Azure ExpressRoute features

Layer 3 connectivity

Microsoft utilizes Border Gateway Protocol to swap routes between the on-premises networks of its users, their instances in Azure and Microsoft public addresses. With ExpressRoute, it is possible to establish numerous BGP sessions with customer networks for diverse traffic profiles.


Every ExpressRoute circuit has a pair of connections to two Microsoft Enterprise edge routers. These are at peering locations, from a user’s network edge or connectivity provider. A dual BGP connection from a connectivity provider or the network edge of a user is a Microsoft requirement for ExpressRoute users; two connections go into the two MSEEs.

Even though users may not opt to deploy redundant devices and/or Ethernet circuits at their end, connectivity providers use redundant devices to make sure user connections are redundantly delivered to Microsoft.

ExpressRoute Direct

Users can instantly connect to Microsoft’s global network at peering locations that are strategically distributed globally through ExpressRoute Direct. It offers dual 100Gbps connectivity that supports active-active connectivity at scale.

SEE: Building and decommissioning data centers (TechRepublic Premium)

ExpressRoute Direct offers data ingestion features that enable ingestion into services such as Azure Storage. It also provides physical isolation for industries such as banking and retail, which face strict regulations and need dedicated, isolated connectivity. Finally, ExpressRoute Direct delivers granular circuit distribution control that is dependent on the business unit.

ExpressRoute Global Reach

ExpressRoute Global Reach can be set up to exchange data traversing the on-premises sites of customers. It allows users to connect their private data centers through ExpressRoute circuits, thus enabling that cross-data-center traffic to traverse through Microsoft’s network.

ExpressRoute Premium

With ExpressRoute Premium, customers can extend connectivity across geopolitical boundaries. It ensures users access the same services in the same manner, regardless of the global region where it is deployed.

ExpressRoute Local

ExpressRoute offers cost-effective data transfer by enabling the Local SKU. The Local SKU helps users bring their data to an ExpressRoute location near their desired Azure region.

Pros & cons

The benefits associated with using Azure ExpressRoute include:

  • Increased reliability, privacy and speed for cloud connections: ExpressRoute improves the speed, reliability and privacy of cloud connections. It can be used to create private connections between Azure data centers and infrastructure on-premises or in a co-location environment.
  • Customers can extend and connect their data centers: Through its high throughput and low latency, ExpressRoute provides a natural extension to or between customer data centers to ensure they reap the benefits of the scale and economics of the public cloud without undermining network performance.
  • Vast connectivity partner ecosystem: ExpressRoute has an ever-growing ecosystem of system integrator partners and connectivity systems.
  • Creation of hybrid applications without undermining performance or privacy: ExpressRoute delivers connections that help application development projects extend over on-premises infrastructure and Azure without sacrificing performance or privacy.
  • Flexible billing models: ExpressRoute offers flexible billing models to make sure customers can select pricing plans that work best for their use cases. The billing models include Unlimited Data, Metered Data and ExpressRoute Premium Add-on.

At the same time, ExpressRoute costs more than its alternatives, thus pricing out smaller businesses. Also, the pricing tiers and what they offer can be confusing to potential customers.

Azure ExpressRoute alternatives


The Okta logo.
Image: Okta

Okta “harnesses the power of the cloud” to provide the foundations for secure connections between people and technology. With Okta, users have access to applications governed by strong security policies on their devices at any time. Okta is directly integrable with many of the existing directories, identity systems and thousands of applications businesses already use.

Duo Security

The Duo Security logo.
Image: Duo Security

Duo Security is a cloud-based platform that secures access to applications, regardless of user, device or location. It delivers zero-trust security in a user-friendly manner and is suitable for organizations of all sizes that want to protect sensitive data at scale. Duo provides the policies and oversight an organization needs to limit access based on user or endpoint risk.


The NetMotion logo.
Image: NetMotion

NetMotion by Absolute helps users ensure remote access without compromising experience. It delivers optimized remote access alongside a zero-trust security posture. These both pair nicely with context-aware policy enforcement for every endpoint on any network. With NetMotion, it does not matter what operating system or device mix the environment of a customer supports or whether the strategy is on-premises or cloud-based. Ultimately, the customer will be able to carry out deployment in a manner that suits them.


Image: BetterCloud

BetterCloud provides solutions that help enterprises get a better handle on their software-as-a-service environments. Its solutions are centered around transforming employee experiences, maximizing operational efficiency and centralizing data protection. It offers no-code automation to enable zero-touch workflows and empower enterprises to automate policies and processes across their cloud application portfolios.

Read next: Top data integration tools (TechRepublic)

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