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Selecting an Appropriate ExpressRoute SKU and Tier

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As dependency on cloud services grows, so does the need for a reliable, low-latency network connection to the cloud. Also, some organizations and government agencies require a dedicated connection that does not pass network traffic over the public internet. Azure ExpressRoute provides a dedicated, redundant connection to Azure cloud services.  

In this course, we examine Azure ExpressRoute. Azure ExpressRoute creates a reliable, dedicated connection between an organization's on-premises environment and Microsoft Azure. We cover design considerations when planning for ExpressRoute, requirements for installing ExpressRoute, and management and troubleshooting tasks. The learning objectives for this course map to the Azure AZ-700: Designing and Implementing Microsoft Azure Networking Solutions exam.

Learning Objectives

  • Choose between provider and direct model (ExpressRoute Direct)
  • Design and implement Azure cross-region connectivity between multiple ExpressRoute locations
  • Select an appropriate ExpressRoute SKU and tier
  • Design and implement ExpressRoute Global Reach and ExpressRoute FastPath 
  • Choose between private peering only, Microsoft peering only, or both
  • Configure private peering and Microsoft peering
  • Create and configure an ExpressRoute gateway
  • Connect a virtual network to an ExpressRoute circuit
  • Recommend a route advertisement configuration
  • Configure encryption over ExpressRoute
  • Implement Bidirectional Forwarding Detection
  • Diagnose and resolve ExpressRoute connection issues

Intended Audience

  • System or network administrators with responsibilities for connecting an on-premises network to Azure
  • Anyone preparing for the Azure AZ-700: Designing and Implementing Microsoft Azure Networking Solutions exam


  • A basic understanding of networking, routing, and VPN concepts

ExpressRoute has a variety of product SKUs and tiers to meet the needs of any organization. It's important to understand all the options available and how they fit within the design of an ExpressRoute implementation. On the screen is the ExpressRoute Circuit from the overview section. Seems simple enough, but let's review options in more detail. We'll start with the ExpressRoute Circuit itself. There are three SKUs available. They are ExpressRoute Local, ExpressRoute Standard, and ExpressRoute Premium.

Let's start with ExpressRoute Local. An ExpressRoute circuit with a local SKU can only peer with one or two Azure regions in the same metro area. This is intended to be a local solution and not available in metro areas that don't have Azure regions close by. Despite that limitation, it has the advantage of unlimited egress data. The ExpressRoute Local SKU is a good option for organizations that don't have a multi-region Azure strategy, has a lot of data to transfer in and out of the cloud, and located in a metro area near one or two Azure regions.

The Standard ExpressRoute SKU provides connectivity to all regions in a geopolitical area. For example, if an organization connects from Amsterdam with ExpressRoute Standard, that organization has access to Northern and Western Europe regions, but not North America through the ExpressRoute connection. The Standard ExpressRoute SKU has an option for metered data transfer charges or unlimited data. Unlimited is a good option for organizations that transfer a lot of data. If that's not the case, a metered connection may be cheaper.

On to ExpressRoute Premium. ExpressRoute Premium provides the ability to connect to all Azure regions globally. Premium also has an option for both metered or unlimited data transfer. One important item to note, ExpressRoute Premium is an add-on service; it's billed in addition to ExpressRoute Circuit charges. With the exception of local peering, Azure Local and Standard have the same service limits. Let's compare some of those limits with Premium.

The routing table limit increases from 4,000 with Standard, to 10,000 with Premium. The number of virtual network links increase from 10 with Standard, to up to 100, depending on the provisioned size of the Premium Circuit. Premium is required for Microsoft 365 connectivity over ExpressRoute. Also, with Premium, a VNet in one geopolitical region can be connected to an ExpressRoute Circuit in anther region.

Now that we know the options for an ExpressRoute Circuit, we need to connect it to Azure. We terminate a provider circuit to Azure with an Azure Gateway. There are two types of gateways used in Azure: A VPN gateway that sends encrypted traffic across the public internet, either site to site or a user VPN. There's also an ExpressRoute Gateway that's used for traffic over an ExpressRoute connection. The rest of this lecture will focus on the SKUs available for an ExpressRoute Gateway.

Before we move on to the ExpressRoute SKUs, we need to review Availability Zones in Azure. Redundancy is built-in to most Azure offerings, including gateways. For ExpressRoute Gateways, there is an option for added resiliency and higher availability with Availability Zones. Using Gateways with Availability Zones guarantees a highly available gateway set, implemented in physically separate locations in an Azure Region. This resiliency is built-in; the costumer does not need to manage high availability with Availability Zones.

We'll review the ExpressRoute Gateway SKU's next. For each version, there is an option with and without Availability Zones. Both offer the same set of features. With higher performance gateways comes more RAM and faster processing resources to handle larger bandwidth connections. There's a Standard SKU providing up to four ExpressRoute connections and up to one gigabit per second of bandwidth. The name of this SKU is Standard or ErGw1AZ with Availability Zones. A High Performance SKU can have up to eight circuits connected and two gigabits per second of bandwidth. Ultra Performance can have up to 16 connections and 10 gigabits per second of bandwidth. The name of each with Availability Zones are ErGw2AZ and ErGw3AZ.

Plan an ExpressRoute deployment based on the bandwidth and features required for the environment. An ExpressRoute Circuit provisioned with the provider model can have from 50 megabits per second, to 10 gigabits per second of bandwidth. Right-size the gateway to fit the bandwidth provisioned. Thank you for joining me in this lecture. I look forward to seeing you in the next.

About the Author
Travis Roberts
Cloud Infrastructure Architect

Travis Roberts is a Cloud Infrastructure Architect at a Minneapolis consulting firm, a Microsoft MVP, MCT, and author. Travis has 20 years of IT experience in the legal, pharmaceutical, and marketing industries and has worked with IT hardware manufacturers and managed service providers. In addition, Travis has held numerous technical certifications throughout his career from Microsoft, VMware, Citrix, and Cisco.