Architecting for Azure Cloud Resiliency with Equinix Fabric

Redundant, diverse Azure ExpressRoute and Equinix Fabric interconnections help ensure highly available global cloud resource access

Brian Petit
Architecting for Azure Cloud Resiliency with Equinix Fabric

Our enterprise customers continue to experience increasing pressure to pursue expanded strategies for cloud transformation and adoption. It’s a trend that has been widely documented across nearly every core industry as the demand for high availability and instant access drives the pursuit of enhanced cloud capabilities. That transformative trend has revealed the emergence of hybrid multicloud strategies to address the evolving cloud migration. According to IDC Research, 90% of enterprises will rely on a mix of on-premises/dedicated private clouds, several public clouds and legacy platforms to meet their infrastructure needs by 2021.[i]

We’re seeing larger, high-priority workloads moving to the cloud every day, which in turn require resilient network designs that eliminate single points of failure between customer environments at Equinix and cloud platforms. As demand for instant access, high availability and low latency weighs on enterprise IT environments, it’s virtually inevitable that the frequency of system outages will correspondingly increase—resulting in costly operational downtime. In this context, applying network optimization techniques is crucial to ensuring a solid foundation for effective and reliable cloud deployments.

Helping our customer community navigate this evolving private-public cloud landscape is a top priority for Equinix—and Microsoft Azure is one of our chief cloud partners in that journey.

Equinix Fabric and Azure ExpressRoute

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Equinix Fabric and Azure ExpressRoute emphasize high availability

Since 2013, Equinix has been enabling cloud connectivity to Azure—with Azure ExpressRoute now available at Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers in 33 metros. Most recently, Equinix expanded private network access to Microsoft Azure via Azure ExpressRoute on Platform Equinix® to service customers in six new global markets, including Berlin, Bogotá, Canberra, Dubai, Rio de Janeiro and Seoul. The expanded service provides enterprises with direct, on-demand network access to a variety of Azure services, including the Azure VMware and SAP S/4HANA solutions, which help enterprises facilitate their hybrid cloud transformations by moving or extending on-premises VMware environments to Azure.

Throughout our cloud connectivity journey with Microsoft Azure, an important point of focus for both companies has been ensuring high availability (HA) resources for our mutual customers. At the core of our collaborative initiative to deliver highly available services are Equinix Fabric™ and Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute:

  • Equinix Fabric HA—Equinix Fabric is architected for built-in resiliency with redundant physical ports. This translates into a resilient interconnected global network based on software-defined interconnection. Equinix Fabric leverages a resilient topology to respond to changes and ensure connectivity is not interrupted. In addition, a consistent connectivity principle governs the way Equinix Fabric ports and virtual connections are deployed locally and globally with full diversity.
  • Azure ExpressRoute HA—Azure ExpressRoute is similarly designed for high availability to provide carrier-grade private-network connectivity to Microsoft resources. By design, there are no single points of failure in the ExpressRoute path within the Microsoft network. To maximize availability, Microsoft advises that an ExpressRoute circuit always be architected for high availability and that the redundancy of the ExpressRoute circuit be sustained throughout the network, end-to-end.[ii]

A quick note about Azure ExpressRoute: It’s a service that provides a private connection between an organization’s on-premises infrastructure and Microsoft Azure data centers. With ExpressRoute, you can establish connections to Microsoft cloud services, including Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365.

An important element of Microsoft’s Azure architecture supporting high availability is the Azure Well-Architected Framework, a set of guiding tenets that can be “used to improve the quality of a workload.”[iii] The framework consists of five pillars of architectural excellence: cost optimization, operational excellence, performance efficiency, reliability and security. An important goal for Equinix in collaborating with Microsoft is to align design principals to the underlying tenets laid out in this framework.

“We’ve been collaborating with Equinix practically from the very beginning of the Azure ExpressRoute journey,” said Jon Ormond, Principal Product Manager, Azure Networking. “That long-standing cooperation and close working relationship between our technical teams has led to robust, reliable and resilient architectural patterns. Those architectures are certainly informed by our Azure Well-Architected Framework tenets. They’ve led to many of the Microsoft best-practice recommendations for ExpressRoute.”

Redundant paths key to Equinix Fabric and Azure ExpressRoute architecture

Equinix-based deployments of Azure ExpressRoute emphasize redundant interconnections between service elements—both within an Equinix Platform environment and outside of Equinix. As a minimum, an Equinix Fabric and Azure ExpressRoute implementation should mimic the HA of both to minimize any risk of service loss and to meet service-level agreement (SLA) requirements. From an Equinix Fabric implementation point-of-view, that translates into dual Equinix Fabric ports and dual customer routers. Key use cases for Equinix/Azure ExpressRoute deployments include extending an on-premises network to Azure cloud resources and implementing an HA network architecture.

Minimum Recommended Redundant Design: Dual Equinix Fabric Ports, Dual Customer Routers

While it’s not required, we do recommend that customers always use a dual-port setup for connecting to Equinix Fabric and to virtually connect to other customers or partners on Equinix Fabric. This allows you to take full advantage of our redundant hardware and diverse paths design. We call this design “port priority” and make a distinction between “primary” and “secondary” ports.

This recommended design meets both the Equinix Fabric and Azure ExpressRoute SLA requirement to provide a minimum of 99.999% Equinix Fabric availability (dual ports) and 99.95% Azure ExpressRoute dedicated circuit availability.

Both primary and secondary ports are equal in every way. The naming only describes the resilience in the design. A correct dual-port setup uses both primary and secondary ports.

For remote connections that go beyond the same metro, the port priority principle only applies at the end points. On our global interconnected network, its own redundancy mechanisms take its place to ensure availability.

The following illustrations depict two extensions of the basic redundant design. The first extension shows Equinix Fabric used to connect through a second ExpressRoute point of presence (PoP) in the same market to a single Azure region. The second extension shows Equinix Fabric used to again connect through a second ExpressRoute PoP, but in a diverse market, and to a diverse Azure region.

Redundant Customer Routers, Redundant Fabric Ports and Diverse ExpressRoute Edge to Primary Azure Region

Redundant Customer Routers and Fabric Ports, Diverse Equinix Fabric and ExpressRoute Edge to Diverse Azure Regions

Deploy fault tolerant designs with Equinix Fabric and Azure ExpressRoute

Microsoft and Equinix have a long history of collaboration. The goal of our Azure-related initiatives is to create layers of resiliency and provide flexible interconnectivity options for our customers.

Equinix Fabric provides the foundation for this interconnectivity architecture and delivers the highest levels of network resiliency to Microsoft Azure cloud resources. We offer customers fully diverse connectivity to redundant Azure ExpressRoute locations for high availability to priority Azure workloads and applications.

Equinix is a vital partner for digital transformation and network optimization for every enterprise customer. Equinix’s global platform enables businesses to simplify the selection, deployment and orchestration of crucial digital infrastructure. Platform Equinix offerings—such as Equinix Fabric, Network Edge and Equinix Metal™—capitalize on emergent virtual capabilities at the edge. Together, our integrated core capabilities simplify the accessing and integrating of provider and partner ecosystems over a direct and secure private interconnection.

Learn more about the Equinix and Microsoft Azure collaboration.

View our video about Equinix and Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Solutions:

You can also get guidance when architecting your connectivity to Azure using Equinix Fabric from our team of Global Solutions Architects.



[i] IDC Research, InfoBrief sponsored by Equinix, “Applications, Businesses, Clouds of Enterprise Digital Transformation.” July 2020.

[ii] Microsoft, Azure Product Documentation, “Designing for high availability with ExpressRoute.” June 28, 2019.

[iii] Microsoft, Azure Architecture, “Microsoft Azure Well-Architected Framework.” November 20, 2019.

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