The Cloud Issue No One Talks About

View from the Cloud

The Cloud Issue No One Talks About

By Doug Barney, TMCnet Editor at Large  |  September 04, 2013

Cloud vendors no longer have to answer whether their services are secure and full-featured. In almost every case they are. That is enough to satisfy many customers who forget to ask what may be the most critical question – how will my new cloud app perform?

Fortune 100 companies with WANs that could handle the Library of Congress don’t have much to worry about. But not all WANs are created equal, and those with creaky networks won’t have a positive experience with bandwidth intensive cloud apps, just as they don’t have a lot of fun downloading a PDF or video today.

In scoping out a cloud service, questions of security, price, and function are all important. And so is availability. But availability and the SLAs that speak to it don’t fully address the end user experience – they don’t guarantee the performance is as snappy as from your hard drive.

How can they? They don’t completely control performance. After all, a cloud app is only as fast as the slowest part of the network.

Cloud providers’ data centers, even with servers running many virtual machines, use state of the art hardware and connections and tend to be awfully fast internally. The slow parts are outside the provider network. The public network is full of more hops than a can of Heineken. This means the data slows before it even hits your WAN.

WANs were getting saturated before corporate computing began its move to the cloud. Video, rich Web sites, conferencing, surfing, and VoIP are putting networks to the test and those that haven’t been up- graded are suffering the consequences.

Some of us understand this intuitively. Is as fast as an on-premises tool? Are Microsoft (News - Alert) Office Web apps as fast as what comes screaming off that Seagate hard drive of yours?

Slow performance actually a software CEO friend of mine to slow down his company’s effort to adapt products to the cloud – he knew many customers would balk at all the latency.

There are many things to contemplate here. First, different apps perform differently when hosted in the cloud. Chatty apps such as a word processor, are going to feel way slower. Others, where the processing is handled in a server style and less frequently involve user interaction, likely feel just fine.

Your choice of app helps drive your network decisions and how much you need to spend upgrading or optimizing the WAN. Some WANs are ready for the cloud, and some clearly aren’t.

It also drives whether to use public cloud and basic Internet connections, or shell out for dedicated connections.

When public companies want to control their own destiny they go private. The same makes sense for enterprises. When you have a private, on-premises cloud, you dictate the speed because the private cloud runs on servers and networks you hand selected.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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