Location, location, location… it matters to the cloud

Connecting to a local cloud provides the best performance. If you can’t do that, content delivery networks (CDNs) or edge data centers can help.

Networking strategies that improve cloud performance
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In real estate, there’s a mantra that most agents use of “location, location, location,” meaning houses that may be equal in many ways will cost more the closer you get to something of value. For example, the San Jose Mercury News recently published a story about a house in Sunnyvale, California, that sold for $782,000 over asking price. Why such a ridiculous amount? Because it’s near Apple’s new campus — location matters.

Does location matter with the cloud? Given how fast data travels, one might not think so, but location does indeed matter. A recent report from EdgeConneX and Cedexis, Cloud, Content, Connectivity and the Evolving Internet Edge, shows just how much it actually does. The study conducted uses Cedexis’ RUM-based internet performance measurement tools to test how cloud applications perform in different locations and with various optimization techniques.

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The first set of test results look at the impact of distance. A baseline response time was set measuring users in Silicon Valley connecting to a local Northern California cloud node and users in the North Virginia area connecting to cloud services in Ashburn, Virginia. Local response times were 24ms to Silicon Valley and 23ms to Ashburn. Then other sites were chosen in different parts of the country connecting to the closest node. The results confirmed the thesis that distance matters, as the response time for Southern California users was 37 percent slower (32ms), Washington State 66 percent slower (39ms) and Florida 109 percent slower (48ms).

Using content delivery networks to improve cloud performance

The report shows that one method of improving cloud performance is to use content delivery networks (CDNs), which effectively moves the content closer to the users. Cedexis compared the performance of localized CDNs in the EdgeConneX footprint to non-local ones in 31 different states, and the results showed that localized ones were significantly better.

For example, users in Denver saw 15 percent better response time, Boston saw 39 percent, and San Diego and Phoenix are a whopping 47 percent better. Cloud providers aren’t building local points of presence everywhere, so connecting into a local CDN provider means data doesn’t need to travel as far. While internet traffic does move at the speed of light, it’s not instantaneous. So, the greater the distance, the longer the time it takes to get from your favorite cloud provider to you. Also, every time data packets go through a router, latency is introduced — the more hops, the more it’s degraded.

Edge data centers improve cloud response times

Another way to improve cloud response times is to connect into an edge data center, which provides a direct connect on-ramp to the cloud without having to traverse the internet. This has the added benefit of being more secure, since the traffic is sent over a private network. 

EdgeConneX has extended the internet edge to a number of tier 1 and 2 cities in the U.S. To illustrate the benefit this can have, consider connecting to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) US-West-2 cloud node in Central Oregon from Hillsboro, which is about 200 miles. Connecting over the public internet will result in response times in the neighborhood of 25-30ms, which is significantly longer than the 4ms using the direct connection EdgeConneX has with AWS. 

Businesses that have a multi-cloud strategy or do not have a data center provider that offers native direct cloud connectivity can leverage one of many SD-WAN vendors that often have connectivity to all of the major cloud vendors. 

For example, MegaPort uses EdgeConneX, Cyrus One, Digital Realty and others to direct connect to AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud and many others. In this case, a business would need just a single connection to MegaPort and have virtual direct connectivity to multiple clouds. 

The cloud has become strategic to most organizations, so it stands to reason that cloud connectivity has as well. IT leaders need to understand that not all network paths are created equal. The report does a great job of highlighting the impact that location has on cloud performance. 

New applications and services such as video analytics, IoT and machine learning will magnify the impact of latency. Businesses need to do their own due diligence and understand how to use the various options available to them, including CDNs and direct, virtual and internet connections. Optimizing cloud connectivity is hard, but luckily there are many options to make it easier.

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