Getting Physical About Cloud Computing

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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Interoute’s Lee Myall tells us about the importance of location when it comes to the cloud

There’s no doubt that the rise of cloud computing has revolutionised how we do business, work and communicate.

It represents a big opportunity for enterprises to increase their operational efficiency, simply by taking advantage of what the cloud has to offer. And, it’s only set to reach new heights as IDC predicts the cloud computing  market is expected to increase 23 percent by 2018.  However, the physical aspect of the cloud is often overlooked and this has a huge impact on how data is processed, distributed and accessed.

Location matters

Gartner has predicted a thirty fold increase in internet connected devices by 2020. Data access between the enterprise and the cloud is very much a two way street. The geographical distance between data centres, as well as their distance from the end-users, can impact response time. With the expected wealth of connected devices comes increased pressure on the IT infrastructures, making latency a key area of concern for organisations. But increasing response times can simply be the result of storing data in the wrong place, there is (as yet) not much that can be done about the limitations of the speed of light.

In an ‘always on’ environment users require instant access for VoIP, video conferencing, web hosting and business critical data. This means CxOs need to take a much keener interest into where their data is actually being processed and stored, if they are to overcome these latency challenges. Just as any import/export business would position itself close to the port, businesses need to store their data closer to the network core. A direct connection between the cloud, any existing infrastructure on-premise, hosted or in colo, and a smart network puts data in the low latency fast lane.

2014 has also seen a dramatic increase in European cloud locations from a range of providers. At Interoute alone we’ve launched five new virtual data centres in Europe this year, including two in the UK. This means there is now a much greater choice in geographical proximity to any legacy infrastructure business may have, which can help overcome some of the more painful challenges of application migration. We’ve all heard of or had to deal with those apps that are absolutely business critical, but were written a while ago to run between two servers right next to each other in the same room. These simply can’t deal with latency above a certain level, but with closer cloud and optimised routing more and more ‘impossible’ workloads can become viable cloud or hybrid ‘burst’ environment candidates.

Distributing data

Media and ecommerce companies are already looking to content delivery networks to overcome these barriers. By caching their more commonly used data at the edge of the network and closer to the end users, these distributed networks deliver high availability, high performance content. Businesses can apply this intelligent planning approach and organise their data similarly. The intelligent distribution of data cannot necessarily eliminate latency in its entirety, but it can inject resilience into the system and increase speeds.

Staying on the right side of the law

Ensuring data is placed in the most appropriate location will not only reduce latency but also help businesses adhere to regulatory requirements. Data needs to be able to move everywhere and anywhere, delivering on the freedom and flexibility that the cloud promises. On the other hand, compliance with regulatory standards has imposed real constraints on data location. As the European Commission rushes to keep up with rapidly evolving technologies, businesses need to ensure they are compliant.

Think physical first

These challenges have so far put businesses off making a partial or full move to the cloud, especially those operating in sectors where speed or data residency is of critical importance. But cloud and the network that underpins it are still evolving, and in the process overcoming barriers for businesses who need certain levels of control, performance, security and integration. If you think your workloads can’t move or benefit from the cloud because of the physical constraints of your architecture, now’s a good time to check back in.

Lee Mayall is general manager CloudStore, at Interoute 

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