Mar 28, 2010

International Clouds

Cloud Computing is clearly well into the hype cycle. Never being one to miss some good hype, I've been paying attention to advise my clients on whether and when to pay attention to this rising option.

One of the big factors in consideration is my current location... I'm working outside the U.S. My local country is heavily wired, offers high speed broadband (2-10mbit) to 100% of the country, 50mbit home connectivity in the major cities (100mbit next year), and even offers cell based mobile internet connectivity at 2mbit or 3mbit (competing companies). Company and office connectivity is typically equal or better.

The in-country data centers and backbones between them are very high speed. Ping times from in-country web sites typically run 30ms across the various data centers, backbones and ISP's / hosting sites. All in all, compared to the US that's seriously high speed.

Yet, all of that is in-country. The one area where the local internet infrastructure is weak is to-the-US bandwidth. Typical ping times to the US run 250ms at non-peak times, and 400-600ms during peak times. This is not only a delay problem but also a bandwidth problem. (It's 2-3 times better to Western Europe, but that's still not so good.)

Some of this is because the local internet users greatly appreciate American media, music, TV shows, movies, video clips, video chatting and Skype'ing people in the US. High bandwidth activities that push capacity utilization on the international links way up during those evening hours when everyone gets home from work. And since the long-haul international pipes are very expensive, the local backbone providers keep the utilization high, just below the serious pain point, to justify the cost.

What's all this mean relative to cloud computing? In local IT shops, considering cloud resources within the local (national) internet loop may be a very viable option with a very high speed local loop. Further, in theory even web 2.0 applications could utilize cloud resources to present functionality directly onto our user's desktops.

But utilizing US based resources is a much more iffy proposition. Let me not waffle there, it's not an option. Though (for example) Amazon S3 may offer a MUCH better cost:utilization ratio than renting a server for disk capacity at a local hosting center - or dropping some EMC storage into my enterprise data center (with the requisite backups and disaster-recovery site duplication), the international performance considerations make it not a viable option.

So the question for cloud computing in my current country base is...will cloud service vendors offer international clouds? Since the local size / market is about the same as a single mid-size US state, will cloud service vendors consider this market worthwhile? (Perhaps as either a test market to get facilities up to speed for larget markets, or offering franchise opportunities to local businesses that wish to offer the services. Or perhaps it leaves an opening for small (by US standards) start-ups to offer and develop services which they can then try to push into the bigger US or European markets?)

In any case, two recent topics - one on whether a "private" cloud / inside company cloud really qualifies as a cloud and noting that Google is getting into the data link business both bear on this question.