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Cross-Ocean Clouds Gain Despite Millisecond Delays

Patrick Thibodeau | March 4, 2011
Concerns about latency and questions about security and regulatory issues aren't stopping CIOs from moving key systems to the cloud, even if it means using apps hosted in data centers on the other side of the globe.

For instance, FleetMatics, a private Dublin-based company that provides hosted GPS tracking services, has been able to provide service to a rapidly growing U.S. customer base even though its system was hosted exclusively in a data center in Ireland until December. The company recently raised $68 million in funding.

FleetMatics customers can watch vehicles move around on large flat screens as GPS data is continuously updated. FleetMatics CTO Peter Mitchell said customers hadn't said that they perceived the response time from Ireland as a negative. Nonetheless, when the company opened a data center in Denver in December, immediately "there was a perception that the system was now lightning fast," he added.

Mitchell said he believes SaaS providers in Europe have no problem providing services to customers in the U.S. FleetMatics opened its Denver data center as part of an effort to develop a global disaster recovery model, as well expand services. The company has begun testing latency times to India from Dublin and the U.S., he added.

Last fall, announced plans to open a data center in Japan in the second half of this year. Japan is Salesforce's fastest growing market outside of the U.S., according to company spokesman Joseph Schmidt, who said that when the Japan data center opens, "our customers will benefit from the speed and peace of mind that come with having their data close to home."

AIG Edison has found that latency from the U.S.-Japan link varies according to connection speed and amount of data. On average, it takes 132 milliseconds to send and receive 32KB, according to Appirio. In contrast, it takes about 52 milliseconds for a similar amount of information to travel via a Japan-based host site.

AIG Edison's entire client environment, which includes virtual desktops for all of its salespeople, experiences a maximum lag of 300 to 400 milliseconds, or about one-third of a second, according to Appirio.

That latency rate comes after optimization and tuning. Among the things AIG Edison did was transmit batch loads of data into the Salesforce data center, where the majority of data was located. Also, instead of doing four sequential queries, the system was optimized to do four queries at the same time.

"If the application is written in such a way that it is minimizing the number of round trips to the database," latency "can become a minor issue," said Andy Poulter, CTO at Runaware Inc., which provides a number of SaaS- and cloud-based offerings, including online software testing. It has data centers in Sweden and Miami, and it serves a worldwide customer base.

Some AIG Edison data, along with customer history checks, still has to be pulled off a mainframe in Japan.


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