Structure 2010: Latency Still a Problem For the Cloud

The growth in bandwidth and cloud computing makes it easier to handle the massive amounts of data that the world is producing every day, but latency — the lag in transferring that information across large networks — is still an issue, networking experts told attendees at the GigaOM Structure conference today. The best way to deal with that latency problem was the subject of some debate on a panel on the topic, which was made up of representatives from Cisco and several other networking technology companies.

Mark Day, chief scientist at Riverbed Technology, said that as cloud computing becomes more widespread, companies and application developers have to think about the implications of no longer having a physical box that they use on their premises, but instead have software that interacts with the network, or virtual appliances somewhere in the cloud. All of this can add complexity for companies when trying to develop applications or services.

Optimization of the network to deal with the latency this introduces is something that will simply be expected, said Baruch Deutsch, director of product marketing for Cisco (s csco). There are various ways of handling that, through caching, compression and so on, but the networking equipment company’s view is that the best way is to “integrate that service as tightly as possible into devices that exist already,” such as the router, he said. Kenneth Duda, a vice-president at Arista Networks, agreed that virtualization provides the ability to get beyond hardware appliances when it comes to network optimization.

Michelle Munson, co-founder and president of Aspera, said that the biggest networking issue — particularly in the life sciences field and research areas such as genomics — is the enormous amounts of data that are produced, and how to move those massive amounts of data around efficiently. She said the best solution is to “build it directly into the applications themselves,” which is what Aspera does. But Deutsch argued that app developers shouldn’t have to worry about dealing with latency. “The ability to handle that optimization should be something the underlying network should provide as a service to you,” he said.

The bottom line, the Cisco executive said, is: “Latency is not going away until someone proves the theory of relativity incorrect.”

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