Cloud Computing Bottleneck: The Bandwidth Problem
Though Cloud Computing looks to be the future of application and data delivery for the foreseeable future, it is not without its downsides and bottlenecks, literally. The most evident bottleneck you will notice is bandwidth. It is the end-all-be-all of connectivity. Without it, or even just having small portions of it is enough to cause headaches in even the most undemanding user. Imagine that for a casual user, uploading a small Word document as an attachment to an email taking more than a minute or two is cause for a fit of rage. Now think if this is an administrator trying to upload an automated security fix for a distributed software network that is needed urgently, and you would probably see CDs and small tabletop objects fly around the room. I might be exaggerating about the reactions, but the feeling one gets with slow uploads is all too real. This is the same problem with communication in between remote data centers being used in Cloud Computing. If they cannot communicate with each other fast enough, the applications being used by users everywhere will experience some great deal of slowdown.
This apparent slowdown is often felt by organizations who switched from local networked applications to cloud-based applications. This is not inherent to Cloud Computing, but rather a miscalculation on the side of whoever designed the system. The designer has been too caught up in the interconnectivity of all elements, and neglects to take into consideration the real world performance of the systems that will be used, one of the most important of which is fast data connection and a large bandwidth.
According to Tom Conophy, CIO of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), “If your employees and your users can’t access data fast enough, then the cloud will be nothing but a pipe dream.” This is especially true in institutions where passing and retrieving of data is essential, like in the booking systems of hotels and travel agencies. And it is these types of organizations who are in need of a single globally interconnected system that can only be made possible through cloud computing. And for it to be successful, the interconnectivity part must step up to the challenge.
To put the bandwidth bottleneck into perspective, imagine you are in a Skype video call that is choppy and just overall bad even though both of you have fast internet connections. The problem in this case is definitely the interconnectivity between your ISPs, there might not be enough bandwidth in the backbone that connects your two geographically separated networks.
This is the potential problem being faced by systems like Google Glass. For it to give the user a proper experience, both upload and download of data has to be equally good or else what the people tuning in to the Google Glass video will simply be a series of still pictures and vice versa. Bandwidth is definitely a commodity which is not in abundance.
By Abdul Salam
He has recently co-authored: Deploying and Managing a Cloud Infrastructure: Real-World Skills for the CompTIA Cloud+ Certification (Wiley).