By James Kretchmar, CTO EMEA & APJ, Akamai Technologies
For a business looking to expand globally, the cloud holds great promise. Before the cloud, global expansion was dependent upon significant considerations around the local deployment of server and network infrastructure, including costs of installation, on-going maintenance, scalability, fault tolerance and environmental factors, not to mention the impact on time-to-market. Today, the cloud promises instant global access to already-deployed remote resources, on-demand. However this simple view overlooks certain practical necessities. The business reality often demands services to behave as if they're local even when the infrastructure is remote, in particular when it comes to performance and security.
Users expect applications to be responsive and fast, and fast means local. Industry studies have shown that adding just a hundred milliseconds of latency between a user and the application server will adversely affect end-user experience and behavior, leading to low adoption rates, abandonment of the application and, in the case of e-commerce, a drop in conversion rates. The important question then becomes: How close is your cloud infrastructure to your end-users? If a global set of end-users are relying on a handful of locations for cloud infrastructure then many users will have a measurably bad experience. Overcoming this difficulty is key to a successful cloud-based expansion strategy.
Security in the cloud brings its own challenges. Data must be protected from theft, cloud services must be secured against compromise from software vulnerabilities and protected from the massively distributed denial of service attacks that have become more and more prevalent. Without these protections in place the promise of reliability and high availability will fall short of expectations.
A critical component to addressing these concerns in a cloud strategy is to employ a highly distributed cloud infrastucture, with servers located physically and topologically near all end-users around the globe.
This brings the best of both worlds. Servers close to end-users means greatly improved application performance, and a highly distributed platform is resilient to attack, capable of blocking malicious requests and absorbing large floods of traffic before they become a bottleneck. This allows an expanding business to globally meet the requirements for being local, while still bringing the simplicity, cost effectiveness and scalability promised by the cloud.