Improving Latency in Cloud Computing With Azure ExpressRoute
By: Ernest Sampera on February 4, 2019
For many of today’s businesses, providing speedy digital services over their networks isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity. With so many options and providers to choose from, many customers look to network speed and performance as a key differentiator. If a company can’t provide fast cloud computing services, they’re going to have a hard time competing in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Worse, they will struggle to keep their existing customers happy.
Most companies utilizing cloud computing are aware that server uptime is critically important to their success, especially within a private cloud. They know the ins and outs of a provider’s SLA and have a good idea of how much downtime to expect throughout the year (and, hopefully, how much that downtime will cost them). What they don’t often think about, however, are the potential problems posed by latency. With the trends in cloud computing pushing toward speed and accessibility, taking steps to deliver services faster and more consistently is crucial to success.
The Latency Problem
Data moves quickly, but not instantaneously. Although advancements in fiberoptic cabling is making it possible for data to travel even faster, it is still ultimately constrained by the laws of physics. Data cannot move faster than the speed of light, meaning that the greater the distance between two points, the longer it will take for data to get there. This delay between the moment data is transmitted and the moment it’s received is known as latency.
As distances increase, data takes longer to make the journey from its source to its destination. While latency in cloud computing can impact online services of all kinds, the most familiar example is buffering delays of streaming video content. Anyone who has waited impatiently while their favorite Netflix show sputters and fragments can attest to this. Now, imagine the same delays disrupting critical business operations. In some industries, even a few seconds of latency could carry some significant costs in terms of missed opportunities and unhappy customers.
Combating Latency With Azure ExpressRoute
Launched in 2014, Microsoft’s Azure ExpressRoute took aim at solving a number of business problems. The service allowed companies to extend their private networks (both physical and cloud-based) into Microsoft’s internal cloud by way of a direct, private connection. ExpressRoute connections could take a number of forms, but the most important feature was that they did not transmit data over the public internet. Rather than routing traffic through myriad public service provider connections, Azure ExpressRoute established a direct connection to Microsoft’s proprietary cloud services.
In addition to offering a formidable layer of security (since data doesn’t travel over the public internet), ExpressRoute provides significant advantages when it comes to combating latency in cloud computing. When data is transmitted from a private cloud over the public internet, it must run through a variety of connections before reaching its final destination. At the points nearest the source and the destination, it encounters what is often referred to as the “last mile” problem. That’s because data is routed through a series of often complicated paths in order to get to where it needs to go. This tangled web of connections can significantly increase latency even though the actual destination is very close.
As an example, think about a car traveling from New York to Los Angeles. While the vast majority of the journey will take place along high-capacity interstate highways, getting to and from a specific street level address in both cities requires drivers to take multiple smaller roads. These may be backed up, not lead directly to the destination, or have much lower speed limits. The last ten miles of the journey, then, may take longer than the previous 70 or 80 miles on the highway.
Azure ExpressRoute connectivity solves this problem by bypassing that “last mile.” It provides a direct connection with high bandwidth, ensuring that data travels quickly and smoothly. For companies utilizing a hybrid cloud model and multi-cloud solutions in conjunction with Microsoft cloud services, ExpressRoute is a high-performance alternative to ISP connections. By bypassing the public internet and taking a straight path to Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure, ExpressRoute can significantly reduce latency while also providing substantial security and redundancy benefits.