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Doug's Mailbag: WAN Speeds

Readers discuss whether their Internet speeds could handle the move to the cloud:

I saw the reader comment about the slow WAN equaling slow cloud. I am beginning to think that the whole 'cloud' terminology has really been thrown around so much that it doesn't mean much anymore. The cloud IS the WAN. It is common sense for anyone that has worked in IT for more than a few years (before the 'cloud' was a buzzword) -- if you have a slow WAN link, anything utilizing that link will be slow.

I don't know if people are expecting the 'cloud' to be different than what they are currently experiencing because of a fast provider of the cloud services or if they just don't understand WAN technologies and how the Internet works. You can connect to the world's largest and most powerful supercomputer running an OC48 with a 56k dialup link, but you will never get any benefit of the speed from the provider unless you upgrade your weakest link: your WAN connection.

Well, I have to tell you that, no, I'm not happy with my WAN connection. My 768 Kb/sec is a truly third-world nation WAN speed, but that's what AT&T/Yahoo DSL offers in my neck of the woods (when it's not dragged down to something closer to 450 Kb/sec). For half my monthly DSL bill, I can get 3.6 or 7.2 Mb/sec HSDPA service, but that's only when I'm visiting Poland -- not a chance of that happening here in these benighted United States.

This has been my number two concern from the beginning with regards to the cloud. I'm a one-man shop for an international construction company based out of Montrose, Colo. Not the smallest rural town you could come across, but on the western slope of Colorado, we are somewhat remote. There is fiber out here, but none that has been packaged and sold (that I know of.) Anyway, if we ever move some stuff to the cloud, I had better have a very good reason, as on day one I will hear 'It's pretty nice, but a little slow.' And as more users get on, the slower it will be.

You couple that with the rising demand for cheap voice (VoIP) and Video Conferencing (both of which we have deployed) and you are looking at the potential strangulation of a business critical app that you moved to the cloud to make more robust.

And what is somewhat humorous about the cloud is that you will be working over the WAN, which is what WAN optimizers were made for, even though they will be very difficult (if not impossible) to deploy (we have Riverbed Steelheads deployed in our organization). The one situation you could really use it, it won't be available.

I find it truly amazing that the T1 speeds that were to dream for years ago are still so much the standard for many links. While all other technology has boarded the Enterprise for journeys to other worlds, the standard WAN speed has stayed grounded. It's not just the SaaS applications, cloud solutions, Web sites, downloads and media streams that call for higher bandwidth, it's the centralized backups, data transfers, SAN replication, etc. that cry for more bandwidth. Unfortunately, the price tag rises significantly. Oh, and if you have VoIP, you need to guarantee a portion of that bandwidth for the voice traffic. I know there are some lucky souls out there that have the money to put fiber all around, or even large pipes through metro Ethernet, but many of us still are bound by budgeting dollars.

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Posted by Doug Barney on 07/11/2011 at 1:18 PM


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