Intra-cloud latency is real. Here’s what to do about it

We’ve all heard about inter-cloud latency, the delay in sending and receiving information to and from public clouds. Think of a remote client leveraging the crowded open Internet, or applications communicating between cloud brands, such as AWS and Azure.

The assumption is that application-to-application or application-to-data storage communications would pretty much be latency-free within the same cloud brand. After all, they exist on the same cloud platform and there should be a huge pipe between system components internally contained. Intra-cloud solutions on public cloud platforms should not have latency issues.

This is generally true, but not always. I’m running into a lot of instances where intra-cloud latency is hurting cloud-native application performance for larger enterprises. Moreover, those facing the latency issues don’t have the knowledge or tools to deal with these performance hindrances.

After all, inter-cloud latency is easily solved. You simply need to increase the size of the pipe between the two communicating components and/or humans. Public cloud providers would be happy to sell you dedicated circuits to solve inter-cloud performance latency, including moving to physically closer regions so the system components’ packets don’t have to travel a great distance. 

Intra-cloud latency is not that simple to diagnose and solve. I’m finding a few core symptoms to look for, including:

  • Poor application design leads to “chatty” communications between system components (applications and data). This overwhelms the internal paths and leads to poorer performance. 
  • Public clouds have internal failings, such as narrow pipes between data centers in specific regions. Here’s a fictitious example: Although there may be no problem with latency between Australia and China, for some reason Australia and New Zealand have a huge latency issue, even though they are geographically closer together.
  • The cloud-based application components themselves have problems, such as databases incapable of transmitting larger result sets back to the requesting applications. This is typically due to a limitation in the database itself, such as a poorly tuned cache, and not a network limitation.

How can you avoid intra-cloud latency?

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