While fees for data transfer of e-mail long ago went the way of the extinct dodo bird of Mauritius, latency and metering of data transfer for intercloud transfer is still an issue. Sending a GB of data from Amazon to Rackspace (or vice versa) is expensive. There are tolls to pay at each end, and it is timeconsuming. As Carlos Bueno and Tom Hughes-Croucher point out, “If it costs more money to physically move your data than to maintain it where it is, or if it’s too slow to feasibly use Service A on Cloud B, you’re effectively locked-in to one vendor.” Expressed another way:
Extinct dodo bird of Mauritius (Photo by Daniel Endres, released into the public domain).
Latency + Metering = Lock-in
Carlos Bueno summarizes the problem this way: “The proposition is pretty stark. Stay inside one cloud and everything is fast and cheap. Stray outside and suddenly everything gets slow and expensive.
What to do?
The Treaty of Bern (1874) established the General Postal Union, today known as the Universal Postal Union, to unify disparate postal services and regulations so that international mail could be exchanged freely and cheaply. It provided for uniform letter rates between countries, equal handing of foreign and domestic mail, and for the country of origin keeping all fees (in the belief that in the long run, the volume of mail into and from a country would be approximately equal). In a similar vein, peering agreements and accounting-free, high-speed interchanges for e-mail traffic have become universal.
The cloud needs the same tonic. We need better infrastructure in the form of optimized routes between clouds; we need to be able to move our virtual machines and configurations around without special help; we need to make sure we don’t get locked-in by odd APIs or data formats; and we need vendors of cloud and Web services to honor each other’s traffic without metering.
Achieving high-speed interclouding is not as expensive as you might imagine. Cloud-peering.com contains a map that shows the locations of six large cloud vendors: Amazon, Google, 3tera (now CA), Microsoft Azure, Rackspace, and Yahoo. The overlap is striking, but if think about it, unremarkable. Each vendor chose its locations for the same reasons: proximity to the Internet backbone, security, low land costs, low power costs, etc. Unsurprisingly, they are clustered together in a few locations. This simple geographical fact enables ultra-high-speed data transfer at very modest cost.
While fast, free, and transparent interclouding isn’t quite there yet, some solutions, such as Zend and Abiquo for vendor independence, Right- Scale and 3Tera for vendor independent frameworks, and Elastra to automate scalability, are available today. Most of these are smaller startups that are likely to be acquired by large vendors in the coming years.
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