By Jeff Kim, COO, CDNetworks

Today, Cloud is top of mind for senior managers and CIOs of small and mid-sized businesses that seek to reach a global audience with their Web-based content and applications.

Increasingly, these businesses rely on Cloud’s promise to quickly and efficiently propel their products, solutions and services onto the world stage with little upfront investment. For many companies ― from online retailers and SaaS providers to mid-sized manufacturers and travel websites ― business success depends on the performance of their Cloud.

Unfortunately, many Cloud services are plagued by poor performance when delivering applications to end users in emerging market regions. This is particularly true when reaching into China. While most Cloud services perform well across North America and Europe, providers have done little to match that performance elsewhere, especially in China.

This is a problem for European SMEs, since Internet users abandon slow-performing websites and Web applications. Considering that China’s Internet user population exceeds 450 million today, it becomes clear that a “must have” audience is poorly served by Cloud. As Western economies stagnate, overcoming poor Cloud performance in China can be critical for European businesses’ success.

A Look behind Poor Cloud Performance in China

The standard measure of network latency is round-trip time (RTT) - the time it takes for an IP packet to travel from one location to another and for a response packet to travel back. RTT between Europe and the U.S. or Asia are generally less than 200 milliseconds. So round-trip times on their own cannot fully explain poor performance.

The real problem lies within the TCP and HTTP protocols themselves. During the course of a typical full-page web download, TCP and HTTP together force numerous back-and-forth exchanges. This activity results in a large number of ‘turns’ between client and server. In general, the number of turns (RTT multiplier) depends on many factors, including page size, composition, and the client and server technologies used. A secondary penalty occurs if IP packets get dropped along the way. This causes a multi-second penalty on top of the latency created by RTT and the multiplier.

Its is very common for end-users in China to see a 30-second Web page load time for a page that loads in 3 seconds in the UK or Paris. This makes the Website or Web application basically unusable.

Overcoming Cloud’s Poor China Performance

Today, numerous Cloud providers (I.e. Amazon EC2) are attempting to team with content delivery networks (CDNs) to improve Cloud performance in emerging markets. This is because leading content delivery networks, such as Akamai (USA) and CDNetworks (South Korea), provide global dynamic Web acceleration services that speed websites and applications anywhere in the world. But Cloud-CDN teaming efforts often do little to improve Cloud performance in China, as many CDNs themselves lack the necessary people and infrastructure within China to make Clouds perform well there. China has a unique Internet that consists of relatively poorly-connected networks. Furthermore, the PRC central government’s licensing requirements and regulatory hurdles can stall content provider efforts to deliver content from within China. Thus, optimising performance in China requires a hands-on, local approach to resolving network peering issues and regulatory complications. Teaming with CDNs located near but outside of China, in areas such as Hong Kong and Singapore, still leaves Clouds struggling to reach Chinese users from the outside. This exposes Clouds to the mysterious outages and content blockages from The Great Firewall of China.

Overcome Your Cloud Provider’s China Deficiencies

More and more European businesses are complementing their Cloud strategy with a global CDN strategy that includes content delivery within China. Just as Clouds provide an attractive pay-per-use model, CDNs do the same for delivering high-performance websites and applications. If your business needs to reach users in China and across the globe, evaluate CDN providers with operations across multiple continents and within China to complement your Cloud strategy.

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