The debate this week is on location, specifically we're back arguing over whether there exist such things as "private" clouds. Data Center Knowledge has a good recap of some of the opinions out there on the subject, and of course I have my own opinion.

Location is, in fact, important to cloud computing, but probably not in the way most people are thinking right now. While everyone is concentrating on defining cloud computing based on whether it's local or remote, folks have lost sight that location is important for other reasons.

It is the location of data centers that is important to cloud computing. After all, a poor choice in physical location can incur additional risk for enterprises trusting their applications to a cloud computing provider. Enterprises residing physically in high risk areas - those prone to natural disasters, primarily - understand this and often try to mitigate that risk by building out a secondary data center in a less risky location, just in case.

speed-limit-change-sign-resized But it's not only the physical and natural risk factors that need to be considered. The location of a data center can have a significant impact on the performance of applications delivered out of a cloud computing environment. If a cloud computing provider's primary data center is in India, or Russia, for example, and most of your users are in the U.S., the performance of that application will be adversely affected by the speed of light problem - the one that says packets can only travel so fast, and no faster, due to the laws of physics.

While there are certainly ways to ameliorate the affects of the speed-of-light problem - acceleration and optimization techniques, for example - they are not a cure all. The recent loss of 3 of 4 undersea cables that transport most of the Internet data between continents proves that accidents are not only naturally occurring, but man-made as well, and the effects can be devastating on applications and their users.

If you're using a cloud computing provider such as Blue Lock as a secondary or tertiary data center for disaster recovery, but their primary data center is merely a few miles from your primary data center, you aren't gaining much protection against a natural disaster, are you?

Location is, in fact, important in the choice of a cloud computing provider. You need to understand where their primary and secondary data centers are located in order to ensure that the business justification for using a cloud computing provider is actually valid. If your business case is built on the reduction of CapEx and OpEx maintaining a disaster recovery site, you should make certain that in the event of a local disaster that the cloud computing provider's data center is unlikely to be affected as well, or you risk wasting your investment in that disaster recovery plan. Waste, whether large or small, of budgets today is not looked upon favorably by those running your business.

Given that portability across cloud computing providers today is limited, despite the claims of providers, it is difficult to simply move your applications from one cloud to another quickly. So choose your provider carefully, based not only on matching your business and technological needs to the model they support but on the physical location and distribution of their data centers.

Location is important; not to the definition of cloud computing but in its usage.

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