The network matters for public cloud performance


Most IT professionals select cloud providers based on price or proximity to users, but network performance should also be considered. Because as we see in a new report from ThousandEyes, the underlying network architecture of the big cloud providers can have a significant impact on performance. And performance varies widely among cloud service providers.

In its first annual public cloud benchmark report, ThousandEyes compared the global network performance of the “big three” public cloud providers — Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure. The network management company looked at network performance (latency, packet loss, jitter) and connectivity architecture. It also measured user-to-cloud connectivity from 27 cities around the globe to 55 AWS, Azure, and GCP regions and measured the inter-AZ and inter-region connectivity within all three cloud provider networks. In addition, they measured inter-region connectivity between all 55 regions on a multi-cloud basis.

Using AWS means more internet 

Perhaps the most intriguing finding in the ThousandEyes report was that the AWS network design forced user traffic to use the public internet for most of its journey between the user’s location and AWS region. This is in stark contrast to Azure and GCP, which ingest user traffic close to the user and ride their private network for as long as possible. 

There are some technical differences in network design that causes that, but the net result is that AWS routes user traffic away from its backbone until it gets geographically close to that region. 

In bandwidth-flush regions such as the U.S. and Europe, internet performance and private network performance don’t vary that much, so users are not likely to notice a difference. In locals such as Asia where fiber routes are sparser, however, internet performance can vary, creating unpredictable performance. The tests showed that in Asia, the standard deviation on AWS network performance is 30 percent higher than GCP and Azure. 

Regional performance varies by cloud provider 

Another major finding was that there are some regional anomalies that vary by provider. For example, GCP has a robust global network but does not have a fiber route between Europe and India. That means traffic going from London to Mumbai would take three times as long to get there than traffic on Azure or AWS. This can have a big impact on the quality of real-time applications such as voice and video.

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