How to gauge cloud computing performance

There are three models of cloud computing, and the one you use determines the kind of performance you get

Does cloud computing perform well? That depends on whom you ask. Those using SaaS systems and dealing with standard Web latency can't tell you much about performance. However, those using advanced "big data" systems have a much different story to relate.

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You need to consider the performance models, which you can break into three very basic categories:

  • Client-oriented (performance trade-off)
  • Cloud-oriented (performance advantage)
  • Hybrid (depends on the implementation)

Client-oriented cloud computing architectures are those systems where the cloud computing providers, typically SaaS (software as a service), interact with users constantly over the Internet. The issue here is not that the cloud provider is slow, but that there is latency with the constant back-end machine-to-machine conversation that occurs between the SaaS provider and the browser.

There's not much you can do about this, other than create your own expensive private link between your company and the SaaS provider, but that dilutes the value of SaaS quickly. Client-oriented platforms are clearly not as fast as applications running on the local network, but in most instances, the user won't notice the latency unless there is network saturation.

Cloud-oriented cloud computing architectures are those systems where the processing occurs within the cloud. Most infrastucture-as-a-service providers, and some platform-as-a-service providers, fit into this category. Typically, these systems can provide better performance than their on-premise counterparts because they have access to many more virtualized resources and can allocate those resources dynamically.

For instance, you could have a database query saturating an on-premise system and taking many hours to run. In contrast, a well-provisioned cloud computing provider can drag as many additional servers into the mix as required to support the burst in processing, with a result set returning in minutes. This is the scalable nature of cloud computing, and it is a clear selling point of cloud when performance is considered against cost.

Hybrid, as you may have guessed, leverages both the client- and cloud-oriented models, typically for platform-as-a-service systems, but there are many shades of gray. The concept is that you can mix and match user interactions with highly scalable and on-demand back-end processing. The trade-off is the more you communicate with the browser, the more latency that's brought into the model. Thus, the approach to the architecture here is to optimize the chatter between the back-end cloud-based servers and the browser. You accomplish this with some old-fashioned distributed application architecture.

If you're moving to the cloud, don't forget about performance -- good, bad, and indifferent.

This article, "How to gauge cloud computing performance," was originally published at Follow the latest development on cloud computing at


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