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Definition

cloud service latency

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Cloud service latency is the delay between a client request and a cloud service provider’s response.

Latency greatly affects how usable and enjoyable devices and communications are. Those problems can be magnified for cloud service communications, which can be especially prone to latency for a number of reasons.

For one thing, latency in the cloud environment is less predictable and more complicated to measure. Most tools for measuring latency, like trace route and pings work based on ICMP packets, which are not generally used.

Many factors affect latency, such as the standard number of router hops or ground-to-satellite communication hops on the way to the target server.  Because cloud service data centers can be physically located anywhere in the world, a customer may want to find out the geographic location.

In a cloud environment, the larger and less predictable workload also leads to greater variability in service delivery. Visualization can introduce packet delays, especially if virtual machines (VMs) are on separate networks. The customer network’s wide area network (WAN), if busy, can also have a significant effect on latency. Some organizations invest in a dedicated WAN for cloud operations.

Latency in data exchanges between cloud services across the Internet can be much higher. This delay can result in higher costs to users of multiple cloud services, which may mean that an organization is effectively locked into a single provider’s solutions.

Cloud vendors can profit from lock-in. However, for the customer, the best practice is to fully explore potential latency between services and data transfer conditions on contracts and negotiate requirements before the agreement is signed and data is handed over.

This was last updated in July 2015

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