Overcoming the Last Mile Problem

Posted on June 13, 2017 by Michael Otey in Hybrid Cloud, Networking with

Today, the Internet’s near ubiquitous connectivity has really fueled the growth of cloud and hybrid cloud computing. Just a few years ago, Internet connectivity was spotty and if you were traveling you had to be on the lookout for when and where you could connect. Now it’s virtually everywhere from coffee shops and supermarkets to airplanes. This widespread connectivity has really driven the cloud and mobile computing growth that have become a core part of many businesses today. While connectivity to the cloud has definitely improved over the past few years, it’s still not perfect. One weakness that many businesses share is the last mile problem. We all know that the cloud services have scalability and availability that is typically better than most businesses. However, that last mile of Internet connectivity is often the weakest link in your cloud connectivity chain.

 

 

This widespread connectivity has really driven the cloud and mobile computing growth that have become a core part of many businesses today. While connectivity to the cloud has definitely improved over the past few years, it’s still not perfect. One weakness that many businesses share is the last mile problem. We all know that the cloud services have scalability and availability that is typically better than most businesses. However, that last mile of Internet connectivity is often the weakest link in your cloud connectivity chain.

One weakness that many businesses share is the last mile problem. We all know that the cloud services have scalability and availability that is typically better than most businesses. However, that last mile of Internet connectivity is often the weakest link in your cloud connectivity chain.

The last mile essentially defines the final networking segment that connects your business’s local presence to the Internet. Since all of your location’s network traffic is funneled through that link, it can be a bottleneck in networking throughput. The available bandwidth in that link effectively limits the amount of data that can be transmitted to your ISP. However, even more importantly, that link can also be a single point of failure and the protection of that conduit may not be completely within the confines of your organization.

One pertinent example was last years’ Internet outage on the east coast that was caused by an accidental fiber cut that knocked out Internet Service for Time Warner and Cox customers. While this sort of disruption isn’t a daily event, it occurs frequently enough that it’s far from unheard of. Similarly, DoS attacks on various ISP or even operational mistakes like the one that led to a recent Amazon outage can also have a similar effect of potentially interrupting ISP and regional services for significant periods of time.

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Bridging the Last Mile

To help protect against that troublesome last mile problem, you can utilize a couple of different solutions that can help give your organization added bandwidth and availability. The first option is to employ multiple ISP connections from your data center or colocation facility.  Ideally, these connections should use different ISPs as well as different local connection points. When you have cloud-based applications or hybrid cloud applications multiple ISP connections can help provide protection from a single ISP outage as well as some protection from local physical connectivity disruptions. It’s not a perfect solution because regional outages can affect multiple ISPs but for critical applications, the extra protection can be worth the added networking expense.

Another option that can help protect against the last mile problem is to employ a direct cloud connect technology such as Microsoft Azure’s ExpressRoute of Amazon’s Direct Connect. The concept behind ExpressRoute and Direct Connect is the same. Both of these technologies essentially enable you to connect your on-premises network directly to your chosen cloud provider – bypassing the public Internet with its multiple network connection hops in the process. ExpressRoute and Direct Connect can give you an additional connectivity path for your cloud and hybrid cloud applications and these options also offer very high bandwidth and low latency connections using Layer 3 connectivity between your on-premises network and the cloud. Both ExpressRoute and Direct Connect are available through several tier one networking companies such as COMCAST, Level 3, Equinix, and others. You can purchase different levels of bandwidth up to 10 Gbps and they provide built-in redundancy for high reliability.

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The last mile is the weakest link between your business and your cloud applications. While we’re still a ways away from perfect connectivity, multiple ISP connections and taking advantage of direct cloud connections can help you overcome possible bandwidth and reliability problems.

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