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Cloud Computing and Precision Time Protocol (PTP)

When it comes to expanding cloud computing – timing is everything

If cloud computing is going to spread to more mission-critical type applications, it needs to get more accurate when it comes to transaction-based applications. Trying to keep everything in a structured framework is going to require a more rigorous network infrastructure that includes timing down to milliseconds, if not nanoseconds.

One way to accomplish this is to use the IEEE 1588 protocol or "Precision Time Protocol" (PTP), which provides timing. In an earlier article entitled, "Cloud Transaction Synchronicity," I discussed the need for this type of capability if financial organizations are to look at cloud computing as a real solution for any transactions-based services.

When It Comes to Mission Critical, Timing Is Everything
Few talk about this essential need because few understand what makes "the cloud" work. Any vendor or system architect always draws "the Cloud" in sales presentations and executive overviews, but how many can draw and discuss the detailed network infrastructure that supports it? A lot goes on inside that obscure cloud drawing.

It's like twisting the old adage of "Don't tell me how to build a watch when all I ask is what time it is?" When it comes to cloud computing, many can draw you the cloud, but a rare few can diagram how packet traffic and timing in the network is implemented and applied.

In many mission-critical applications, timing cannot be left as an afterthought or as a function that is provided by several servers. Accuracy is key, and that means taking timing off of a single master clock.

Just like the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) that takes its timing off of one clock, any mission-critical application that needs accuracy must have timing off of one source if it's going to be provided in some type of "cloud" environment.

Bear in mind, this additional capability is going to increase the cost of the cloud computing environment.

The Three Rs of Mission-Critical Cloud Applications
Supporting the Three Rs of mission-critical cloud applications (Reliability, Redundancy, and Resiliency) means a higher price for equipment and services as well as the skill levels of personnel who support this application. As more of an enterprise's electronic commerce is implemented and relied upon as a primary revenue stream, the equipment and network services supporting that endeavor will take up a bigger cut of the budget.

It wasn't too long ago that many organizations were slashing their IT budgets. Not really a good strategy in the long term. This showed the short-sightedness of many senior executives who were more worried about their year-end bonus, instead of setting a course for the organization to sustain a competitive advantage.

You have to spend money to make money and that's true when it comes to applying technology to the enterprise.

Just like any quality methodology, adding technology to remain competitive is an ongoing process, not a one-shot deal. If mission-critical applications are going to be part of sustaining a competitive advantage, you need to have the support of executive management as well as a solid budget.

When it comes to implementing mission-critical applications, "Timing as a Service" (TaaS©) needs to be perfected in the cloud computing market.

• • •

Copyright 2012 - James Carlini

More Stories By James Carlini

James Carlini, MBA, a certified Infrastructure Consultant, keynote speaker and former award-winning Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, has advised on mission-critical networks. Clients include the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, GLOBEX, and City of Chicago’s 911 Center. An expert witness in civil and federal courts on network infrastructure, he has worked with AT&T, Sprint and others.

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