Return of the 'L' word

What is the "L" word? It's latency

The entire IT industry has been in denial for years over the latency issue. One only has to analyze the most recent data center announcements from Cisco, Juniper and even IBM and look at the marketing obfuscation to avoid using the "L" word. This seven-letter word scares the vendor as well as the customer.

Data centers cannot exit alone. They must connect to corporate users, corporate branch offices, sales channels, suppliers and other internal or external data centers. Add to that connections to grids, clouds and the Internet. The next major networking latency issue is the WAN. Again we enter a state of denial over the "L" word when we believe that WAN acceleration is only an economic issue. The fantastic growth in the WAN acceleration industry will not cease but will escalate with the ever greater use of XML, Web Services, Web 2.0, HD Video, real-time transactions and specific application intelligence.

The service provider should not be left out of this discussion. The "L" word is so heinous in that it almost never appears in a carrier's vocabulary. All carriers primarily sell and focus their marketing on bandwidth. That bandwidth comes with varying degrees of service-level agreement (SLA) commitment. Within that SLA are usually loose guarantees of latency measured in such a manner as to confuse the customer and to give carrier support organizations maximum leeway to absolve themselves of a specific customer problem. The carriers are learning that as they create more complex services the "L" word is becoming an even greater issue.

Hidden in the closet for years, latency in its various forms is emerging as a subtle yet complex and critical component to both business, corporate and IT success. The IT industry, from the business process concept to the business application implementation, within the data center, across the corporation and its external food chain through the WAN/Internet, must accept the negative reality of the "L" word.

IT management must begin to establish robust latency SLA policies and learn to govern, monitor and manage latency as any other critical technical issue. Do not avoid the issue -- next-generation, intelligent latency-sensitive SLAs are needed now, rather than in the future.

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