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What does location awareness mean with regard to cloud storage?

Location awareness can reduce latency, but in the cloud it isn't determined by GPS coordinates. Expert Marc Staimer explains how it works.

What does location awareness mean in the context of cloud storage?

The first thing to remember with regard to location awareness is that cloud storage is not geographically aware in the literal sense.

That means it does not actually know where it is based on global positioning system coordinates. Instead, it can measure the latency between the cloud storage and the applications accessing the data on that cloud storage. Because latency equates to distance, the cloud storage knows how far away the stored data is from the application. Simply put, cloud storage location awareness means the cloud storage is aware of where it resides relative to the application reading or writing the data. It uses that awareness, based on policies, to place frequently accessed data as close as possible to the application or the user accessing it.

This type of location awareness enables a user or administrator to set policies that optimize response times for specific workloads or datasets by reducing latency. It can reduce latency by copying, moving or migrating the data to a portion of the cloud storage that is closer to the application -- when measured by the round-trip latency. This comes in handy when access to the data objects is widely dispersed. This is often the case in industries such as financial services, oil and gas, and healthcare.

But location awareness is by no means a perfect methodology if your goal is reducing latency and increasing performance. It takes time to copy and move data, especially if there is a lot of data. There are also issues that arise when several users need to alter or modify the data objects in parallel. Merging the distinct versions of those data objects back together requires human intervention or a syncing application, such as a file sync-and-share app. Location awareness is best suited for dispersed distributed read access. The good news is that this awareness is usually  available in cloud storage products without additional products or software licensing.

This was first published in May 2014

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