Designing a global e-commerce platform to overcome network latency


I’ve been working on efficient network latency model for a global e-commerce solution. Having designed a few major global platforms there are a number of factors that need to be considered. Misconceptions around content delivery networks make it easy for an organisation to say we can just apply an Akamai or Amazon webservices to solve the problem often mislead potential customers. Whilst Akamai and Amazon do solve content delivery problems particularly for services that rely on heavy media types they do not solve the problem for transactional websites. For this we need to turn to network design, the positioning of data centres, peering of networks and the routing of traffic through key undersea cables.

Whilst the later can often be something out of your control, by choosing the right data centre partner in the right location will mean you can solve the problem relatively easy.

So what do we need to look out for;-

Geography of the data centre.

Designing the solution to cater for your largest population of users. For example trans oceanic links between Europe and East coast US are very strong and reliable. But equally West Coast US and Tokyo or equally reliable. So if your user populations mainly reside in these two geographies then we can accurately select a good location for the data centre.

Data Centre Routing and Peering

We then need to factor into the equation data centre routing and network peering. This if you are a solution provider is often out of your control however again choosing the right data centre organisation with the appropriate peering and routing arrangements can shorten the amount of hops your traffic will need to take between the server and your user. To do this well we need to look at the financial sector, particular realtime volume trading where big trading centres such as London, Tokyo and New York are paired by many global hosting organisations. All of which will have the links and relationships set up ready for you to choose.

Business Model

Then there’s your plan for global domination. You need to factor your business model into this. There is no point designing the most perfect global hosting platform if you do not have the business case in each market. We all know the safest and efficient global transaction solution is to have servers located in each of your markets, however this is often not viable and doesn’t play to the strengths of the internet. If we are talking billions of pounds/dollars of revenue than there is naturally a business case, but if you are starting out, a well placed set of servers with a good hosting business will serve you adequately well and will leave you with dollars to spend making the shopping experience more rewarding.

And there is a place for CDN

And yes Akamai can still help, but only with your rich product content. It will be useless on a transactional level. But really transaction is often the smallest factor in your overal website design.

And finally there’s Australia

This is something that will challenge every network engineer. But links are getting better.

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