Will the Cloud give in to the virus or start growing instead?

As companies have to adapt to the “new normal” reality, they rush towards the cloud at an unseen before pace. Some of them utilize the cloud to further digitalize their business, while others use it to bring down costs or to turn the impossible into possible.

The extraordinary situation has changed the way people work, collaborate, innovate, and even entertain themselves. Since most corporate systems are not prepared for the unexpected increase in traffic, plenty of them are facing performance problems.

In this report, I will try to address how the pandemic has impacted Cloud business across multiple areas, including remote working, entertainment, business and systems scalability, as well as crisis management. I will also try to give some recommendations on how your organization can utilize solutions in those areas for company benefit.  

Finally, I will describe how the different providers handle their platform in times of coronavirus and give you some insights into where I think the cloud business is going.

 

Remote work

The global spread of COVID-19 has driven organizations to rethink the way they work and operate. It also imposes a lot of challenges related to information security, privacy and increase in demand.

Most corporate networks are not prepared for the assault of remote work. Increased remote workers pool also equals overload on VPNs and the services which handle their connections. A SaaS based tool, which enables employees to obtain remote access through the cloud might be a cure for that.

The new covid-reality has rushed a lot of businesses towards the cloud. A lot of organizations worldwide still rely on software and computers maintained in physical offices which cannot be easily accessed.

Some organizations still store their company data in local offices on local network shares. If the company did not implement any means of remote access to those, employees often can’t work.

Those organizations have to implement point to site VPN access solutions, or what I would recommend, go into the cloud.

Office communications

Other, non-technological, challenges which might impact your organization could include loneliness and communication problems. The pie chart below illustrates employees’ biggest challenges with remote work. Survey was based on 3500 remote workers from around the world.

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In order to improve the comfort of working, companies are implementing “virtual kitchens” for the employees to meet in, or other virtual social activities. Many of them use SaaS-based tools such as Zoom, Hangouts or other of their choice. In order to succeed during the pandemic, employees began using online collaboration services.

My recommendations

  • If you never get a chance to use any of the communication tools mentioned above, Microsoft Teams is now available free of charge, by using Microsoft Office 365 E1.
  • Utilize Amazon WorkSpaces. It is a managed, secure Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution, which can be used to provision either Windows or Linux desktops in just a few minutes and quickly scale to provide thousands of desktops to workers across the globe. You can also utilize Windows Virtual Desktop from Microsoft. It delivers multi-session Windows 10, with optimizations for Office 365 and support for Remote Desktop Services.
  • Move your data to cloud storage. Utilize Microsoft Azure File Storage or AWS Elastic File System to deliver the storage for your systems. For delivering files for your employees, setup Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon Work Docs, or Google Drive.
  • Utilize Azure VPN or AWS VPN to connect your on-premises infrastructure with your cloud environments. If you require more traffic, consider using Azure ExpressRoute or AWS Direct Connect.
 

Will the cloud handle the scale?

While the possibility to scale on clouds is in no doubt larger than on-premises, it’s not unlimited.

In the beginning of the pandemic, Microsoft reported a 775 percent increase in Microsoft Teams cloud services usage in regions having enforced social distancing.

More than 44 million daily users started using Microsoft teams with Azure as the backbone platform.

While cloud services have adopted to the new normal, and increased load, it is still recommended to split your services over multiple geographical locations or multiple providers.

My recommendations

  • Setup your infrastructure to span over multiple regions. If possible, create redundant infrastructure across multiple datacenters.
  • Alternatively, set up your cloud infrastructure to be multicloud-based. It should give you flexibility to move your workload to the provider.
  • Try to be provider-independent by utilizing containers and orchestration systems such as Kubernetes or Docker. This will give you flexibility when migrating your applications between different providers or between local datacenter and public clouds.
 

Scalability in times of crisis

While the utilization of cloud growth is obvious, there are companies that are impacted by the pandemic in a way that forces them to scale down operations.

For instance, in the early days of the pandemic, IoT-based companies in the scooter business fired hundreds of employees. And the usage of their product shrunk to a minimum. A cloud “Pay as you go”-model allows such companies to minimize their losses by scaling their systems and IT infrastructure according to customer requirements while leaving only a minimal footprint.

A system running on Cloud can adapt to the traffic of users. One of the prime examples is Fortnite – an online game that has gathered more than 125 million players within the first 12 months after its launch and supports a peak of 10 times the non-peak usage. A feature which would not be possible if it was not for the usage of AWS Cloud resources.

My recommendations

  • Set up your monitoring using Azure Monitor and Application Insights or AWS CloudWatch to monitor the usage of your application and be able to make clear decisions on infrastructure requirements. Utilize services like Azure Autoscale or AWS Auto Scaling to automatically adapt your costs to your utilization. If your applications are not able to scale automatically, implement custom scaling setup using Azure Automation or AWS System Manager Automation.
  • Where possible, create applications architecture that utilize the power of Functions as a Service (FaaS) and serverless. With components like Azure Functions, AWS Lambda or Google Cloud Functions your application can have minimal or no costs when not used and scale to high utilization in minutes.
 

New age of entertainment

The pandemic caused increased internet traffic around the world as people stayed home watching Netflix to keep them entertained. Although more people are using Netflix they were urged to switch to the SD during periods of peaks as video streaming puts excessive load on Internet infrastructure.

Netflix is entertaining more and more of us due to COVID-19 pandemic. In the first quarter of 2020 Netflix added 15.8 million new subscribers worldwide, and the number has increased by 17 million to date.

My recommendations

  • If your company manages digital content, utilize a content delivery network (CDN). CDN is a geographically distributed content system that works together to provide fast delivery of content for services spanning over multiple regions.
  • By utilizing services like Amazon CloudFront, Google CDN or Azure CDN, your users will always receive their content in seconds.
 

Cloudy weather ahead – how do the providers react?

Microsoft Azure – A significant investment

In the beginning of the pandemic, Microsoft announced building a new data center in Poland – an investment of more than 1 billion PLN. Microsoft will invest in Polish digital transformation, the skill of Polish engineers and Cloud adoption in Poland.

Another country which is opening is Spain, and while the decision was made when COVID-19 still did not have such a large impact on the market, Microsoft did not stop the decision to invest in a country heavily hit by the pandemic.

In addition, on 8th of May last year, Microsoft announced a five-year investment plan in Italy, worth more than 1,5 billion dollars, creating the first datacenter in Italy.

Furthermore, according to Bloomberg, Microsoft plans to add four new data centers within China by early 2022.

Alibaba Cloud

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will invest 200 billion Yuan ($28 Billion) on cloud infrastructure such as data centers over the course of next three years, a major effort to extend one of its fastest growing businesses to more countries despite the global pandemic.

According to Bloomberg, Alibaba is opening its first data centers in South Korea and Thailand next year as they look to expand their cloud business further overseas.

This Tuesday, Alibaba launched a new server chip called Yitian 710 that will go into servers called Panjiu. The aim is to power artificial intelligence applications on Alibaba’s cloud.

Amazon AWS

AWS announced a new region in Milan, sixth AWS region in Europe. AWS representatives underlined that AWS intends to help Italian startups, their education and non-profit and government entities to cover the requirements of cloud utilization.

As Amazon CTO Werner Vogels wrote on his blog:

“Now, more than ever, we are seeing customers use efficient and secure cloud computing infrastructure to make a meaningful impact on lives around the world. In Italy, many organizations are leveraging AWS to tackle the challenges brought on by the pandemic, whether it is to empower scientific research, facilitate remote working and remote learning, or providing new services to answer the emergency at hand”.

Last year, AWS launched a new initiative to accelerate COVID‐19 research. AWS is committing an initial investment of $20 million to accelerate diagnostic research, innovation, and development to increase understanding and detection of COVID-19 and other innovative diagnostic solutions to mitigate future infectious disease outbreaks. Funding will be provided through a combination of AWS in-kind credits and technical support.

 

Final Remarks

As the pandemic advanced, digitalization of organizations did as well. The move towards the cloud is still going strong, and there are no signs of stopping in the near future.

Providers are making large investments and betting on cloud to be a future of computing, and rightfully so!

 

If you have any questions or input, please reach out or leave a comment below – our team of experts is here to help.

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