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Microsoft sees 775 percent surge in cloud demand in regions enforcing social distancing

Written by Mon 30 Mar 2020

NHS Staff

Despite a spike in demand across the world, Microsoft said it has not experienced “significant” service disruptions

Microsoft has revealed the extent to which remote workers and other organisations are relying on Azure services to sustain operations throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

In the company’s latest cloud services continuity update, posted over the weekend, Microsoft said it has seen a 775 percent increase in cloud usage in regions that have enforced social distancing.

Microsoft’s workplace collaboration tool, Teams, now has more than 44 million daily users, who also generated over 900 million meeting and calling minutes in a single week.

In addition, there has been a three-fold increase in Windows Virtual Desktop usage. Meanwhile, there has been a 42 percent rise in government use of Microsoft’s business intelligence platform, Power BI, to share COVID-19 data dashboards with citizens.

Microsoft said despite increased demand, it had not seen any “significant service disruptions” — although some compute resource types have dropped below its 99.99 percent target success rate.

Microsoft used the weekly update to reiterate its commitment to prioritising service continuity for critical health and safety organisations and remote workers using Teams, although the tech giant is only guaranteeing “core” Teams functionality during this period.

“To best support our Teams customers worldwide and accommodate new growth and demand, we made a few temporary adjustments to select non-essential capabilities such as how often we check for user presence, the interval in which we show when the other party is typing, and video resolution. These adjustments do not have significant impact on our end users’ daily experiences,” the company wrote.

Users and services that Microsoft will provide the highest level of monitoring to during this time include: First Responders (fire, EMS, and police dispatch systems); emergency routing and reporting applications; medical supply management and delivery systems; applications to alert emergency response teams for accidents, fires, and other issues; healthbots, health screening applications, and websites; and health management applications and record systems.

Microsoft said it is also implementing new temporary restrictions to ensure existing Azure customers receive the “best possible experience”. This includes limiting free offers and “certain resources” for new subscriptions.

“These are ‘soft’ quota limits, and customers can raise support requests to increase these limits,” the company explained. “If requests cannot be met immediately, we recommend customers use alternative regions (of our 54 live regions) that may have less demand surge. To manage surges in demand, we will expedite the creation of new capacity in the appropriate region.”

Although Azure is currently coping, Microsoft said it is possible that as more capacity is added customers might experience “intermittent deployment-related issues” in the coming weeks. Impacted customers will be informed via its Azure Service Health portal.

In response to the impact that the uptick in gaming is having on its cloud capacity, Microsoft said it is “actively monitoring performance and usage trends to ensure we’re optimizing services for gamers worldwide.”

“We’re taking proactive steps to plan for high-usage periods, which includes taking prudent measures with our publishing partners to deliver higher-bandwidth activities like game updates during off-peak hours,” it added.

Written by Mon 30 Mar 2020


Azure Coronavirus Microsoft
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