Azure: 775% increase in demand in confined areas

[AZURE] While the use of Windows Virtual Desktop has tripled, the use of PowerBI by governments to share dashboards on the Covid-19 with citizens has jumped 42% in one week.

[Updated Monday, March 30, 2020 at 9:07 a.m.] Microsoft’s cloud is facing a tidal wave. Alongside the explosion in the use of collaborative messaging Teams, the publisher says demand for cloud services has increased by 775% in regions imposing barrier gestures and/or containment measures due to the coronavirus. While it was facing capacity constraints, the Azure team had indicated as early as March 21 that it would give top priority for additional resources to emergency services, health and emergency management, critical government infrastructure, as well as collaborative work applications essential to containment (read the post). As of March 25, this situation affected the Azure France, England, Ireland and Amsterdam regions (see this discussion on Reddit). Microsoft has decided to apply this process in these regions. The infrastructure in place for existing customers has not been impacted, and the quality of service of Azure is fully maintained. However, following the application of these prioritization measures, some customers were unable to activate additional virtual machines in the affected geographies. Microsoft invites them to turn to their sales contact in order to study their request with regard to the priority criteria defined (read the interview with Xavier Perret: “Microsoft Azure assumes to prioritize the critical needs of customers in terms of additional resources”).

Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and OVHCloud detailed their business continuity plans for the Covid-19 crisis on March 16. As for Microsoft, it waited until March 21 to specify the measures taken to maintain the operations of its cloud activities. A communication that some might consider late. Especially since one of the flagship bricks of Office 365 was affected by an outage on March 16. Faced with a massive influx of new users looking for telecommuting tools, Microsoft Teams was experiencing many malfunctions that day relayed on Twitter: problems sending messages, creating new teams, screen sharing … The failure, which lasted several hours, was repaired in the night of 16 or 17 March.

A post published on March 21

Faced with this crisis, “we are actively monitoring the performance and usage trends (of our cloud services, ed. note) 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to ensure we optimize them for our customers around the world while responding to new demands,” said the Azure cloud team on its official blog in a post dated March 21. Before adding: “We work closely with first responders and critical government agencies to ensure we prioritize their needs (in terms of computing resources, ed.) and provide full support.” Recall that Microsoft’s cloud offering covers Azure IaaS, but also Office 365 and the Dynamics 365 software package, both of which are backed by the former.

“Top priority will be given to emergency services, health and emergency management and critical government infrastructure.”

What about Microsoft’s cloud regions based in France? “We are working in partnership with local governments to ensure that our data centers spread across the world are staffed and fully functional,” the Azure team added. This business continuity plan obviously applies to Azure’s two French infrastructures, deployed in Ile-de-France and near Marseille. And the Azure team adds: “In the event of IT capacity constraints in a given region, we have established clear criteria for prioritising new IT resources according to need. Top priority will be given to rescue, health and emergency management services and critical government infrastructure.”

We contacted Microsoft France back on March 17 to find out more about the measures taken to ensure business continuity for Azure regions based in France. The subsidiary has not yet responded at the time of publication of this article.

Towards a questioning of free offers?

Microsoft also states that it gives priority to teleworkers. Objective: to ensure that they “remain operational via the main features of Teams. This is a way for Redmond to make amends for the March 16 outage.

“Organizations of all sizes from all sectors are adopting Teams and Microsoft 365 (which combines Windows and Office 365, editor’s note) to allow their employees to work remotely […]”, says Satya Nadella in an email sent on March 21 to employees of the group. In his message, the CEO of Microsoft mentions the case of the consulting firm Accenture which “currently totals 2.5 million hours of meetings in Teams each week.

But there’s a shadow in the picture: Microsoft says it will allow itself to adjust its free offerings if necessary to support its existing customers. This means that the group does not intend to be overwhelmed by too many new users attracted by the free version of Teams. The objective of the group is to anticipate the risk of a new degradation of its collaborative messaging that would come from too much traffic.

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