Week two at home and it’s now time for Government and International Organisations to get organised and plan some sort of response. I spend a lot of my professional time discussing IT Strategy and, in particular, Cloud Computing with customers. Pros-Cons-Costs-Benefits. There generally isn’t a lot of denial that Cloud is the very definite direction of travel for the IT industry. At this point cloud adoption is mainstream and the worldwide public cloud services market is forecast to grow 17% in 2020 to total $266.4 billion, up from $227.8 billion in 2019, according to Gartner, Inc.
Despite that momentum Cloud isn’t always the right thing for the Customer – or the right time. There can be a myriad of reasons why, perhaps key applications aren’t yet supported by 3rd party vendors or upon deeper introspection the Customer concedes their organisation isn’t structured or geared correctly to benefit from a lot of the operational benefits cloud can deliver, for example, DevOps and Continuous Development and Continuous Integration.
Often however, it’s much more practical than that - simply as question of maturity and readiness. In essence - Timing. An as yet not exhausted legacy financial commitment mid budgetary cycle, the inability to fund, manage or focus on what is often a large-scale transformation effort for the business, a skills shortage and the perpetual problem of spending the majority of time and effort simply keeping the lights on leaving no time for anything else. What’s missing in all of these scenarios is a ‘compelling event’ typically a real need born as a direct response to business pressure without which there is little impetus to change.
The current Coronavirus crisis is among many other things a compelling event. All of a sudden most of the qualifying factors for a migration to Cloud fall away and only one matters – speed to market. At the time of writing its estimated that approximately one fifth of the world’s 7.8 Billion people are living under some form of Government lockdown. Typically, this means at least a requirement to not travel unnecessarily, stay and work at home if at all possible. This in turn triggered a scramble for employers to facilitate home working on a scale and pace never seen before.
The infrastructure as a service (IaaS) market sprung to respond. Microsoft, providers of MS Azure Cloud Infrastructure, saw a 40-percent uptick in service requests from clients, including increases in demand for Windows Virtual Desktop, VPN connectivity and Teams. Teams Chat alone saw a 500% increase in China in the early weeks of the outbreak.
Rival Slack, designed to replace email as the primary method of communication and sharing, broke all user records as demand surged for remote working concurrent users passing 10 million, jumping to 10.5 million six days later on March 16th before reaching 12.5 million ten days later.
Amazon Web Services provides the Johns Hopkins University platform that supports Global coronavirus data tracking including modelling on the number of confirmed cases, deaths, and recoveries, by location, updated daily. It has also been selected by UK Government as a strategic partner to assist in the sale and distribution of Testing when available, leveraging Amazon’s unrivalled logistics network and its AWS ecommerce capability to scale to meet what will undoubtedly be unprecedented demand. Impressive when you consider it also continues the job of delivering physical goods to our homes at a time when tens of millions of Customers are isolated in their homes, Amazon has become a critical lifeline delivering food and supplies.
Previous generations of data centre and software architectures may not have been able to deal with this crisis as effectively and certainly not as quickly. Cloud has elasticity built into it – compare that with the traditional approach to procuring, implementing and operating Traditional IT Infrastructure.
Not to be outdone several main Software as a service (SaaS) providers have chipped in too. ServiceNow, the world’s largest and leading workflow automation company, has impressively developed and released four Emergency response Apps to help manage workers during crisis. This enables employers to quickly notify employees of important information, employees to notify their employer of their health status initiating a safe return to work process, organisations to even identify employees who may have been exposed to infectious diseases, such as the COVID-19 virus, by analysing an impacted employee's meetings and locations. There’s even an app that helps state and local government agencies to manage and optimise their resources in critical locations during emergencies. All free of charge, all immediately available to existing users via the ServiceNow (App) Store.
Salesforce will provide free access to its ‘Health Cloud’ technology for emergency response teams, call centres, and care management teams for health systems affected by coronavirus and RPA leader Automation Anywhere, among others, has developed a Virtual Agent ‘Bot’ to triage potential affected patients through a symptom checker, working to World Health Organisation and Local Public Health Authority Standards. Where deployed, patients go through that service before they get on the phone with an expert, freeing up workers for the most critical cases.
We are all connected on a human level. There is no crueller reminder of this than how a harmful virus can cross the world transcending all borders and cultures to become an established Global Pandemic within days. Technology also connects us. We are learning fast how modern technologies, such as Cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation, have the potential to be forces of good. Information can be shared quicker than ever; real-time collaboration is now the norm and the world’s sharpest IT minds turn their attention to all assisting in the fightback. Here’s hoping.
- Article by Peter Snowling, Principal Management Consultant, Novosco