Can the cloud handle the streaming explosion caused by the pandemic?

The Streaming Digital Explosion

From the time the coronavirus forced the global community to stay at home, a whopping 16 million people have newly subscribed to Netflix, which is more than double the number the streaming giant had forecasted.

Amazon had to hire 100,000 new warehouse workers to meet the growing demand, Facebook witnessed an explosion in traffic for video calling and messaging, and Microsoft reported a 40% climb in the usage of its software for online collaboration in just one week. 

But can the cloud keep up with the exponentially growing demand on its bandwidth? 

In Europe, the government officials reportedly contacted Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix to reduce the streaming quality of its videos to ease the pressure on the region’s internet network. And YouTube too suspended its high-definition video in Europe for a month.

The streaming explosion

Imagine if the coronavirus had struck us 10 years ago. We would not have been able to work from home, stream movies online, or even play a round of online games with our globally dispersed friends like the way we are doing now. The last bit of continuity and normalcy that we are all experiencing right now at work and in life amidst this pandemic is all thanks to Netflix, Slack, Zoom, Google classrooms, Dropbox, and the likes. With nearly everything that once formed a part of our day-to-day life and entertainment shut down, people are naturally gravitating towards internet-powered alternatives. These technological solutions have made social distancing possible by keeping us connected with our loved ones, giving us sources for in-house entertainment, letting us continue to work from home, and ensuring children continue to have access to education.

Cloud, the real blessing in disguise

While names like Netflix, Zoom, Slack, Google Classrooms, Whatsapp, and other social media are at the forefront of this revolution, behind the scenes what is keeping these apps and software up and running is the cloud. It would only be fair to laud the seamless services of Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and others who have been consistently delivering during this period as the demand for cloud-based systems saw a surge internationally.

In fact, cloud computing is one of those rare industries that is predicted to be largely unaffected by the economic turmoil. The demand for digital solutions is expected to hike even further post-covid especially with work from home and virtual classrooms predicted to become the new normal. The three top names in the cloud computing space, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are offering deep discounts for renting the underlying infrastructure for a corporate network and the software used by employees. However, companies that migrated to the cloud before the pandemic hit will have a significant upper hand over the ones that may be contemplating its options right now. In the last decade, cloud migration has been on the top of mind for technologists. For many companies, replacing a cost-intensive in-house IT infrastructure with a rent-based virtual setup that could be scaled up or down based on demand was an optimal choice. This same flexibility is behind the large uptake that the cloud is experiencing right now.

But not everything is rosy in cloud computing

On the downside, the cloud too has its upward limit. The demand for it has been so strong that Microsoft informed its Azure customers that they are up against the limits in several parts of Australia. Similarly, in Italy, cloud servers came under stress with large numbers of people getting online to play games, watch movies, or run business applications simultaneously. Yet, amidst this growing usage patterns and minor pitfalls, all the major players have expressed confidence in being able to deliver to the needs of the customers in these critical times. While there is no prioritization in usage yet, which means someone who is playing an online game has equal access as someone who is running a business application on the cloud, with time, this could see a change. Those companies raking up a bigger bill with cloud services may get precedence over the others. However, this is a matter of mere contemplation for now.

In the here and now

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All else apart, at the moment, it is pure joy to see people connect in ways like they never have before. Through virtual fitness sessions, guided meditation, cocktail parties, and movie sessions, people are breaking barriers of communication and connection that came with social distancing. In the last two months, people from across countries have come together to form a virtual global community that is standing united in this fight against COVID-19. The virus may definitely have forced us apart physically but it has brought us closer socially. And, I think, this will be one of the greatest moments of truth for all of us.

Coming next…

In my next post, I will share how leading companies dominating the scene during the pandemic are orchestrating their cloud and data center strategy to meet the unpredictable and unmanageable cloud consumption spikes. 

Also, stay tuned for my prediction on how long data center supply chains can hold out during these tough times.

By Anita Raj

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