27Mar 2020

Can public clouds keep up with the pandemic surge?


As more and more businesses switch to virtual work from home “offices,” cloud computing and cloud-based systems suddenly have new credibility. Cloud computing makes it much easier to manage daily operations when a company’s workforce becomes largely distributed, and enterprises are fast realizing the value that cloud computing can bring in this dimension.

That said, public cloud providers only have so much capacity because even clouds have finite limits based on existing physical inventory. Providers do a good job of resource sharing using advanced tenant management capabilities, and it’s assumed they will expand their capacity during this crisis, but there is an upward limit. If a provider hits that limit, rationing mechanisms will need to be employed.


We already watched this happen in Italy, the country hit hardest with COVID-19. Cloud servers both inside the country and out were stressed by a combination of people streaming movies and playing online games and people running business-critical applications.

Cloud providers have not prioritized usage just yet. However, it’s not a leap to assume that the enterprises with the largest cloud bills will get access precedence over those who are binge-watching “Friends” reruns.

The bet right now is that the cloud providers can keep ahead of demand. Keep in mind that this will be an international surge in demand. Some countries have a lot of red tape, regulations, and politics to get around until you’re cleared to build a four-story windowless building full of servers that use more power and water than most small towns.

The larger challenge will happen when the crisis is over and we return to a new normal. Odds are high that most enterprises damaged by the pandemic will double down on cloud migrations. The public cloud providers will be swimming in cash, but they will also need to find creative new ways to accommodate the post-pandemic surge.

Priorities have and will continue to change around the COVID-19 crisis. It’s an ongoing planning exercise to ensure that our applications and data have the best and most resilient homes. As we weather this pandemic, document the hiccups in business operations and develop solutions or recommendations to make sure they don’t happen again. This is not a drill. Another disaster will inevitably arise. Be prepared.