June 16—Microsoft announced plans to increase its cloud computing capacity after encountering surging demand related to the coronavirus pandemic. The Big Tech corporation noted that supply chain disruption delayed its response up until now.
The firm explained its efforts include enhancing its network and data center capacity and updating its Azure resilience resources.
How COVID-19 Impacted Microsoft’s Cloud Infrastructure
In a video, Microsoft Azure Chief Technology Officer Mark Russinovich offered a thorough accounting of COVID-19’s impact on his organization in the last 90 days. The executive said the Azure, Microsoft Teams, Windows Virtual Desktop, and Xbox Live platforms “experienced unprecedented demand” in the aftermath of the viral outbreak. As a result, the firm’s customers experienced sporadic service slowdowns and outages.
Russinovich stated his firm addressed the global health crisis by prioritizing first responders, the healthcare sector, and government access. As the pandemic prompted more and more people to utilize Microsoft’s cloud services, the corporation changed features to reduce usage at peak times and move workloads to less taxed areas. The company also made Teams chat less robust and deactivated certain aspects of its interoperability with Calendar.
However, as governments around the world made self-quarantine decrees to halt the spread of the disease, usage of its remote tools skyrocketed. Russinovich noted the company observed a 700 percent upswing in virtual private network (VPN) connections after COVID-19, and it’s Azure VPN saw a 94 percent utilization bump.
In addition, Microsoft had to deal with increased cybersecurity threats as its network traffic leaped by 40 percent. The CTO said hackers attempted (and were repelled) distributed denial of service attacks, which grew by 50 percent as the world adapted to learning and working remotely. He also mentioned Xbox Live multiplayer gaming and new user signups swelled by 50 percent as more of the populace became homebound.
Russinovich revealed that Microsoft attempted to source new networking gear to fortify its digital systems, but the pandemic’s disruption of China’s manufacturing industry delayed the process.
Adjusting to the ‘New Normal’
Now that global supply chains have begun recovering from the immediate impact of COVID-19, Microsoft is progressing in strengthening its digital infrastructure. In April, Microsoft CFO Amy Hood announced her company would ramp up its networking spending in the second quarter. Hood also said enhancements to the corporation’s connected resources would be completed by the end of this month.
Russinovich also detailed the Azure unit’s work in optimizing its operational resiliency. The cloud computing segment deployed active-active fault-tolerant systems to serve live traffic better. The group also integrated API level rate limiting, bulkhead isolation, circuit breakers, and efficiency retry pattern tools to make its networks stronger and more agile.
New routing, cache, and storage procedures were also implemented to prevent future end-user service problems.
Given Microsoft’s massive reach and resources, the fact that the company encountered difficulties managing the online effects of COVID-19 is striking. But it is heartening to know the brand is aggressively working to shore up its networks and utilities as they address the world’s new remote operation paradigm.