The effort to maintain operations during the COVID-19 pandemic puts cloud computing at center stage for many organizations. For some, the situation may be a live-fire stress test of resources that were being dabbled with or rolled out on a gradual basis. Gartner’s Craig Lowery, vice president analyst, says the resilience of cloud is on display like never before. “In general, the move that we’ve made as an industry toward more cloud-based services with an emphasis on scalability, reliability, distribution across zones and regions — that value proposition is really shining.”
Lowery says organizations now face a “what if” scenario made real that shows the worth of being able to scale up at a moment’s notice with the cloud. Organizations may be pressed to scale up, he says, to accommodate remote work or to run more workloads on the public cloud if data centers face staffing reductions.
The internet itself is being tested by the pandemic, Lowery says. “It was designed to continue to deliver service in very stressful situations,” he says. The initial driver behind the creation of internet may have been to maintain connectivity during nuclear war. “We’ve grown a lot since it was originally rolled out,” Lowery says. “It is being stressed because the internet is a network of networks.” Private owners of different networks might choose to not pass traffic, though he says there currently is good faith among those operators. “Everything has a breaking point and the internet does have bottlenecks,” Lowery says.
Some service degradation may be inevitable, he says, though it may have more to do with where the end user tries to access the cloud rather than the cloud itself. Companies such as Netflix with business models that rely heavily on bandwidth might make voluntary decisions to throttle their usage. “That’s a precautionary thing that is probably going to be helpful,” Lowery says. “I think people see it as a responsible thing to do.” The design of the internet should mitigate the possibility of the entire system grinding to a halt, he says. “It would have to be a major catastrophe with destruction of the infrastructure or people taken out to the point where automation cannot keep it running.”
For organizations playing catchup on cloud migration, Lowery has seen a surge in SaaS for teleworking and remote conferencing. Aside from that, he does not see current circumstances necessarily pushing laggards any faster to the cloud for IaaS or platform as a service. “Our end-user inquiries have been consistent for the past two years,” he says. “I’ve not seen a specific uptick or downtick in that since we’ve dealt with COVID-19 in earnest.”
The impact of the pandemic so far has been more focused on remote work than quicker migration to the cloud, Lowery says, which can be tough to do to begin with. Those who already felt an urgency to make the move were already on the path before the pandemic set in, he says. “The time to value is such that it would be three to nine months for IaaS and platform as a service to make any meaningful acceleration to move faster or refactor an application for cloud native,” Lowery says. It may be possible to take such actions rapidly; he does not foresee it being done unless it is to fulfill a need brought on by the pandemic.
Large, backbone network providers are expected to maintain service thanks to layers of planning and redundancies through automation and other resources, Lowery says. Outlying providers in remote locations that cover the last mile might have to address issues if their staff is affected by COVID-19. Outages are not outside the realm of possibility, but the larger carriers have done the work to mitigate such occurrences, he adds.
A lesson that organizations running in their own infrastructure might learn is they may hit limits on what they can provide and possibly be forced to turn away customers or see some service degradation, Lowery says. Those who built in public clouds, he says, and truly have scale are more likely to deliver the perception of unlimited capacity, which is a key value proposition of hyper-scalable cloud. “‘It’s there when I need it,’” Lowery says. “‘I can grow into it.’”
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Joao-Pierre S. Ruth has spent his career immersed in business and technology journalism first covering local industries in New Jersey, later as the New York editor for Xconomy delving into the city’s tech startup community, and then as a freelancer for such outlets as … View Full Bio