Microsoft sees surge in demand for cloud services during coronavirus outbreak

The increase has hit such services as Microsoft Teams, Windows Virtual Desktop, and Power BI, forcing Microsoft to prioritize demand for customers most in need.

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As the coronavirus spreads around the world and forces us to practice social distancing, more organizations have been turning to the cloud to try to maintain some semblance of work and business. With many companies reliant on Microsoft products, the software giant said that it's experienced a surge in the use of its cloud services.

SEE: Coronavirus having major effect on tech industry beyond supply chain delays (free PDF) (TechRepublic) 

In a blog post published on Saturday, Microsoft reported a spike in the use of its Teams product, adding up to more than 44 million daily users around the world. That number is more than double the 20 million users that the company noted last November. In a single week, all those users led to more than 900 million meeting and calling minutes each day. In Italy, where social distancing or shelter in place orders have been enforced, the number of Teams users skyrocketed by 775% during a one-month period.

The use of Windows Virtual Desktop has shot up more than three times. Further, government use of Microsoft's public Power BI has grown by 42% in a week, most notably as it has the ability to share COVID-19 dashboards with people around the world.

The rise in demand has been felt in several regions, specifically Northern Europe, Western Europe, Southern UK, Central France, East Asia, Southern India, and Southern Brazil. In these areas, deployments for certain cloud-based resources have dropped below Microsoft's usual 99.99% success rate.

Given this increase, the onus is on Microsoft to try to manage and prioritize how its services are used, and by whom. The company explained that its top priority is to ensure access for health and safety organizations. Therefore, its highest level of monitoring applies to the following:

  • First Responders (fire, EMS, and police dispatch systems)
  • Emergency routing and reporting applications
  • Medical supply management and delivery systems
  • Applications to alert emergency response teams for accidents, fires, and other issues
  • Healthbots, health screening applications, and websites
  • Health management applications and record systems

For other customers, Microsoft said that it's put a few temporary restrictions in place. Current customers will see limits on free offers for its cloud services as a way to prioritize capacity. New subscribers will encounter "soft" quota limits for certain resources, though they can request an increase to those limits. If those requests can't be addressed quickly enough, Microsoft advises customers to use alternative regions out of its 54 live regions that may be seeing a lower increase in demand. To better handle these surges, the company said it will accelerate the creation of new capacity in appropriate regions.

To manage the higher demand for Microsoft Teams, the company said it's made a few temporary tweaks on nonessential features that won't significantly impact customers. These include the video resolution, the frequency at which Microsoft checks for user presence, and the interval at which customers can see what the other person is typing.

Despite the surge in demand for its cloud services, Microsoft reported no significant service disruptions. For customers that do experience issues, the company encourages them to retry their deployments. Further, customers can check the Azure Service Health Documentation site to learn of any service incidents that may affect such deployments.

Editor's note: This article and headline have been updated to reflect a corrected blog post from Microsoft.

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