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Coronavirus Shelter-in-Place Rules Boosting Microsoft Services

Microsoft recently shared some statistics on the growth of its services since widespread "shelter-in-place" mandates due to novel coronavirus concerns have taken effect.

The company had already announced that its Teams collaboration service reached "more than 44 million daily users" since companies started encouraging employees to telework. This Saturday, Microsoft also revealed that use of its cloud services shot up by 775 percent in regions with social distancing policies in place. The Windows Virtual Desktop remote access service, which is still fairly new, also saw its usage rate grow by "more than 3x."

Additionally, government use of Power BI "to share COVID-19 dashboards with citizens has surged by 42 percent in a week," Microsoft indicated.

The announcement repeated Microsoft's emphasis on supporting first responders and emergency personnel first with its services. Some features of services have been reduced to handle the increased service demands, as Microsoft previously communicated. However, some new information was described. For instance, free trials are getting limited, and customers may have to use alternative service regions to avoid Microsoft's so-called "soft quota limits."

Here's that explanation:

We're implementing a few temporary restrictions designed to balance the best possible experience for all of our customers. We have placed limits on free offers to prioritize capacity for existing customers. We also have limits on certain resources for new subscriptions. These are 'soft' quota limits, and customers can raise support requests to increase these limits. If requests cannot be met immediately, we recommend customers use alternative regions (of our 54 live regions) that may have less demand surge. To manage surges in demand, we will expedite the creation of new capacity in the appropriate region.

Microsoft cited increased demand in "Europe North, Europe West, UK South, France Central, Asia East, India South, [and] Brazil South," where some of its compute resources have dropped below Microsoft's 99.99 service-level agreement thresholds. For those customers experiencing such service failures, Microsoft's announcement advocated that they "retry deployments," by which it apparently means they should try accessing the services from a different region.

The switch to a different region was further elucidated in the announcement's Q&A segment, which also suggested Microsoft was building out new infrastructure:

We are expediting the addition of significant new capacity that will be available in the weeks ahead. Concurrently, we monitor support requests and, if needed, encourage customers to consider alternative regions or alternative resource types, depending on their timeline and requirements. If the implementation of these efforts to alleviate demand is not sufficient, customers may experience intermittent deployment related issues. When this does happen, impacted customers will be informed via Azure Service Health.

Surprisingly, Microsoft also has been working with Internet service providers (ISPs) worldwide to "augment capacity as needed," particularly with regard to video feeds.

Teleworkers depend on their home Internet connections, which they typically pay for, to carry out work for businesses. That fact, which has become acute recently with stay-at-home mandates, perhaps showcases for businesses the flaw in letting ISPs have the kind of throttling powers that they currently have. The effort to make ISPs follow "net neutrality" principles instead -- in which they would not have such throttling power -- while popular with the public, was thwarted by the current leadership of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, largely due to industry lobbying.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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