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Microsoft Giving Priority On Azure Capacity To Coronavirus Response Effort

First responders, health care and government agencies will be prioritized in the event of any capacity constraints.

Microsoft is not ruling out the possibility of Azure capacity constraints resulting from a spike in cloud computing demand amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

And in the event of any constraints, Microsoft is pledging to prioritize cloud capacity for first responders as well as health care and government organizations, the company said in a blog post. Keeping the Teams collaboration platform running is also a priority, the company said.

[Related: Microsoft Adds 12M Users For Teams In One Week]

"As demand continues to grow, if we are faced with any capacity constraints in any region during this time, we have established clear criteria for the priority of new cloud capacity," Microsoft said in the blog. "Top priority will be going to first responders, health and emergency management services, critical government infrastructure organizational use, and ensuring remote workers stay up and running with the core functionality of Teams."

Last week, Microsoft suffered an outage of its Teams collaboration platform as work-from-home deployments surged.

The company has begun offering Teams free for six months to businesses and educational institutions, but noted in its blog that “we will also consider adjusting free offers, as necessary, to ensure support of existing customers.”

Ric Opal, principal and national GTM and strategic partnerships leader at BDO Digital, said that in his company's client base he has heard "zero complaints about people having issues with anything in Azure."

That's even as the company has seen a 40-percent uptick in service requests from clients, including increases in demand for Windows Virtual Desktop, VPN connectivity and Teams.

Still, if there are capacity constraints in the future, cloud providers must operate like an electric company would during a heat wave, and prioritize how capacity is allocated, Opal said.

"My expectation would be that Microsoft prioritizes commercial workloads--especially those that are relevant to assisting with the pandemic. Give health care the No. 1 priority, give the federal government and state government priority," Opal said. "The focus and effort has to be to slow the spread globally--use all of our resources and prioritize them in an orchestrated effort so that the world can benefit. I think they're doing that the best they can, given the visibility that they have."

In an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that "I feel we're definitely holding up" during the increase in demand for cloud resources.

“If this was a previous generation of data center architectures or software architectures, I don’t think we would have been able to deal with this crisis as effectively as we have been able to,” Nadella said in the interview.

Today's cloud architecture "has elasticity built into it," he said.

Ultimately, Opal said that the businesses that are in the best shape with their IT infrastructure right now "are those who leaned in on digital transformation, who leaned in on SaaS and PaaS."

But "for any customer who's feeling pain right now, they need to think about IT infrastructure no different than they think about water supply, electricity or natural gas. It cannot be under-invested in. Those who invested are reaping the benefits," Opal said. "Those who are not doing well were maybe the cloud laggards, or the ones who did some, but didn't fully invest."

Going forward, many businesses will "have to change their strategies as it relates to IT investment," he said.

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