How the cloud continues to support the ongoing Covid-19 response

Anil Kumar is director of product management at Couchbase.

The increased use of online services brought by the Covid-19 pandemic has created new technical requirements for organisations. Since the pandemic-imposed hiatus of most in-person activities and the accompanying shift into digital life, websites and applications must now be scalable and able to react to demand in real-time to avoid slow response times and outages. Traditional monolithic architecture simply isn’t cut out for this, and with developer teams forced to build applications and add new functionalities quickly, containerization of workloads is vital. Gartner predicts that by 2022, more than 75 percent of businesses will run containerised applications in production.

This has meant becoming cloud-ready is no longer just a ‘nice-to-have’, but essential for organisations as the global Covid-19 response continues. From healthcare to retail, cloud underpins and accelerates the technology adoption needed to meet these new scale demands, and ensures organisations can efficiently sustain these efforts in future.

Here are some examples of key services and capabilities where using the cloud has been – and will continue to be – invaluable:

Covid-19 contact tracing apps

One of the key offerings enabling the safe easing of lockdown restrictions and controlling the spread of infections are contact tracing apps, which have been deployed by governments across the world. Using tools such as Bluetooth and GPS to track those who have been in contact with a Covid-19 patient, the apps collect, store and process a huge amount of data from users such as profile, geo-location, conditions, etc. Any app developed must therefore be able to process this data without suffering performance issues, withstand sudden large spikes in usage and ensure all user data is protected – requirements a cloud platform is apt for meeting.

Because it can automatically scale up or down depending on demand, cloud-based platforms help ensure the application won’t crash when a surge of people use or download it. Guaranteeing a reliable public health response also means having disaster recovery capabilities within the architecture, being able to recover from the different failure domains, and being able to self-heal. This is another capability the cloud offers, with many organisations using container orchestration platforms in particular for disaster recovery. And with role-based access control enabled by default in many cloud deployments, it provides a vital component of personal data security.

Supporting increasing healthcare needs

Covid-19 has inevitably meant healthcare organisations face greater pressures – not just treating infections themselves, but ensuring the standard of care for patients with other illnesses remains high – and the cloud is well-suited to ease these pressures. Take the shift to telehealth: enabling patients to book their own appointments and access online services while dealing with unprecedented user activity isn’t easy, and requires a scalable, microservices-based data foundation. This is why some healthcare providers, such as Sesame, for example, have turned to the cloud.

With lots of healthcare authorities set to conduct as many health assessments as possible virtually for the foreseeable, cloud-based applications must be adjusted and scaled as developers learn to navigate the increased demand. Countries across the world may be adapting to live with the virus, but healthcare services continue to face serious strain. Cloud technology offers the security and stability required to support patients’ access to services without unnecessary disruption or application downtime.

Resource optimisation

Development teams have been under increasing pressure since digitisation efforts have accelerated in response to Covid-19. Our own research found that 65 percent of citizens feel technology has made their lives easier during lockdown, but many may not realise the tireless efforts of IT departments to enable this technology to run without disruption around the clock.

Retail is one example of this: as non-essential shops were forced to close back in March and again in November, retailers’ apps and websites saw huge spikes in traffic as consumers switched to online shopping. This means that on top of adapting their working processes in line with social distancing and remote working, developers’ time has been spent building new applications, improving the capabilities of existing ones and facilitating rapid data collection – all so that retailers’ apps can keep up with this increased demand. This is no mean feat, but with cloud-based applications, it’s easier to meet these peaks. Container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes, for instance, manage and maintain clusters autonomously, giving developers vital time back to focus on the functionalities that matter most.

Longer term cost savings

An unavoidable consequence of Covid-19 is the economic impact, with many organisations having to focus more on cost saving initiatives than they were before. And when it comes to IT, the cloud is apt for reducing financial overheads in the long term.

Some organisations may not realise that many cloud providers operate a pay-as-you-use pricing model, meaning you don’t fork out for services you don’t need. This is coupled with longer term cost reductions due to the optimisation of resources, reducing the operational and administrative burdens, and faster deployment times. Looking for platforms that help scale and maintain applications in a cost-efficient way has been even more important for developers of late since for many, Covid-19 has meant rapidly learning new technologies. And what better platforms enable this resilience than those that are cloud-based?

Looking ahead

Although organisations are beginning to adjust to the impacts of Covid-19, the effects will be long-lasting, with some business models changed irreversibly. The technology underpinning this long term response and recovery must therefore be secure, robust and scalable – and those that focus on becoming cloud-ready will be best-placed to meet this requirement.

If one thing has emerged from recent events, it’s that technology plays a more crucial role in our livelihood and wellbeing than many thought. Here’s to seeing technical innovation prove its worth even further, and IT teams continue their vital work ‘keeping the lights on’ for organisations around the world.

Read more: How cloud companies reacted to the first wave of Covid-19 and services offered: AWS, Alibaba, and more

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

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