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Microsoft: Here’s how we’re trying to manage increased cloud demand

Microsoft officials say they've been taking some behind-the-scenes steps to try to head off current and future cloud capacity issues.

Microsoft officials have said repeatedly that the company is working to increase cloud capacity to try to keep up with the demand for Azure and other Microsoft cloud services. They’ve prioritized the needs of first responders, healthcare workers, and others on the front line, as they’ve noted previously. And they’ve throttled some less-essential services to try to keep things humming. On April 23, officials shared a bit about some of the additional steps it is taking to try to meet demand. 

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In a new blog post about “Business continuity with Azure,” the unnamed authors noted they’ve been making several improvements beyond just continuing to expand the company’s worldwide datacenter footprint.

Microsoft officials have been designing and open sourcing their own datacenter infrastructure components for years. Microsoft’s rule of thumb, according to the blog post: 

“In general, in any particular Azure region we ensure a near-instant capacity buffer within the datacenters, and hold additional infrastructure buffer warehoused, ready to ship to regions with high demand.” 

Today’s blog post notes that Microsoft put in place “temporary resource limits on new Azure subscriptions,” as one way to manage capacity demand. The post also says existing customers didn’t experience these restrictions because each Azure customer account “has a defined quota of services they can access.”

Existing Microsoft customers hitting Azure capacity limits in certain regions didn’t just start when more people began working from home during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Last fall, a number of East US2 Azure customers were reporting they couldn’t even spin up virtual machines because of Azure capacity issues. In March this year, many European customers also reported encountering a variety of Azure-related capacity issues. Some existing Azure customers reported hitting SQL Server on Azure capacity limits, too.  

Microsoft has taken additional steps to try to continue to meet cloud services — and specifically, Teams — demand, the blog post says. Among those steps:

  • Optimizing and load-balancing the Teams architecture in a way that the company can manage Teams’ growth “without creating pressure” on Azure customers’ capacity needs
  • Adding more server capacity to specific regions facing constraints
  • Approving the backlog of customer quota requests, which Microsoft says it is “on track to complete over the next few weeks in almost all regions”
  • Removing restrictions for new free and benefit subscriptions in several regions
  • Refining its Azure demand models for future forecasting

Since last fall, and maybe before, Microsoft officials have stressed the company is always adding capacity. It’s nice to get a little bit more color on what that means, especially just ahead of next week’s FY20 Q3 earnings announcement.


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