UPDATED 20:15 EDT / MAY 13 2020

corey-quinn-aws-summit-online-2020 CLOUD

Cloud elasticity is key to meeting customer demands during pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on businesses, but while some enterprises see demand for their products and services drop dramatically, others observe a sharp rise.

This environment requires a much more elastic cloud infrastructure to keep up with these fluctuations, according to Corey Quinn (pictured), cloud economist at information technology consultancy firm The Duckbill Group.

“The more interesting expression of this is when companies see demand falling off a cliff as users are no longer using what they built out, but their infrastructure spending doesn’t change,” Quinn said. “That tells me that it is not a particularly elastic infrastructure.”

Quinn spoke with Stu Miniman, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio, during the AWS Summit Online event. They discussed how the cloud should adapt to evolving customer demand, the way enterprises are responding to the new economic landscape and the need for companies to rethink their data strategy. (* Disclosure below.)

Considering the possibility of scaling down

The elasticity problem starts when applications are built. People always interpret elasticity as scaling up, rather than scaling down, according to Quinn. “Because the failure mode of not scaling up fast enough is you’re dropping customer requests on the floor, the failure mode of not scaling down fast enough just means you’re spending extra money,” he pointed out.

One example of a company that needs extensive cloud elasticity during the pandemic is Zoom Video Communications Inc., which has seen a significant increase in demand for its videoconferencing infrastructure as people need to work from home. Although it already has a relationship with AWS and Microsoft Corp.’s Azure, it also made an agreement with Oracle Corp.’s cloud.

“What they are doing is building, desperately trying to stay up under crushing unprecedented demand,” Quinn explained. “That is where the value is coming from right now with cloud’s elasticity. The fact that they’re working with every cloud provider shouldn’t come as a surprise.”

Delaying investments in new capabilities

In addition to dealing with fluctuations in demand, companies are now trying to adapt to a new way of operating, with the creation of online workforces and adjustment to the rapidly changing economic climate. Therefore, most enterprises are not making significant investments in new capabilities, according to Quinn.

“I do feel a bit of pity right now for a lot of product teams who’ve been working away on these things for months or years and now suddenly they’re releasing something into a time when people don’t care about it enough to invest the effort that it deserves,” he stated.

The crisis has also made it difficult to plan for the future. It becomes much more challenging to be able to adequately and intelligently address the long term when you don’t know what the week will look like week by week, Quinn added.

“If you’re looking at exploring something that isn’t going to pay dividends for 18 months, right now the biggest question everyone has is what is the long-term repercussion of this going to be? What is the world going to look like in three years?” he asked. “That’s where most of these planning horizons are stretching to.”

Companies should review data strategy

The need to review strategies and choose priorities in times of crisis should also be extended to data storage. Companies must rethink the amount of data they need before storing it, according to Quinn.

“I’ve been on cost optimization projects, where there’s an awful lot of data sitting there in that S3 bucket. Do you need it all? And I’m assured that yes, all of the sale transaction logs from 2012 are absolutely going to be a treasure trove of data just as soon as they figure out what to do with it,” he said. “And they are spending large piles of money on this.”

In addition to spending money, companies are at risk of having regulatory problems while maintaining large amounts of data as regulation continues to expand, Quinn pointed out.

“Data can become a toxic asset in any respect, but there’s this belief of never throwing anything away. That’s not really ideal,” he said. “Part of the value of a sane data-management strategy is making sure that you can remove all of the stuff that you don’t absolutely need.”

Here’s the complete video interview, part of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the AWS Summit Online event. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for the AWS Summit Online event. Neither Amazon Web Services, the sponsor for theCUBE’s event coverage, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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