As the coronavirus places increasing pressure on the internet’s infrastructure, companies that have become essential to people’s daily lives are racing to ensure that the lights stay on.
This involves adapting to changing usage patterns and increased traffic demands. Behind the scenes, it also means keeping services online even as the teams charged with doing so are facing the same mandates to work from home.
In a webinar this week hosted by Kentik, a network analytics company, top managers from Dropbox, Equinix, Netflix and Zoom discussed the challenges they are facing amid a rapidly evolving crisis.
“This is all super fresh for everyone,” said Dave Temkin, vice president of networks at Netflix. “Everyone’s just trying to figure out what the new normal is.”
With the coronavirus still on the rise in most nations, more people are facing mandatory quarantine orders that have closed schools and forced those who can to work from home. People are adapting by implementing distance learning, turning to professional and personal video conference services and apps, and relying on video streaming services for entertainment.
“I had a call with a regulator yesterday from a European country who literally said to me, in an ideal world, every single one of our citizens would be sitting at home on a couch watching Netflix right now,” said Temkin. “And, you know, obviously, I don’t think that’s something that any government official would have said before the current situation.”
The result is a big shift in usage patterns that is quite different than what many large companies had forecasted. While people tend to think of the internet as a single system, it is really a patchwork of data centers and delivery networks stitched together by a wide range of companies. Far from being virtual, making these physical networks run smoothly means betting on where the traffic demands will originate and to where they will travel in order to strategically place network capacity over time.
Bill Long, senior vice president of management at data center giant Equinix, said the companies have seen spikes in traffic ranging from 10% to 40% depending on the region.
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