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Protocol Cloud: Cloud computing is already figuring it out
Welcome to Protocol Cloud, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software.
This week: how cloud and software-as-a-service companies are improving their performance, a new initiative for defending against attacks on AI systems, and heated chip competition.
Number of the Week
That's how much it now costs to use the private version of GitHub, the world's most popular coding repository and software collaboration tool, after the Microsoft-owned company yesterday made those services available to teams of any size for free.
The Big Story
The good news is, there's some good news
It has been a little over a month since the COVID-19 pandemic updended business as usual, and while many are still scrambling mightily to manage the new reality, cloud providers seem to be starting to hit their stride.
- Outage incidents fell 40% last week compared to the prior week at internet services providers, cloud computing vendors, and independent software vendors around the world, according to the internet monitoring specialists at Thousand Eyes.
- The drop follows three weeks of higher-than-normal incident levels during the initial implementation of stay-at-home orders in major population centers around the U.S. and Europe.
- And the good news comes as overall internet traffic remains 25% to 30% higher than usual, according to The New Stack.
What's most encouraging is how smaller companies have stepped up. Major cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft, and Google design for massive scale, and can add computing capacity quickly. But even companies with a heavier lift are rapidly adapting to the tremendous surge in demand for their products and services.
- The number of outage incidents among workplace collaboration service providers fell 68% last week, after soaring in March, according to Thousand Eyes.
- After a few stumbles, companies like Zoom and Slack seem to be meeting the unprecedented increase in demand, and while they rely on the big cloud providers for their basic infrastructure needs, they're the ones building the software that can handle the load.
We're not out of the woods yet.
- Microsoft is still rationing capacity for Azure.
- That's a step other cloud providers have yet to take, but as one longtime cloud investor said last week: "I bet they all have their fires, you just haven't found the others yet. They're all stretched in a whole bunch of new ways, with a bunch of new constraints."
- IT departments will have to make hard decisions about updating crucial software while stay-at-home orders remain in place, balancing the need to make improvements with the risk of introducing catastrophic problems.
The tech situation inside most state governments is another matter entirely, as we've noted. The mainframe issues that stymied the unemployment claim process are now hampering the rollout of the Paycheck Protection Program, as those who submitted claims now wait for their money.
Still, it is somewhat amazing that over a month in which the world changed forever, businesses have been able to function at a relatively high level thanks to investments in modern enterprise technology. An economic storm is coming, but it looks like we might be figuring out how to batten down the hatches.
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This Week In Protocol
Straight cash: There's a whole generation of SaaS startups born in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that have never dealt with a cash crunch. Ed Byrne of venture capital firm Scaleworks offered some cash-management tips for those companies based on lessons learned the hard way.
On GARD: If and when artificial-intelligence systems are widely deployed, people are going to try to mess with them. DARPA, which got us into this whole internet mess in the first place, is partnering with 17 organizations to establish the Guaranteeing Artificial Intelligence (AI) Robustness against Deception (GARD) program, in order to "create defenses for sensor-based artificial intelligence — think facial recognition programs, voice recognition tools, self-driving cars, weapon-detection software and more," Protocol's Hayden Field reports.
Around the Cloud
- The amazing saga of the Pentagon's JEDI cloud contract got a long hard look from Roger Parloff of Yahoo Finance, and while he doesn't break a ton of new ground, it's one of the best and most comprehensive stories I've seen detailing how cloud computing collided with Trumpism.
- Speaking of the JEDI debacle, Federal News Network argued that the Department of Defense should rip up the contract and mimic the CIA's multicloud strategy.
- It's hard to imagine any sector of the economy won't be affected by COVID-19, but Gartner suggested that semiconductor companies might fare better than others, thanks to long buying cycles and the demand for servers.
- SAP preannounced its first-quarter earnings and lowered its guidance, uncertain how corporate demand for its database and business-processing software would fare in the second half of the year.
- Still, this whole experience will likely be a boon for cloud computing in the long run, as current customers get more comfortable relying on cloud services and potential customers want in.
- Microsoft and Slack are often described as foils for one another (we've done it ourselves), but it took a global pandemic to point out that Microsoft Teams is perhaps better compared to Zoom.
- 26% of chief financial officers anticipate laying off employees this year, and a staggering 86% are looking to cut costs, according to a PwC survey.
- Cisco and HPE have rolled out financing programs with generous payback terms to help cash-strapped customers get the equipment they need.
- Cloudflare decided it was done helping Google teach its self-driving cars to recognize stoplights, announcing that it would dump Google's reCAPTCHA bot-detection service for one that's free and has committed not to use the data it gathers for anything but improving the service.
- As more and more state agencies run into problems with their COBOL-driven mainframes, IBM — the only real mainframe vendor left these days — said it would offer free training services to people who want to help states manage their services.
- On a less generous front, IBM looks headed to court over a lawsuit in which a former sales rep accused Big Blue of unfairly docking commissions.
- Domo laid off 10% of its employees, saying the decision was "100% driven by the pandemic," despite a precipitous fall in the cloud business-intelligence company's stock over the past year.
- Tanzu, the face of VMware's new Kubernetes-oriented product strategy, was updated with some new features designed to reduce the complexity of operating hybrid clouds.
- There's real competition in the server-chip market these days, as AMD chases down Intel's 90-point market-share lead with faster Epyc chips released this week.
Thanks for reading — we'll see you next week.