By Dave Litman
Meetings are being canceled. Conferences wiped out. Travel restrictions are in place. Even major sports leagues are suspending schedules. Coronavirus — COVID-19 — is taking its toll on businesses of all kinds, in every walk of life, the world over. “Remote work” is the new buzzword. Any business that can be conducted remotely — from home, keeping one’s distance from others — is the new normal. What will this mean for data-driven companies, and those that handle, store and process that data?
The COVID-19 global pandemic effects on technology and the economy at large have already been massive:
- Due to the panic in the markets worldwide, the Federal Reserve has injected more than $1.5 Trillion into the financial system to help ease the economic fallout on Wall Street.
- JP Morgan Chase tells thousands of traders and analysts to stay home.
- Wells Fargo restricts all non-essential air travel in the U.S.
- Amazon offers a flexible attendance policy for warehouse workers.
- Google & Facebook have canceled major conferences.
- Indeed, one of the largest job boards in the country has told employees to work from home until further notice.
But what does all this mean for the future of work? And the future of technology? Will the way in which we conduct business be forever changed?
The answer seems to be, unequivocally, yes.
Remote work is now the order of the day. No more rush-hour commutes on crowded public transit… No more jam-packed meetings in a small boardroom. No sharing a laugh (or cough) by the water cooler. Telework, video conferencing, collaboration software tools (Slack, Box, SharePoint, etc.) have moved squarely to the forefront.
“Remote work is no longer a matter of convenience or economic efficiency. It’s literally a matter of life and death,” says Alex Konanykhin, CEO of remote-work training software firm TransparentBusiness.
“People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way,” says Twitter’s Head of HR, Jennifer Christie. “Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back.”
Many of these developments will make the demand for high-density computing and data processing and storage even more crucial than we could ever have imagined. This will take a number of different forms:
1. Video & Conference Calls
Video uses a large amount of bandwidth. The amount of video traffic traveling over the internet is about to skyrocket to new, unheard of extremes. Web conferencing, Zoom calls, screenshares, Skype calls and Facetime. All of that video conferencing puts even more pressure on internet providers. Video calls and conferences can use anywhere from a low-resolution 128 kbps (kilobits per second) up to 1 Mbps (megabit per second) or more for HD.
2. Movie Streaming
And if you thought your low-quality screenshare or conference call used a lot of bandwidth, think about HD or even 4K video streaming. Yes, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ are all about to get a big boost in views, as more people start to isolate themselves in their homes. With sports leagues on hiatus and movie theater gatherings pretty much out of the question, high-def home streaming becomes the safe entertainment choice. At 5 Mbps for HD, and 25 Mbps for 4K, an incredible strain will be put on cloud computing infrastructure.
3. Higher Education Goes Online
More than 100 universities and colleges in the U.S. (and counting) have shut their doors, and moved their classes online. At Duke University, the University of Michigan, Boston U., and many other prominent institutions, remote instruction is now in effect. Once again, more data, more bandwidth, more stress on the system.
4. Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology
In and of itself, Amazon has made remote shopping ubiquitous in today’s society. But for some things – produce, refrigerated or frozen items, for example – you just have to be there.
But what if you could just walk into a store, choose your items, and ‘just walk out’, without any need for scanning bar codes or standing in crowded check-out lines? We’re all signing up for that. Amazon is introducing its ‘cashierless’ tech to retail stores. One need just flash their credit card past a turnstile upon entry, then choose their items in a virtual cart, and, ‘just walk out’. All items will be billed to the credit card used at entry. Think of all that data generated by simply going to buy groceries. “Social distancing” taken to yet another level, courtesy of Amazon.
Remote work, remote leisure, remote shopping… All of this adds up to data, data, and more data. The more a business can incorporate these kinds of remote and digital technologies, the more prepared they are, not only for this pandemic, but for the future.
“The value of digital channels, products, and operations is immediately obvious to companies everywhere right now,” says Sandy Shen, a Senior Director Analyst at business advisory firm Gartner. “Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”
The demands for high-density computing were already being tested due to the ever-burgeoning Artificial Intelligence sector, along with IoT, Edge and 5G technologies. All of this led to another record level of net absorption in the data center market in 2019. Now, the explosion of remote work demands will push the need for appropriate infrastructure to new levels.