Growing Azure’s capacity to help customers, Microsoft during the COVID-19 pandemic

When Washington state started seeing the first wave of patients fall ill to COVID-19, public health officials and hospitals didn’t have a centralized way to share all the information they needed.

While an existing system could track available hospital beds, state officials couldn’t necessarily tell whether a particular facility had enough ventilators, staffing or equipment like masks or gloves to protect doctors or nurses. Hospitals focused on identifying and treating infected patients in the early days of the outbreak struggled to track resources, using a mix of everything from databases and spreadsheets to emails and Post-It notes.

In late March, the Washington State Department of Health approached Microsoft about expanding a cloud-based Hospital Emergency Response Solution powered by Azure. Developed at the request of healthcare providers seeing the first surge of patients, it allowed those hospitals to better track COVID-19 cases, which clinicians were available to treat those patients and critical equipment and supplies that were becoming hard to find around the globe.

“We all do surge planning and we cache equipment but this exceeded everyone’s planning as we saw everyone wanting the same things on a global scale,” said Erika Henry, emergency operations manager for the Washington Department of Health.

At the same time, Microsoft also began experiencing phenomenal demand for its cloud services as much of the world began sheltering at home due to COVID-19: Entire school districts moved to online learning models, Teams meetings moved from a convenience to an essential way of doing business, kids embraced video games as an outlet for interacting with friends and millions of employees across the globe moved to remote work practically overnight.

At the end of March, for instance, Microsoft Teams set a new daily record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes in one day, up from 900 million minutes just two weeks earlier. In April, that number climbed to 4.1 billion meeting minutes in a single day. Suddenly, Microsoft 365’s teamwork hub that allows people to meet, chat, call and collaborate online was seeing unprecedented usage.

Meanwhile, employees worked across the company to ensure Azure services could continue to scale and to help customers and organizations on the front lines of the pandemic response address their most urgent needs.

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Published by Jennifer Langston

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