Blog: How cloud companies are reacting to Covid-19 and services offered: AWS, Alibaba, and more

LIVE As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, with citizens across many countries urged to work from home where possible, it has posed a unique challenge for both frontend applications and the backend technologies underpinning them.

A lot of attention has, understandably, focused on the former. Zoom, which appears to be the videoconferencing tool du jour for many businesses, has held up well thus far, although at the time of print (March 23) some downtime issues in the UK have been detected. Similarly, outside of work, Netflix is lowering its video quality to keep up with demand. Yet underneath it all, cloud infrastructure providers are aiming to keep their systems online throughout the pandemic.

Whether it is cloud software or infrastructure, many of the world’s leading companies are making their tools available for certain users – primarily healthcare organisations or researchers working on Covid-19.

CloudTech is putting together a list of offerings from vendors reacting to the Covid-19 crisis, which can be found below. If your organisation is not on this list and is making products available, let us know at

Hyperscaler highlights

Alibaba Cloud said on March 23 that the Alibaba Foundation and Jack Ma Foundation had recently launched the Global MediXchange for Combating Covid-19. The project, with the support of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence and Alibaba Health, was established to ‘facilitate continued communication and collaboration across borders, as well as to provide the necessary computing capabilities and data intelligence to empower pivotal research efforts’, the company said. You can find out more about the initiative here.

In a previous Canalys report, Alibaba Cloud had been praised for offering credits to organisations enabling them to buy its Elastic Compute Service, as well as cybersecurity services. The company also made its AI-powered platform freely available to research institutions working on treating and preventing coronavirus. You can find out more about these services here.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced on March 20 that it was committing $20 million for customers working on diagnostics solutions. The AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative is open to accredited research institutions and private entities using AWS to support research-oriented workloads for the development of Covid-19 testing and diagnostics.

The initiative is being put together alongside 35 global research institutions, startups, and other businesses, and is being aided by an outside technical advisory group of leading scientists and global health policy experts. You can find out more about the project here.

Google Cloud announced on March 3 that it was rolling out free access to advanced Hangouts Meet videoconferencing capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally, including larger meetings – up to 250 participants per call – as well as live streaming up to 100,000 viewers, and the ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive.

The company has already taken other steps. On March 17, Google postponed its Cloud Next event, having previously made the decision to take its April 6-8 gathering virtual-only.

IBM said on March 22 that it was collaborating with the White House and the US Department of Energy among others to launch the Covid-19 High Performance Computing Consortium. The company said it would pool an ‘unprecedented’ amount of computing power – 16 systems with more than 330 petaflops, 775,000 CPU cores, 34,000 GPUs and more – to ‘help researchers everywhere better understand Covid-19, its treatments and potential cures.’

The next step, IBM added, is to work with consortium partners to ‘evaluate proposals from researchers around the world and provide access to this supercomputing capacity for the projects that can have the most immediate impact.’ According to reports, citing President Trump, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are also part of the consortium.

Microsoft announced on March 19 that National Health Service (NHS) staff in the UK can use collaboration tool Microsoft Teams for free. NHS Digital rolled out Teams across all NHSmail users between March 16 and March 20.

In the US, Microsoft has helped design a ‘coronavirus self-checker’ in a project alongside the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As reported on March 23 the bot, called Clara, aims to help people make decisions about what to do if they have potential Covid-19 symptoms.

It was reported by ZDnet on March 24 that the company is throttling some of its services to maintain Office 365 performance.


March 24: As reported by ZDnet, Microsoft is throttling some of its services, including SharePoint and OneNote, to maintain performance across Office 365.

March 24: SAP announced on March 20 that it was making some of its online learning portal available for 90 days. Access will be to ‘four selected learning journeys for students interested in preparing digitally for a career in the SAP ecosystem’.

March 23: Banyan Security, a San Francisco-based vendor, said it would offer free access to its Zero Trust security offering ‘for a limited time’ in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

March 23: Cisco said it would commit $225 million to coronavirus response to ‘support healthcare and education, government response and critical technology.’ The funds, $8m in cash and $210 in product, will in part go to the United Nations Foundation’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

March 20: Huawei said it had worked with Huazhong University of Science & Technology and Lanwon Technology on an AI project to help ease the burden on imaging doctors who are able to diagnose and quantitatively analyse Covid-19.

March 17: ServiceNow announced it was making certain apps available to any public agency in the world to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The primary app, an emergency response operations app, was built by Washington State on the ServiceNow platform.

March 17: Okta is offering free single sign-on (SSO) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) for secure remote working. “Any organisation that would find value in leveraging the Okta Identity Cloud for remote work during an emergency situation should be able to do so at no cost,” the company wrote.

March 17: Dropbox said it was ‘proud’ to offer free Dropbox Business and HelloSign Enterprise subscriptions for a three-month period to non-profits and NGOs focused on fighting Covid-19. Eligible organisations are encouraged to apply here.

March 16: Box CEO Aaron Levie said via Twitter that anybody working on Covid-19 research or response efforts could email to set up free secure file sharing and storage.

March 16: Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, said people working on Covid-19 research, response or mitigation were entitled to free upgrades to paid plans, setting up consultation for remote collaboration best practices among others.

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