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Coronavirus: APAC organisations find scalability with cloud

Australia’s NSW Health and Indonesia’s HaloDoc are among a growing crop of Asia-Pacific organisations that are relying on cloud scalability to extend digital services to more users and customers

The scalability of public cloud services has come to the fore in Asia-Pacific amid the Covid-19 pandemic as more organisations operate with a remote workforce while facing a surge in demand for digital services.

Take Juniper, a provider of aged care services and retirement villages in Western Australia. Within weeks of the outbreak, the charity has had to provide videoconferencing services and hardware equipment for employees working remotely.

Dan Beeston, ICT manager at Juniper, said the initial focus was to enable staff in functions such as accounts payable and accounts receivable to work from home. Although the company was due for a hardware refresh, it was its investments in cloud services from Amazon Web Services (AWS) that stood out.

Specifically, Beeston said AWS cloud services had allowed Juniper to “scale with more agility and, more importantly, rapid deployment of services across our business”.

The situation was similar at NSW Health, the largest healthcare system in Australia with 150,000 staff and two million people under its care. Its CIO, Zoran Bolevich, said its response to the pandemic included moving 70-80 healthcare workers to a separate facility that had to be connected to its IT infrastructure.

Also, patients who were no longer able to access services face-to-face started using NSW Health’s state-wide videoconferencing platforms, which have seen an 18-fold increase in usage during the pandemic, said Bolevich.

“We have focused on ensuring that our networking is optimised and that we have ample storage capacity to deal with this surge in activity,” he added. “I am pleased to say that, by and large, all the investments and hard work that we’ve put into digitalising NSW Health in the previous five to six years have really paid off.”

Bolevich said NSW Health tapped AWS for cloud bursting to handle the increase in network traffic, as well as to scale up and create new call centres with Amazon Connect, an omnichannel cloud contact centre service.

NSW Health and Juniper are just two of a growing crop of organisations in Asia-Pacific that see cloud computing as an essential part of their core technology foundation, one that scales on its own based on workload demands.

Read more about cloud computing in APAC

Werner Vogels, chief technology officer at Amazon, said during AWS Summit Online across the region today: “When building scalable systems, you don’t have to spin up a bunch of EC2 instances; you use features like auto-scaling that let you scale up and down your workloads automatically, based on demand.

“More importantly, this also helps you optimise spend, since you’re always only running what you need, while still being able to handle spiky behaviour.”

Auto-scaling has been a core feature in AWS for a while now. Vogels said the cloud supplier continues to enhance the feature, such as using machine learning to deliver predictive scaling based on past behaviours.

He added: “It looks at your application’s traffic history and makes predictions on future traffic based on billions of data points. We then use a regression model to determine exactly how many instances your application needs at any given time.”

This has been useful to Indonesia’s HaloDoc, a healthcare platform that has been able to scale up its services quickly and speed up its time to market, according to Alfonsius Timboel, its chief product officer and chief business officer.

“Over the past three years, we’ve been growing quite rapidly, from serving hundreds of users to millions of users, so scalability is important for our business,” he said. “Moving towards cloud computing and having a partner like AWS allows us to focus on what matters to our customers, rather than focus on maintaining infrastructure.”

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