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    With the Easter break now behind us many workers in the UK have returned to our new working reality of a makeshift home office and video meetings where slow broadband and family distractions have replaced commuting and office gossip as the new threats to our productivity. As some lockdown restrictions in Italy and Spain are relaxed and tentative signs of a plateauing of infection figures becomes apparent in the UK, are we now beginning to see a distant light at the end of the tunnel? Will we look back upon the previous fortnight, with accelerating numbers of hospital admissions and the Prime Minister in an ICU, as being the darkest hour of this crisis? Time will tell.

    One thing we do know for sure is that Cloud technology has been critical to the business continuity plans of many organisations during the crisis. The home working revolution, well underway prior to the current crisis, has seen significant advances during recent weeks and will reveal a changed working landscape once the dark clouds of the current crisis disperse.

    Employees who have worked efficiently from home throughout the epidemic will question why they are being asked to return to old working patterns; squeezing aboard packed commuter trains or idling unnecessarily for hours each week in rush hour traffic. CIOs and Executives who have been reluctant to wholeheartedly move their tech estate to the Cloud, often citing Disaster Recovery concerns as a reason to retain on-premise systems, may re-evaluate their priorities and concerns in the post COVID-19 world.

    Such changes to working culture, employee expectations and re-evaluated business risks will position the Cloud Technology sector as one of the best placed sectors to navigate the choppy waters of an impending Global recession.

    Many of the major players within the global Cloud technology market have, through a sincere desire to help, been keen to showcase both their generosity and technology to assist existing customers, potential customers, Governments and third parties alike with free access to their products and services.

    What has been the response so far? We’ve looked at SAP, Oracle, Workday, Microsoft, Amazon and Google Cloud  

    SAP’s response has been wide ranging and comprehensive. “Now is the time for us to just be there for our customers.” – Jennifer Morgan, SAP Co-CEO.

    • Free access for SAP customers to Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse tool. Over 7,500 organisations have taken up this offer so far to utilise Qualtrics’, (acquired last year by SAP) tool to monitor the wellbeing, happiness and effectiveness of remote workers.
    • SAP Ariba Discovery offered for free to businesses currently until June 30th. SAP Ariba Discovery allows organisations, whose normal supply chains or sales channels have been disrupted, to source new customers or suppliers.
    • SAP Concur’s TripIT  and SAP Litmos – SAP’s Business Travel Planner and Online Training Platform, designed specifically to help remote workers maximise their efficiency, are both offered free of charge for 6 months

    As a more specialist vendor amongst the other cloud giants Workday perhaps don’t have the breadth of offering to be able to offer free access to none-core applications as we’ve seen with  Oracle and SAP. Workday’s philosophy appears to be to look after their employees who in turn will look after their customers

    • Provision of enhanced tools to employees to ensure continuity of service to customer base and extending WFH arrangements globally for all staff.
    • An additional two weeks of salary to assist staff with any costs incurred with their new working arrangements
    • Donations to relevant good causes via collaboration with 24 other companies and Employee Match programme which sees the business match charitable donations made by employees

     have been quick to deliver a thoughtful response including additional useful functionality to existing customers as well as partnering with US Government and Research Institutions in the hunt for treatments.

    • Offering Oracle users up to 50 hours of online training and 6 Certifications from Oracle University
    • Oracle HCM Cloud customers offered free access to Workforce Health & Safety module to help businesses and employees adapt to new working conditions
    • Donation of Oracle Theraputic Learning System to the US Government supporting the trials of COVID-19 treatments. Additionally, according to Cloud Wars, Oracle have partnered with a leading US Research University to provide Public Cloud Infrastructure and extensive GPU capability to assist in therapy research activities
    • Existing early stage businesses who are part of the ‘Oracle for Startups’ scheme will receive three months of credits to cover their Oracle Cloud Infrastructure costs

    Microsoft may have raised eyebrows by having their own ‘Fake News’ moment earlier in the crisis but that confusion aside, their contribution is generous and particularly noteworthy in terms of the scale of its uptake

    • Microsoft Teams made free available to businesses, schools, government institutions and individuals until September 30th. The uptake of this offer dwarfs the impression made my Microsoft rivals during the crisis – in a certain week in March, over a million new users, and potential new customers, were signing up daily to take advantage of the offer
    • $1m charitable donation to Seattle based COVID-19 Response Fund
    • CEO Satya Nadella lists Microsoft’s further efforts to the global COVID-19 response by detailing, in a Linkedin Post, a range of their contributions across multiple sectors

    Amazon’s response spans the breadth of their businesses and is extensive. Their commitment to ensuring the continuity of their online shopping and delivery services under increased consumer pressure is amongst the most essential contribution of any business in the coming weeks. In the UK Amazon has additionally committed it’s logistics network in a collaboration with Thermo Fisher Scientific, Boots, Royal Mail, Randox, the Wellcome Trust and top UK universities to enable the UK Government to ramp up COVID-19 testing capability.

    • Most interestingly from a cloud perspective the Launch of AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative, and an initial $20m donation, is a targeted and thoughtful response from Amazon and AWS as they look to make a tangible contribution to the speed at which COVID-19 diagnostic solutions can be developed. Described by Amazon as a, “a global program to support customers in the US, Europe, and the rest of the world, who are working to bring better, more accurate, diagnostics solutions to market faster, and promote better collaboration across organisations that are working on similar problems.”
    • Amazon Future Engineer is a virtual coding programme designed to engage school age children between 12-17, but also open to parents and teachers, who can now gain access to 20 hours of free online content and obtain a certificate upon completion

    Google and Google Cloud’s response has been substantial and far reaching. Their responses to the COVID-19 crisis across public, private and Government sectors are too broad to summarise easily but Google Cloud’s summary of their contribution is listed here. Headlines include:

    • Donation of $20m of Cloud Credits to researchers involved with COVID-19 projects and $25m in Advert credits for Governments and the WHO for Coronavirus messaging
    • Google Cloud is freely sharing a range of massive COVID-19 datasets to research bodies and institutions.
    • In the UK, the Government’s data on the observance and effectiveness of lockdown at national and local level is based on location data provided from Google extracted from people’s mobile phones
    • Google Hangouts Meet, Google’s videoconferencing solution, has been rolled out free of charge to existing G-Suite customers. This has seen a 25x spike in demand for these services.
    • Renewed focus on the removal of fake news and misinformation amongst search results and on Youtube, “we are working to quickly remove any content that claims to prevent the coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment”

    “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. This quote is attributed Rahm Emmanuel, former Mayor of Chicago and former Senior Advisor to the Clinton and Obama Administrations. The assistance offered by organisations during the current crisis is no doubt designed to make a genuine difference in the fight against COVID-19 and many leading businesses have showed real leadership and generosity. However, you’d be surprised if the scale of the opportunity currently presented to certain technology vendors during the crisis was lost upon the Boards of the Cloud giants. In one week in March alone Microsoft saw 12 million new ‘customers’ sign up to take advantage of it’s free of charge Teams offering – these are significant numbers even by Microsoft standards.

    In the coming months when we hope to see the passing of the COVID-19 pandemic we may also see a new working landscape with a smarter, healthier and happier workforce fully utilising the technology currently being showcased amidst the crisis. We may also see some winners and losers amongst the cloud giants whose responsiveness and generosity has, to different degrees, helped many organisations make it through to the other side.

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    SAP, Oracle, Workday, Microsoft, AWS, Google: Cloud Giants display leadership and generosity during COVID-19 crisis

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