Data localization in the time of COVID-19


Posted by Rohan Samarajiva on May 11, 2020  /  0 Comments

It’s not for the user to worry about how services are provided; it’s for the supplier. The user complains only when service quality declines or prices go up. But for those more engaged with the industry, it is important to think about what has to be done behind the scenes for the show to run smoothly.

As with all infrastructures, the real challenge is the peak. Especially when demand peaks unexpectedly. So here’s what happens when Zoom experiences spikes in demand because people are stuck at home:

Perhaps no company has had to handle a greater strain on its infrastructure than video conferencing software Zoom, whose user base ballooned from 10 million people at the end of December to more than 200 million at the end of March. The platform is also built in such a way that if there’s a capacity bottleneck at the data center nearest a user, the traffic will be routed to other nearby centers that are less busy. Imagine data as a car moving through rush-hour traffic: If there’s an alternative, quicker route, the data will take it. Zoom has servers running inside 17 different data centers around the globe. When demand is unprecedented, Zoom can call on tens of thousands of servers provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) within hours.

Now the question policy makers and regulators have to ask is whether they are putting any barriers up that would hinder this kind of dynamic capacity supplementation. Data localization is one such barrier. If governments want data localization, they’ll have to accept, (a) quality deterioration when demand peaks unexpectedly; and (b) higher prices, because the service providers will have to pay for domestic reserve capacity in each country. And that means that consumers will have to get used to quality deterioration and higher prices as well.

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