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Feature - 16 May 2020 (ComputerWeekly)

About 75% of all companies have seen their supply chains disrupted by the Covid-19 coronavirus, according to the US-based Institute of Supply Management (ISM), with many already bracing to take a hit or adjusting revenue targets downwards.

But datacentre operators have mostly not been among them. This is despite lead times for certain kit reportedly lengthening from weeks to months, in some cases. Meanwhile, initially bullish sales forecasts for Chinese-made hardware, such as servers or switches, may be revised down for some time, for a range of reasons not all to do with Covid-19.

Growth in the SD-WAN software market, targeting managed services provision, is still predicted. Datacentre traffic has been surging because of increased remote working on distributed communications across porous platforms – with all the security concerns for customer businesses that this entails.

But there could be further issues down the track. Omdia has forecast delays to emerging tech infrastructure deployments such as 5G, and around logistics, transportation, packaging and testing of kit – affecting construction projects, for example.

With somewhat mixed signals, it is tough to predict how far operators should be scrambling to reshape themselves for a “new normal” post-Covid-19. However, Devan Adams, principal cloud and datacentre switching analyst at Omdia, has confirmed that purchasing behaviour changes are “inevitable”, with “increased demand for internet bandwidth unable to compensate” for the pandemic’s negative impact.

Supply issues could continue

Jennifer Cooke, research director for cloud to edge datacentre trends and strategies at IDC, tells Computer Weekly that supply could yet be delayed in the next few months, although it seems that larger, multi-tenant datacentres, which may find sourcing easier, can still get what they need.

“What datacentres are seeing, however, is a spike in demand for remote monitoring tech,” says Cooke. “Colocation providers that invested in these platforms are seeing customers log in and stay logged in for a lot longer, relying on remote monitoring tools when being there in person is difficult or impossible.”

IDC analysis so far notes that while most supply chain organisations have already activated business continuity plans, these have mostly been designed for short-term, localised disruption. This suggests that business continuity planning could have to ramp up, targeting better visibility of supply chain capabilities at both ends, as well as the overall risk backdrop – making short-term adjustments where possible, and acquiring more external data through third parties...


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