How Google Meet bulked up capacity to meet demand during coronavirus

The Zoom rival reached 100 million daily meeting participants during the pandemic

Google has revealed how it scaled its Google Meet teleconferencing service to meet the demand for online meetings during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Zoom rival reached 100 million daily meeting participants during the pandemic.

“As COVID-19 turned our world into a more physically distant one, many people began looking to online video conferencing to maintain social, educational and workplace contact,” Samantha Schaevitz, staff site reliability engineer at Google explained, in a blog post. “The virus's growing impact on how people were working, learning and socializing with friends and family translated to a lot more people looking to services like Google Meet to keep in touch.”

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The coronavirus first emerged last December in the Chinese city of Wuhan. China implemented a travel ban on Wuhan residents on Jan. 23. However, the impact of the pandemic was already being felt throughout the region.

On Feb. 17, Google’s Meet Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) team was being notified about regional capacity issues on the service. “Because Google's user-facing services are built with redundancy, these alerts didn’t indicate ongoing user-visible issues,” Schaevitz explained, in the blog post. “But it soon became clear that usage of the product in Asia was trending sharply upward.”

FILE - In a Sept. 24, 2019 file photo, sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

“The SRE team began working with the capacity planning team to find additional resources to handle this increase, but it became obvious that we needed to start planning further ahead, for the eventuality that the epidemic would spread beyond the region,” Schaevitz added.

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Italy began its COVID-19 lockdown shortly after, as it attempted to combat the novel coronavirus. Usage of Google Meet in Italy also picked up.

As the Mountain View, Calif.-based firm prepared Google Meet for the demands of the pandemic, many aspects of the situation were still unknown.

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“Most of the social effects of COVID-19 were unknown or very difficult to predict,” Schaevitz added. “Our mission was abstract: we needed to prevent any outages for what had become a critical product for large amounts of new users, while scaling the system without knowledge of where the growth would come from and when it would level off.”

Like many companies around the world, Google was also transitioning to employees working from home. “Without the ability to sit in the same room as everyone else, it became important to manage communication channels proactively to ensure we all had access to the information needed to achieve our goals,” Schaevitz explained.

Incident commanders, communications leads and operations leads were set up in both North America and Europe. Schaevitz was an incident commander.

Workstreams were set up around capacity, dependencies, bottlenecks and ‘control knobs’ to handle any outages and production changes.

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Google’s 21 data centers around the world were used to double the available capacity of Google Meet. However, it quickly became clear that resources would be needed as the tech giant began working toward a 50x growth forecast.

In addition to scaling up its server capacity, Google also sought to make the process of supporting Google Meet more efficient. Schaevitz described this as “the most requests handled at the cheapest resource cost, without sacrificing user experience or reliability of the system.”

This enabled the service to handle 100 million daily meeting participants a day, according to Google. In April, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the tech giant was adding 3 million new users a day, which was a 30-fold increase since January.

During the company’s second fiscal quarter, which ended on June 30, Google racked up more than 600 million daily Meet participants in a single week, according to Pichai.

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Other teleconferencing services have also experienced massive growth as a result of the coronavirus lockdowns and work-from-home orders. Zoom, for example, reached 300 million daily participants by the end of April.

Fox Business’ Audrey Conklin and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers