How the Cloud Can Keep Airlines in the Sky

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I don’t mean to pick on the airline industry, but…

According to Bloomberg News, Delta Airlines cancelled over 1,800 flights earlier this summer, and the company expects to report a 10% dent in its third quarter earnings. Since Delta’s Adjusted Net Income for the June 2016 quarter was reported as $1.1 Billion, it’s safe to assume that this was a $100 million disaster (and counting).

This incident comes on the heels of a similar data center disaster for Southwest Airlines. On July 20, a systems failure led to the cancellation of over 2,300 flights. The culprit? A failed router for starters, a failure to “failover,” and certainly a failure of company leadership to assess the very real risks that a disaster would pose to their systems, their business and their brand.

What could they have done differently? That’s hard to say: I don’t know how frequently these companies conduct disaster simulations and I don’t have a real appreciation for the complexities of their systems. I don’t know how much redundancy they have in their network infrastructure and I don’t know what it’s like to have my customers literally hanging in the air.

However, I did notice that one of their competitors is leveraging Cloud Computing and Virtualization to not only drive tremendous efficiencies but also to vastly improve reliability. The competitor is United Airlines.

Changing the Game with Cloud Computing, Virtualization and Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery 

Cloud computing and virtualization are game changers with regards to business continuity and disaster recovery. Historically, in order to achieve the kind of 24/7 high availability and reliability of mission-critical applications (such as those run by the airline industry), organizations were required to provision redundant systems: two, three and four of everything. System virtualization (VM-Ware, Hyper-V and others) allowed data center managers to consolidate and reduce costs without sacrificing this concept of redundancy. Virtualization achieves this by enabling supporting system replication from one physical system to another.

Before long, virtualization vendors began to provide sophisticated orchestration of both system and data replication. If an organization wished to ensure that a natural disaster would not disrupt business, sophisticated virtualization tools could continually replicate to a recovery site, which stood by at the ready to begin accepting web traffic and other business in the event of an emergency. This capability came with a cost – the recovery site’s hardware was a capital expense. In the end, the business was still paying for little used hardware and capacity “just in case”.

Cloud computing represents an evolution in Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR). You may have heard of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (Saas), and now let me add Disaster Recovery as a Service. That’s what cloud enabled disaster recovery is: a service which offers:

  1. System Replication through virtualization
  2. Date Replication enabled by redundant, fault tolerant and extremely low cost cloud storage
  3. Orchestration of failover, with some services allowing you to failover on-premises assets either to the cloud or to another secondary data center
  4. System health monitoring of your on-premises assets

While I chose to highlight the recent disasters that affected the airline industry on a larger scale, these are still very real issues for small to mid-sized businesses. Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) should be a top priority for your business. Your customers and employees rely on a continuity of service, and in the event your system goes down, you need to be prepared. Thanks to the cloud, working on a BCDR plan has become scalable for businesses of all sizes and allows your business to keep operations running all the time. Talk to BlumShapiro about our Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service offerings, enabled by Microsoft Azure Site Recovery.

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