Greg Ness (@Archimedius) talks about Delta’s systems failures as a consequence of digitalization


The systems meltdown at Delta Airlines that shut down their jet fleet this week came with heavy costs to Delta. While it started with a power outage, the amount of time it took to bring systems back up was likely caused by the difficulty of re-starting so many different, interdependent systems and data. Greg Ness (@Archimedius) joined us on this ridecast to talk about how the pressures and expectations of digitalization expose the inadequacies of large-scale legacy infrastructures.


MF: Hi, this is a technology ridecast and I’m Marc Farley. Our special guest today is Greg Ness, otherwise known as Archimedius on twitter. How are you doing Greg?

GN: Hey great, it’s great to be here.

MF: Tell us a little bit about CloudVelox, the company that you work for.

GN: We have cloud automation orchestration software that helps enterprise take existing systems and workloads into the cloud and between clouds with a lot of confidence and automation.

MF: This week we saw sort of the meltdown at Delta Airlines. A lot of people were stranded. It’s been a big problem for Delta. What do you think is going on there?

GN: Ah, well what we know publicly is they’ve had some internal equipment failures, somewhat related to power it seems, but it’s not Georgia Power but it is Delta. It really speaks to the rise of digitalization and the always-on economy really reaching into commercial systems. To put it simply, you can say digitalization is to commerce what the internet was to the telephone. There’s a tremendous increase in interaction between applications and infrastructure at levels of scale that they really weren’t created and architected for. I think we’re seeing a harbinger of things to come as these distinct systems that weren’t necessarily designed to interact start facing an unpredictable demand. This is going to happen increasingly frequently until the enterprises come up with a way to develop or move their apps into more elastic, secure infrastructures. There is a lot of money at stake when it takes a day or two to reignite your systems. The risk of, you know, having an outage that’s system-wide now with digitalization is just a lot higher than it was before consumers and partners and employees expected this level of interaction and convenience that we’re seeing today.

MF: Do you think that there may be, industry knowledge from other other markets, other industries that are starting to make this journey already?

GN: As you look at these internet companies like eBay and PayPal and some of these others, most of them built their infrastructures in the cloud or designed their apps for cloud infrastructure and they’re a lot more accustomed to handling these types of demands, but the airline industry obviously has been more preoccupied with keeping jets very reliable – more so than, you know, than keeping their infrastructure protected.

MF: People move to the cloud or they use the cloud because computing is not their core business.

GN: Because of digitalization software is increasingly becoming every business’ core business. Where really it’s an app. You’re getting updates in real-time of your trip and where you are and what’s going on. People think of Uberification as something about convenience, it’s really about new business operating models and very fluid relationships between, you know, business customers and partners. But that relationship is defining the brand, and in this case with Delta, that relationship is hurting the brand.

MF: You’re not going to have, you know, people driving airplanes up to gates at airports but just the notion that the update for when your flight may be leaving could be more of an Uber experience than it is checking the reservation system experience….

GN: Exactly. Yes and think about this –  if you’re waiting for the crew to arrive, instead of having it broadcast, you know, announcement at the gate like phone-style, right, from our old phone days -to more internet-savvy, internet style where you’re getting it on your, you know, on your cell phone. But right, now let’s just keep what we’ve got up and running for five nines plus, you know.

MF: Yeah well Delta doesn’t have five nines that’s for sure anymore.

GN: I think they lost a nine.

MF: Greg, this was great. Thanks for coming on.

GN: Hey glad to Marc, great talking to you, happy to chat again.


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