Balancing capacity – demands of cloud computing and airlines

If there’s a sector that understands seasonal swings, or balancing peaks and valleys of demand against its capacity, it’s likely the travel industry.  Either through booking of holiday travel or checking departures at the onset of a storm, airlines constantly manage spikes of compute demand. One might see them as the perfect scenario for cloud! 

Beyond our frequent flier points and mobile apps, I don’t believe any of us pay attention to how much goes into the journey that seamlessly incorporates the flight schedules, bookings, gates, fees, and bag transfers of multiple carriers.   

In the case of one airline alliance, oneworld, there are 11 carriers spanning 850 airports in nearly 150 countries, 10,000 daily departures and a fleet of 2,500 aircraft.  Imagine the complexity and diversity of data being gathered from each airline on seat availability, gate assignments from arrival/departure airport, and identifiers for 1m passengers across each leg and across each carrier.  Collecting this data might be the ultimate challenge in application integration.   Sharing this data, across carriers, may be the ultimate test for cloud integration. 

Dell Boomi announced today work with oneworld, launching an IT hub (aka cloud) whereby all carriers can connect without having to exchange directly with each individual alliance partner.  Each member forges single connection to the IT Hub in the cloud for data exchange with all the other airlines.  Carriers see the value but getting into the alliance quickly without months or years of integration costs and the ability to easily make enhancements to their frequent flyer programs that register across member programs.  Passengers, of course, see the value quickly with a better travel experience.   

If airlines, who often compete with one another, can share a common cloud, maybe there is hope for other industries? With all their compute capacity, could we see an airline leverage their capacity as a cloud provider?

About the Author: Matthew Mikell