Of course, cloud computing is no new trend. However, many airlines still rely on their own data centers. On top of that, lots of airlines have been quite resistant to the cloud-computing idea.
Cloud computing at airlines — my experience
An example: When discussing our products’ implementation, 80% of airlines were asking if an on-premise setup is possible. And by the way, since all of our products are running in the cloud, this is a requirement we always reject.
Nonetheless, the example shows that airlines have been quite conservative when it comes to cloud computing. Of course, many of them are using Office365 or Confluence products, for example. However, when it comes to airline-specific systems, airlines are pretty reluctant to move to the cloud.
The reason mentioned most often is security issues. Even though many cloud solutions are more secure than airline data centers, there’s always the concern of transferring data to an unknown —and uncontrollable— place. And this undoubtedly is an aspect that needs to be addressed and discussed when moving to the cloud.
Nevertheless, the current pandemic situation, with its immense impact on airlines impressively, exposed the flipside of on-premise solutions. And this is going to continue during the following months and years tremendously.
That’s why I am genuinely convinced that airlines have to move the cloud immediately — at least for a considerable portion of their systems.
Here are the five reasons why airlines have to focus on cloud computing
One of the most prominent and essential advantages of cloud-based services lies in flexibility. Depending on the solution, an airline can easily and swiftly reduce services, functions, disk space, etc.
Or in other words: Cloud computing transforms fixed costs into variable costs. And I can tell, one of the sentences I heard so often during the last months is “fixed costs are killing us.”
And, of course, this is a straightforward calculation. Even in a complete operations shutdown, the costs for own data centers, servers, networks, storage, etc., kept counting. Whereas airlines that rely on cloud-based solutions could —quite often— quickly reduce services or entirely stop the usage of specific systems. Thereby, an immediate and enormous cost-cutting was possible.
Moreover, flexibility will continue to be essential during the following months and probably years. A cloud-based solution perfectly adapts to a restarting process that step-by-step needs more services, functions, and storage. And in case a second wave hits the world or partial lockdowns impact the operations, an airline can respond accordingly.
I am profoundly convinced that we are facing a super-dynamic future, with ups and downs. Therefore, the advantages in terms of flexibility cloud computing have just gotten even more important.
Scalability is kind of similar to the first aspect but more hardware-focused. Many airlines massively reduced their operations. Parked aircraft and flight schedules reduced to the minimum are standard.
Currently, no one knows how long it takes to get back to operations comparable to pre-COVID times. Most airlines calculate with 3-5 years. After that, however, there’s uncertainty.
What does that mean for IT? In the first step, fewer operations result in less computing power, less server, less bandwidth, and so on. And all of these factors are then slowly increasing again — dynamic and hard to foresee.
Again the advantage of cloud computing perfectly fits that scenario simply because all the resources you need can adjust to your current situation. Reduced to a minimum during shutdown and slowly added more resources when restarting operations—all super-dynamic and scalable.
Compared to the fixed cost of on-premise solutions, cloud solutions will positively contribute to an airline’s bottom line.
Airlines —unfortunately— face probably the most-challenging time ever. One topic that is number one for many airlines now is cost reduction and cost-cutting.
We all heard the news of expenditure freezes, staff reduction, etc. However, getting rid of (or minimizing) their data center reflects an effective measure too.
Even without the advantages of flexibility and scalability, cloud-based solutions are cheaper. And that is quite obvious. You don’t have to pay for the infrastructure or a dedicated location. There’s no need to invest in things like security and compliance specifically.
On average, companies report a 16% cost reduction in operational costs and 16% in IT maintenance costs.
Therefore, from my perspective, when talking about cost reductions, a cloud transformation should be priority number #1.
For reasons 1-3, I focused on financial and operational aspects. Nevertheless, I do believe in cloud computing and cloud-based solutions. Besides the crucial economic and functional characteristics, the advantages cloud approaches hold are even more diverse.
Undoubtedly, Corona accelerated the change in how we work. Unfortunately, the home office is no longer an exception. On the contrary, decentralized working modes and remote work have become standard quickly.
Many airlines that rely on on-premise solutions struggled heavily with that situation. I heard dozens of stories where colleagues from airlines couldn’t work because they could not access the respective systems from home.
Cloud computing and cloud-based solutions, on the other side, are tailored to mobility and mobile work. So working from home, or actually from wherever you want, isn’t any problem at all.
Therefore, I think relying on cloud-based solutions will massively ease our future way of working. Whereas modifying on-premise solutions and data centers will lead to immense costs.
Even in pre-COVID times, airlines started to treat sustainability seriously. I think Corona is also accelerating this development. We’ve also seen that some governments linked their aid to executing specific environmental and sustainable actions.
Now, I know that data centers only account for a tiny amount of an airline’s energy consumption. Of course, and quite logically, airlines, first and foremost, are focusing on aircraft fuel consumption. However, cloud migration has an impact on a company’s energy consumption. Research even shows that moving to the cloud can result in a 30% energy reduction.