How is the cloud like a successful fighter pilot? Most people would quickly reply, not very much. Static infrastructure-as-a-service doesn't match up very well with a jet pilot twisting and turning in a dogfight in the sky.
David Roberts, senior director of solutions marketing at BMC and an author of the popular Leverhawk blog on the cloud, said that the two do have something in common. He made his comments Monday during a workshop titled "Understanding Private and Hybrid Clouds" at Cloud Connect in Chicago.
He cited the example of the late John Boyd, a skilled U.S. Air Force pilot and instructor at its fighter pilot training school outside Las Vegas, who bet all incoming students that, after letting them get in the perfect position to shoot him down, he would reverse their positions within 40 seconds. If he failed to do so, he would give them $40 and take them out to a steak dinner.
"In the 1950s, $40 was a considerable sum. Every student arrived aware of the standing bet from "40-second Boyd" and planning fervently to collect it. To beat the famous instructor at his own game would award the student with service-wide bragging rights. Boyd's bet became a way of engaging the best efforts from his students. "The prospect was red meat to student fighter pilots," noted Roberts.
[ Want to learn more about how the cloud offers agility to a federal intelligence agency? See NGA Cloud Demo Shows Power Of Virtual Organizations. ]
Excellent young pilots with quick reflexes attempted to match Boyd's maneuvers and avoid ending up in a position from which they could be shot down. None, however, ever escaped his ability to get on their tails and Boyd never had to fulfill his promise to buy a student a steak dinner.
Boyd thought deeply about how he consistently outmaneuvered his students and concluded the lessons of his experience should be codified in a rule, the OODA loop. The OODA Loop applies to flying, sports and business, as well as air combat, he said.
It stands for observe, orient, decide and act. Every pilot in a dogfight must go through the process in order to survive and defeat his opponent. Most important, the pilot who can do so at a tempo that outpaces the other pilot, other things being equal, has a big advantage, Roberts continued.
Boyd was an excellent pilot, but he beat each of his students by doing unpredictable things in his fighter plane that confused and disoriented their normal decision-making process. As he observed their disorientation, he was able, time and again, to come up with the right maneuver that would put him on their tails.
The resources of the cloud enable individuals or small groups within companies to quickly execute their own OODA loops. The self-service provisioning feature of the cloud enables groups to test their business ideas and discard them if they appear not to be working. And they can do so at a much faster pace than predecessor forms of IT. Instead of going through a review process that takes away their ability to act impulsively, the cloud enables it. For foolish and incorrect initiatives, it penalizes them only for the short amount of time they went down an erroneous path. On-demand services in the cloud charge by the hour and can be torn down as quickly as they are generated.
"Have you ever heard of the marketing director who came up with a crazy idea on the way to work? The cloud enables small groups to create 'fast transits' and execute wild ideas faster," said Roberts, giving them an advantage when the process turns up an effective business response to a challenge or launches an initiative unexpected by the competition.
And once they find they are on a correct business decision-making route, the cloud allows them to amply provision themselves and gain the rewards of having found the right path, Roberts said.