Mile high maintenance

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In early June, I attended the Colorado IBM Maximo users group hosted by the Denver International Airport (DIA). The meeting contained over 50 clients and IBM Business Partners within the Colorado area and included several great presentations and discussions about how clients are using IBM technologies and specifically Maximo in support of Enterprise Asset Management (EAM); for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, EAM is a business paradigm that integrates strategic planning with operations, maintenance, and capital investment decision-making.  The audience was quite diverse with various industries discussing functional and technical use cases, program management, and overall strategy and vision. What I found common among the majority of users was that, whether it was part of their stated strategy or not, they were making steps toward higher value stages of cloud computing.

The following diagram outlines the key stages of cloud computing. At the foundation, you see that virtualizing the environment begins the process and allows an organization to move towards focusing on standardizing operational efficiency and providing a flexible delivery model for the users. I had the opportunity to speak with one user, Rayna Brannon, Associate IT Developer for DIA. She stated that “we’ve upgraded to clustered virtual machines…and provide tier 2 technical and user interface support for our team.” In addition, Rayna said that “we’ll be upgrading our monitoring to become more proactive with user issues.”

With such vagueness regarding the term cloud, at what point should an organization say it is using cloud?

With an IT department headed on a path toward easing service consumption and management, I wanted to get some perspective from those who are being supported. As part of the user group meeting, DIA provided us with a tour of the airfield and fairly candid discussions about how DIA is managing one of the busiest airports in the world, with over 1800 flights per day. Some of the most interesting aspects of the tour were not just the physical assets and logistics of the airport, which of course were very impressive (look for the new United Boeing 787 flying Denver to Tokyo non-stop in 2013), but how the airport deployed its upgraded EAM solution to be a shared service among the maintenance and operations department. Originally the airport had several solutions grouped by department, but according to Chuck Odom, Maintenance Lead and Maximo user, the upgraded service has, “…improved visibility and communication across departments.”

In essence, a “cloud” solution has provided ease of collaboration by focusing on quality service delivery and management and thus, by improving the service, the returns are seen by the user base in the form of streamlined service consumption. The solution has also allowed a consistent dialog between airport maintenance and operations, with both departments accessing —in real time — the airport asset and location listing, and the corresponding maintenance and planning. This solution provides not only time savings and visibility into what is truly happening throughout the 50-plus square mile airport, but also streamlines the operational decision making and the airport’s federal compliance by allowing operations to easily show regulators precisely where, when, and how maintenance is being performed and kept up-to-date. Of course, I immediately thought of the following questions:

  • Do the benefits of cloud and its anticipated return on investment go beyond just the consolidation, optimization, and reduction of IT overhead? And could cloud be positioned as quantifiable in terms of return on business process performance and work environment culture?
  • Could aviation, as a highly regulated industry, benefit from a standard cloud offering that could be repeatable across many airports?  What about other industries?
  • Could regulators have their own cloud solution which can be integrated and provides the latest guidelines and measurements that must be followed and reported upon?

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