WSJ – Failures Like the Delta Outage Are a Fact of Digital Business

Customers are still feeling the fallout from computer problems at Delta Air Lines Inc. that began with an electrical outage in the dark hours of Monday morning. Flight cancellations grew throughout the day to about 1,000 and Delta continued to cancel flights Tuesday – 680 as of 5:15 p.m. ET – as it tried to restore normal operations.

“Following the power loss, some critical systems and network equipment didn’t switch over to Delta’s backup systems,” the company said in a statement. Delta hasn’t gone into detail about which systems didn’t perform as expected or why. Airline reservations, maintenance and operations systems are notoriously complex, made all the more so by layers of technology integrated after years of mergers and acquisitions.

Other industries deal with such complexity but none more publicly than airlines, says Allan Frank, co-founder and chief IT strategist at The Hackett Group, which advises large companies on technology best practices. You have “multiple systems from multiple companies over a period of years, he says. “A glitch can take down the whole house… In the end, people are stuck at airports and there’s a direct, emotional impact.”

More of the Wall Street Journal article from Kim S. Nash

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