How advanced is your data center strategy? Learning from Modern Military Strategist John Boyd

The data center is more and more strategic to many businesses.  It is now common for outages to cost $10k-100k/min.  Many of the data center executives have military backgrounds and are used to defending their country.  Some data centers are built like fortresses with even armed guards inside the building.  Many times it is not the outsider that brings down a data center, but the insider who makes a mistake in operations and maintenance. These employees though are not the enemy.  The enemy that has attacked you is the outage itself.  When an outage occurs you can run through a playbook that lists the standard approved operating procedure which is fine if you have the time and the outage scenario was covered in your planning.  

What happens when the outage is something that you had not planned for.  You run the playbook, can't figure out how to address the outage, and now you are thinking crap.  What do we do now?  Outages can kill a company or business unit if data is destroyed or downtime is excessive.  Think of the T-mobile Sidekick outage.

The incident caused a public loss of confidence in the concept of cloud computing, which had been plagued by a series of outages and data losses in 2009.[7] 

Was the enemy the Microsoft employees who ran the services.  No.  The enemy is a collection of ideas of what was the right thing to do which eventually caused an outage.

A company statement said the mishap was due to "a confluence of errors from a server failure that hurt its main and backup databases supporting Sidekick users."[2] T-Mobile blamed Microsoft for the loss of data.[1]

Someone had the idea to insure the uptime of the Superbowl is to install a protection relay.

“The purpose of it was to provide a newer, more advanced type of protection for the Superdome,” Dennis Dawsey, an executive with Entergy Corp., told members of the City Council. Entergy is the parent company of Entergy New Orleans.

Entergy officials said the relay functioned with no problems during January’s Sugar Bowl and other earlier events. It has been removed and will be replaced.

4 years ago I read about John Boyd and his OODA Loop approach and posted on it.  I tried finding more details on what John Boyd presented.  His presentations are difficult to understand and unfortunately John Boyd did not write his ideas down well enough for others to understand.  Then I found a PhD thesis by a military student who did take the time to explain John Boyd's ideas.  You can find it here.  Warning this paper is for people who really want to understand modern military strategy.  The OODA loop concept has been transferred to business on the idea of the winners are those who can move faster and out think their opponent.

Who is John Boyd?

a tribute written two days

after Boyd’s death on 9 March 1997 which describes him as

a towering intellect who made unsurpassed contributions to the American art of war. Indeed,

he was one of the central architects in the reform of military thought which swept the

services, and in particular the Marine corps, in the 1980’s. From John Boyd we learned about

the competitive decision making on the battlefield-compressing time, using time as an ally.

Thousands of officers in all or services knew John Boyd by his work on what was to be

known as the Boyd Cycle or OODA loop. His writings and his lectures had a fundamental

impact on the curriculum of virtually every professional military education program in the

United States-and many abroad [..]he was the quintessential soldier-scholar - a man whose

jovial outgoing exterior belied the vastness of his knowledge and the power of his intellect1.

The problem the author, Frans Osinga was trying to address was the lack of explanation of how Boyd came to his conclusions.  What was his logic and assumptions?

There are a number of short papers35. Most if not all deal almost exclusively with the

OODA loop concept. Recently, two biographies have appeared. Robert Coram’s work

focuses in particular on Boyd’s life and less on Boyd’s strategic theory, although he does

provide a good synopsis of it. Boyd’s biographer Grant Hammond surpasses Coram in his

rendering of Boyd’s strategic theory but the book nevertheless falls short of offering a

comprehensive account of Boyd’s work. Instead it must be considered an authoritive and

very accessible description of Boyd’s ideas. Moreover, as it does not contain an integral

rendering of Boyd’s work, the educational experience contained within Boyd’s slides, his

unique use of words and the way he structures his arguments, does not receive the emphasis

it deserves. Finally, although touching upon Boyd’s wide array of sources underlying his

work, space restrictions prevented a proper discussion of the intellectual background of

Boyd’s work.

I am slowly digesting the PhD paper.  You can also buy the PhD paper in a book.


This book aims to redress this state of affairs and re-examines John Boyd’s original contribution to strategic theory. By highlighting diverse sources that shaped Boyd’s thinking, and by offering a comprehensive overview of Boyd’s work, this volume demonstrates that the common interpretation of the meaning of Boyd’s OODA loop concept is incomplete. It also shows that Boyd’s work is much more comprehensive, richer and deeper than is generally thought. With his ideas featuring in the literature on Network Centric Warfare, a key element of the US and NATO’s so-called ‘military transformation’ programmes, as well as in the debate on Fourth Generation Warfare, Boyd continues to exert a strong influence on Western military thinking. Dr Osinga demonstrates how Boyd’s work can helps us to understand the new strategic threats in the post- 9/11 world, and establishes why John Boyd should be regarded as one of the most important (post)modern strategic theorists.