I/O Degradation Poses Threat to Global Supply Chain

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In late March, supply chain risk management specialist Resilience360 released its first annual risk report, which outlines what the company regards as the most serious risks to global supply chains for 2019. The top three dangers cited by Resilience360 were trade flow, cybersecurity incidents, and climate change paired with extreme weather conditions.1 “These are all serious concerns,” says Condusiv Technologies CEO James D’Arezzo, “and logistics managers need to be prepared to deal with them.” D’Arezzo, whose company is the world leader in I/O reduction and SQL database performance, adds, “However, a major internal problem, degraded system performance, poses every bit as much of a potential threat to the ability of supply chains to function.”

 

The changing nature of the global supply chain itself, notes D’Arezzo, places an increasingly heavy burden on IT system performance. Traditional supply chain strategy prescribes loose relationships and supply base reductions, implying fixed and unchanging transport links monitored on the basis of a few seldom-changed key performance metrics. What we actually have today, however, is an ecosystem of interconnected companies across the entire global economy. This pays enormous benefits in terms of speed and responsiveness, but it requires constantly updated information and very close to real-time ability to react.2

 

The difficulty of achieving this kind of operational flexibility becomes clearer, D’Arezzo says, when you look at the size and complexity of the transportation network involved. In the United States, Amazon, FedEx, and UPS alone are capable of putting over 900 cargo jets in the air at the same time, each controlled by individual air traffic control towers—together handling just 5% of the nation’s freight.3 Another 16% of U.S. freight goes by rail, through a network in which 700 individual carriers, each with its own system4, moves over 437 million freight car loads per month.5 Most of the rest—$12.4 trillion worth per year—goes by truck, via some 777,240 different carriers, each of which also has its own system.6

 

The job of coordinating data from this universe of players, and adapting it when necessary, is increasingly being given to sophisticated artificial intelligence tools. No matter how powerful a given AI tool may be, it cannot function until the overall system collects and delivers the data it needs. The speed at which an IT system can do this, D’Arezzo notes, is dependent on its input-output capacity, which over time degrades, no matter the underlying hardware infrastructure. This is particularly true of the Windows environment, where an MS-SQL database application might be operating at as little as 50% of its optimum I/O speed.

 

The complexities of today’s global, highly interdependent supply chains and the need for instant access to rapidly changing data make it imperative that IT managers constantly maximize throughput. Fortunately, tools exist that enable this to take place in the background, at the system software level—where problems originate in the first place. “I/O performance degradation,” says D’Arezzo, “is purely a software issue. Adding hardware can temporarily mask the problem, but cannot solve it. Targeted performance enhancement software solutions, at minimal cost and running in the background, can improve total system throughput by 30% to 50% or more with no additional investment in hardware. They should be part of the toolkit of any IT manager in the supply chain and logistics field.”


  1. “Report Names Top Global Supply Chain Risks,” Supply & Demand Chain Executive, April 3, 2019.
  2. Gravier, Michael, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Some Supply Chain Managers Just Don’t Get It,” Supply Chain Management Review, April 3, 2019.
  3. Schoolov, Katie, “Amazon will compete with FedEx and UPS to become logistics company,” CNBC, February 15, 2009.
  4. “List of common carrier freight railroads in the United States,” Railinc, February 2009.
  5. “Rail Freight Carloads and Intermodal Traffic,” U.S. Department of Transportation, 2019.
  6. “Weight and Value of Freight Shipments by Domestic Mode: 2017,” U.S. Department of Transportation, 2019.
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