Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

What do Darwin, Dragsters and Disruption Have in Common?

Rudolph Lukez
Director, ERP Product Marketing, Oracle

Jet engines for cars. It’s not a typical design for a vehicle with four tires and a steering wheel.

But a few weeks ago, under a hot sun on a clear summer evening beneath the Rocky Mountains, my ten year old son and I attended our first professional dragster race. The “cars” (such as they were) used surplus engines from jet fighters attached to a simple four-wheel chassis.

Inches in front of the engine sat the driver, with gallons of methane-enhanced jet fuel close by. His objective was simple: get the fastest time in a straight, quarter-mile long lane—a time measured in 4 to 5 seconds.

Studying the blacktop in front of our stands, it was hard to see many safety features for the driver. Big fire trucks and tankers filled with flame retardant lurked not too far away.

“They have a fire extinguisher and a seat belt,” my focused son eagerly explained. “And a fire suit and a helmet.”

That seemed like cold comfort, for a driver just a foot away from enhanced jet fuel burning at 12 gallons per second and 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit while the racer experiences 8Gs. I was truly glad a minister started the evening asking for divine protection.

With speeds exceeding 300 mph, we watched the jet-fueled machines pair off as they competed for the fastest quarter mile. Burning rubber, pushing huge fumes of smoke into the air, and generating thunderous, ear-piercing noise, round after round delivered incredible spectacles of speed, sound and light.

What's Darwin Got to Do With It?

Between each heat, I had time to reflect on Darwin. Was the packed, standing-room only crowd just watching races? Or were they hoping to see a spectacular crash? Would Darwin’s theory of evolution collect a few additional data points before midnight?

While scanning the audience, it was clear that scientific curiosity was not the primary concern of the evening. The beer flowed, hot dogs were soaked in ketchup, nachos dripped with cheap cheese, and flags waved everywhere. On the surface, it appeared the human race hadn’t evolved much since the days of the Roman coliseum.  

But when Darwin’s famous theory of evolution is discussed, people often forget a key element: disruption.

Disruption is Forcing Us to Evolve

In today’s digital business environment, disruption is an everyday occurrence. Rarely a day passes without news of a disruptive incident—whether it’s a groundbreaking invention or discovery, a service or product innovation, or a major business event like a merger, acquisition, or launch.

What seems oddly forgotten in these news cycles is Darwin’s detailed perspectives regarding evolution: that “survival of the fittest” is a response to changes in the surrounding environment—whether that change is sudden or more gradual.

In a new report from MIT Technology Review, Finance and HR: The Cloud’s New Power Partnership, the CFO of innovative Canadian clean power company Ballard talks about his company’s move to the cloud from on-premises applications.

“There is already so much in the cloud, and every year there will be more,” noted Tony Guglielmin, Ballard’s Vice President and CFO. “It is always evolving”.

Bingo. It seems so simple and obvious, yet it is so often understated and forgotten. Cloud applications already deliver a plethora of features and functionality. Each new update and release improves upon the last, works with more technology paradigms, and adds to the total inventory of capabilities almost without fanfare.

Yet, at several junctures, disruptive technologies appear seemingly overnight—like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotic process automation—to punctuate this gradual evolution of the cloud and other technologies.

This process is familiar to biologists who study evolution. They call the steady, day-to-day evolution of animals and plants “gradualism.” Yet, they also recognize that sudden evolutionary changes may occur when dramatic disruption occurs; biologists call this “punctuated equilibrium.”

In a sense, the cloud can be thought of as a delivery mechanism for these evolutionary changes. It’s continually updated with the latest innovations, whether gradual or disruptive.

A Delivery Mechanism for Evolutionary (and Revolutionary) Technologies

Consider AI, which has already been embedded into Oracle Adaptive Intelligence Applications. Customers that subscribe to these cloud services get access to this new innovation ahead of their competitors, and gain an evolutionary advantage.

That’s one reason why more and more companies are turning to Oracle for the cloud. They recognize that we have a huge innovation budget ($6 billion annually in R&D) that smaller cloud providers can’t match. The latest technologies—even the most disruptive ones—can be quickly embedded into our cloud and offered to our subscribers.

And unlike other cloud providers—small or large—we have a complete suite of offerings across lines of business and industries, all designed to work together. You don’t need to hunt around for a new provider or service every time a new technology hits the market; the odds are good that Oracle will have whatever you need, and if we don’t, you can develop it on Oracle Platform as a Service (PaaS).

When the next dramatic disruption occurs—no matter what it is—you can uptake the new technology quickly and outpace your competitors.

Keeping Up with the Game Changers

Back at the race track, my son explained how incremental improvements in tires, frames and controls make the difference between just a fast run and a winning time. Yet, every few years, a team introduces a dramatic game changer, like the way graphite materials changed the baseline equilibrium of aluminum in design.

Or a jet engine attached to a chassis.

I wondered what the first person who proposed this concept was told by others around him. Was his garage much different from the one recognized in popular lore as the birthing room of Silicon Valley?

Like jet engine dragsters, the evolutionary journey of business in the cloud is fast, exciting and hot. Or, as my son described the over 300 mph machines, “Radically awesome.”

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