Fun fact about me: I hold two U.S. patent on how to manage airline waste. On Super Bowl Sunday, as other fans are obsessing over American football, I’ll be thinking about sewer systems.
When Super Bowl LII is played this weekend in Minneapolis, nearly half of all Americans will be watching. The National Retailers Federation estimates that over $15 billion will be spent on food, beverages, apparel, and other Super Bowl party supplies prior to the four-hour event. In 2014, the Sevens Institute of Technology calculated that 325 million gallons of beer were consumed during the game.
This remarkable volume of beer consumption in a relatively short period of time, combined with similar levels of other liquids, quickly drives an interesting physical infrastructure question: What happens when millions of people almost simultaneously utilize bathroom plumbing during the Super Bowl’s half time?
This surge in liquid capacity needs for any given city is a colorful metaphor for cloud infrastructure. Like public sanitation works, finance systems are not used equally throughout a day, week or month. Capacity varies greatly and might even be unpredictable depending on many controlled, uncontrolled, and even unexpected variables. To some degree, it is a figurative crap shoot. (I’ll give you a minute to groan at that one.)
Consider planned activities like payroll processing or the monthly close. These happen on a predictable schedule and demand additional system capacity. Add in unexpected or urgent tasks—for example, an unannounced acquisition or new board reporting requirements—and system needs can surge. Today’s expectation is that a modern finance system should be able to get the job done along with everything else underway. No questions asked.
Cloud infrastructure needs to work for all tactical and strategic finance operations. A CFO cannot go to the corner office and push off an immediate inquiry or new project just because their system is too busy or too slow doing its regular work.
Systems must scale as needed, regardless of current workload or period.
This is why civil engineers design and build sewer systems to meet higher-than-average demand. Systems need to handle the ebbs and flows of inputs regardless of events. If a sewer system failed during a Super Bowl game, there would be not only environmental problems but significant career setbacks for utility managers and their organizations. The situation would be foul indeed.
Similarly, the cloud is built with extra capacity. With the flow of data increasing at exponential rates, cloud systems need to be robust and continually evolving to support the finance function of tomorrow. A cloud ERP, for example, may have the capability to support finance operations—but what happens when high volumes of IoT data begin to arrive, or when machine learning algorithms need additional computing power?
Last year, Oracle published test results which highlighted financial transaction capabilities in the cloud that exceeded 360 million transactions per hour for a complex multi-geography organization. This is a very big number. Based on American Bankers Association data from several years ago, there are “only” 36 million credit card transactions per hour globally—one-tenth the rate that Oracle ERP Cloud demonstrated.
This level of scalability from Oracle’s cloud applications means you don’t have to worry about system capacity and the associated software infrastructure. You spend your time dealing with your organization’s tactical and strategic finance needs.
Just like that moment at half-time when you are visiting a bathroom: you don’t want to be preoccupied worrying about the potential capacity of your local sewage plant. The game and the party outside the bathroom door is your first, biggest and only priority.
You just want to be done with your immediate business.