Want to try a globally optimized traffic control system that is based on Objective-based management? That's easy, just take a plane: Air Traffic Flow Management (ATFM) that drives planes from one airport to another one in association with Air Traffic Control (ATC) provides global optimization.
Air Traffic Flow Management regulates the traffic in order to optimize end-to-end capacity. Its objectives are multiple, all concurring to security, availability, comfort and economic efficiency of air transport:
- Avoid collisions;
- Improve flight accuracy;
- Maximize airspace 'bandwidth' between airports;
- Accelerate flights handling at origin and destination;
- Reduce expenses of airlines as well as airport organizations.
Let's simplify the ATFM/ATC structure in (a) Ground control at source airport (b) Air control between airports (c) Ground control at destination airport.
A few decades ago, the state of communication, computing and software technology did not permit a global approach. Each segment of the system behaves independently. A plane leaving, say Amsterdam Schiphol to London Heathrow had a good chance to hold quite a long time above river Thames, circling around till a landing slot will be found by the local Ground control. It used considerable amount of fuel, flight duration was uncertain, airport capacity had to be limited for obvious security reasons (there is no room to hold too many planes at same time, and fuel quantity in a plane is somehow limited...).
Thanks to technology improvements, ATFM/ATC behaves now as a globally optimized system: flights are taken into account as end-to-end processes where what happens at source airports (e.g. departure slots) depends on what happens at destination airports and even at airspace level (routes, weather, etc.). Our Amsterdam flight may be delayed a few minutes before departure because London has to prioritize an arrival from Chicago. We will leave Netherlands only when we get sure to have a free slot when reaching England. Benefits of this global approach are numerous:
- Better security (reduced collision probability);
- Improved accuracy, leading to better customers comfort and satisfaction,
- Optimized airspace usage, allowing sharing a heavily loaded route by more planes;
- Accelerated take-off and landing frequency (reduced from a few minutes to a few tenth of seconds at peak time)
- Reduced cost (no extra fuel consumption, improved sharing of expensive infrastructure, etc.).
It is really easy to find similarities between global air traffic optimization by ATFM/ATC and modern Autonomic Networking/Objective-based management of application traffic in enterprise networks. Replace Schiphol and Heathrow by your own datacenter and branch office, airplanes by application flows and IP packets. You will immediately feel the difference between legacy policy-based/locally-managed communication systems and Autonomic Networking/Objective-based solutions.
Used to entrust global ATFM with our own life, don't you think it's time for reaching similar efficiency and maturity in the networking area?