Is it really worth taking out insurance against system failure? Is the true value in a system that works first time, all the time?
Download ‘Parting the Clouds‘, Smart by GEP’s latest whitepaper, to understand the difference between Cloud Solutions and SaaS Software.
There was a debate in the office that ran for a while when we were putting together the white paper that’s associated with this post.
“Yes,” said one camp, “we understand that there are technical, operational and architectural differences between Cloud and SaaS, but so what?”
In other words, why should Procurement care how their software “solution” is delivered to them, as long as it works?
“Fair point” said the others, “but if we believe the cloud model is inherently more secure, robust and future-proofed than the other, should we not call out that distinction?”
“Again,” came the response “if a SaaS implementation is backed by the necessary service level agreements from the supplier, what’s the difference?”
And that is when the subject of insuring space launches came up.
Bear with me.
Can Insurance Really Cover Everything?
Insurance is what we’re talking about, of course. Ensuring your Procurement operation can carry out the business at hand without interruption or disruption is a primary goal of selecting the right software system. The SLAs in the contract with the vendor are what comprise that insurance policy.
As is the case with everything in the insurance world, the greater the degree of protection you want, the higher the premiums. But there is also a matter of the risk.
Seven per cent of satellites and spacecraft fail at launch. Recently some fairly dramatic launch failures have made the news. The ones that really make the headlines are those that involve the destruction of a payload that teams of scientists have been working on for years.
You can almost feel the despair and horror of watching a decade’s hard work destroyed in mere seconds.
Usually, but not always, these payloads are insured against multiple possible eventualities. Launch failure, failure on deployment, failure on landing – as in the case of the recent ESA Mars mission. Naturally the premiums are immense to insure an interplanetary mission. Often the insurance by no means covers the ultimate cost of the failure.
The many millions paid out after a launch failure may cover some of the financial stake invested by the agencies funding the project. However, there is essentially nothing that can recover the loss of the science that was to be delivered. The physical and material can be replaced, but the loss of the results is absolute.
Don’t Insure Against Failure – Do It Right First Time!
A far better form of insurance for space launches is a system that doesn’t go wrong. This is in fact the calculated risk taken in many projects. Catastrophic failure cannot be mitigated with cash, so better to spend the insurance premiums on building something that won’t explode.
And this is why it seemed an appropriate metaphor for the kind of SLA insurance under discussion. It’s all very well having the on-paper insurance for failure coverage, but that’s of little consequence if the financial value of the pay-out can do nothing to mitigate the real cost.
This is why, then, we feel there is a clear distinction between different interpretations of what “cloud” actually means. The fundamental underlying scalability, security, robustness and other forms of risk really should be considered when making a genuinely informed decision.
Comparing vendor contracts like for like you may see the same SLAs – system availability, uptime and access. But without a doubt the benefit of an SLA is in never having to rely on it.
If your procurement technology fails, are you really covered against all the potential losses? What risks should you be considering when adopting new Cloud technology?