Network World published a very interesting article on the behind-the-scenes IT magic that drives JetBlue’s infrastructure. Besides some of the nuts-and-bolts decisions that the company made, this article is a lesson on how you can really use IT to change the cost dynamics of a marketplace.
The article goes into some level of detail as to why JetBlue decided to eschew “scale-out” commodity Intel servers running a non-Microsoft OS in favor of “scale-up” servers from Unisys, why they decided to standardize on Windows, and how they are using VoIP phones to physically virtualize their call center. The company has achieved very impressive results — putting aside the revenue and traffic growth, the company is now booking 70% of its tickets online and is getting extraordinary value out of its leading-edge position in IT infrastructure.
There is a lesson here. Businesses really can use IT to create a meaningful operational advantage over their competition. I would not be willing to go so far as to say that JetBlue’s IT infrastructure is the only factor that allows them to succeed in a market that almost all professional investors had left for dead. However, it seems difficult to argue that JetBlue’s decision to use IT to drive business value (and stake the success of their operations on that IT) is paying off.
There is a second, more subtle lesson as well. While many venture investors speak about the “first mover advantage” that accrues to the company that is first to market with a new product or service, there can be a significant “latecomer advantage” if being late to the party allows an organization to invest and deploy the latest technology without having to worry about the expense or complexity associated with legacy upgrades.