Did you know that the reservations systems of the biggest carriers mostly run on a specialized IBM operating system known as Transaction Processing Facility (TPF). Designed by IBM in the 1960’s it was designed to process a large numbers of transactions quickly. Although IBM is still updating the code, the last major rewrite was about ten years ago. With all the major technologies changes since then, it’s clear that IBM has already accomplished a herculean task by keeping an application viable for over 50 years!
Just like Americas aging physical infrastructure, the airlines are suffering from years of minimal investment in their information technology. This critical failure has been highlighted by a number of newsworthy incidents including:
· Delta, April 4, 2017 - Following storms that affected its Atlanta hub, Delta's crew-scheduling systems failed, causing days of operational issues for the airline. Buzzfeed reports that flight staff were left stranded and unable to log in to internal systems. There were reportedly hours-long wait times on the crew-scheduling phone system.
· United, April 3, 2017 - A problem with a system used by pilots for data reporting and takeoff planning forced United to ground all flights departing from George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston for two hours. This is the third time that this system has been blamed for causing operational problems at United. Around 150 flights operated by United or its regionally flying partners out of IAH were delayed on the day, and about 30 were canceled, according to flightaware.com.
· ExpressJet, March 20, 2017 - A system-wide outage at ExpressJet delayed flights it operates as Delta, United, and American Airlines for hours. The FAA issued a ground-stop at the airline's request, preventing its planes from taking off. On the day, it had 423 delays and 64 cancellations, about a third of its scheduled operations, according to flightaware.com.
· JetBlue, Feb. 23, 2017 - An outage at JetBlue forced the airline to check in passengers manually in Ft. Lauderdale and Nassau. Passengers were unable to use mobile boarding passes and check-in kiosks
While these incidents can be scary, American Airlines has recently taken a major step towards avoiding such events by migrating a portion of its critical applications to the cloud. In a recent announcement the carrier said that it will be moving it’s its customer-facing mobile app and their global network of check-in kiosks to the IBM Cloud. In addition, other workloads and tools, such as the company’s Cargo customer website, will also be moved to there. In a parallel effort, all of these applications will be rewritten so that they can leverage the IBM Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS). This will be done using a micro-services architecture, design thinking, agile methodology, DevOps, and lean development.
“In selecting the right cloud partner for American, we wanted to ensure the provider would be a champion of Cloud Foundry and open-source technologies so we don’t get locked down by proprietary solutions” said Daniel Henry, American’s Vice President Customer Technology and Enterprise Architecture. “We also wanted a partner that would offer us the agility to innovate at the organizational and process levels and have deep industry expertise with security at its core. We feel confident that IBM is the right long-term partner to not only provide the public cloud platform, but also enable our delivery transformation.”
This latest announcement demonstrates why cloud computing is the future of just about every industry. The cost savings, operational improvements, data security and business agility delivered by cloud based According to Patrick Grubbs, IBM's vice president of travel and transportation, American Airlines will also be able to reduce cost by leveraging an inherent cloud computing ability of matching compute resources to the variable requirements that come from seasonal peaks.
This move by American Airline is sure to spur others towards a quicker adoption of cloud computing. I look forward to the stampede.
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