Airlines are remarkably complex, demanding technology beasts. They rely on multiple systems to store and publish everything from flight schedules, fares, and inventory to crew scheduling to aircraft maintenance records. Airline systems literally run on a 24/7 schedule, requiring the highest level of performance reliability. Plus, because they store highly sensitive data—reservations records, payment information, even data that could infer a passenger’s religion and health—airline systems must be incredibly secure.
That’s why an announcement made at Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) Discover 2012 conference this week in Las Vegas caught Atmosphere’s attention.
At the event, HP is highlighting its Converged Cloud product line and positioning. And in what we expect to be an increased vertical focus within HP’s solutions business, the airline industry is receiving special attention with its own announcement of HP Converged Cloud Services for Airlines. This industry-targeted portfolio covers the three primary flavors of cloud computing:
Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS): HP Enterprise Cloud Services. Servers, storage, switches, and software are nothing without support. HP seeks to combine its considerable Enterprise IT product portfolio with years of hard-won expertise managing high volume, transactional systems for demanding industry customers. By managing its own purpose-built data centers around the world, HP can offer the full range of private, managed, and public hosting options including virtual private cloud environments and their requisite custom network configurations.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): HP Passenger Service Solution. HP boasts that nearly 500 million passengers are accommodated annually by the airlines that use its SHARES PSS, but HP is targeting airlines of all sizes by beginning to offer its products in bite-sized components. Mexican low-cost carrier Interjet, for example, is using the crew scheduling component in a virtual private cloud environment to coordinate pilot training and aircraft simulator time.
Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): HP Airline SOA Platform. HP has invested years building SOA wrappers around its legacy systems and applications. This evolutionary-not-revolutionary approach aims to strike a happy medium, shielding developers from the mainframe past (where SOA means “screen oriented archaeology”) while avoiding much of the risk inherent in implementing clean-sheet designs. Perhaps just as importantly, by providing a development environment based on modern stacks such as JBoss and .NET, HP’s customers can tap their existing IT talent and outsourcing partners.
This week’s announcements are clearly just the beginning of HP’s ambitions. Monolithic products are going the way of monolithic IT systems and departments—and vendors need to compete in an increasingly best-of-breed battleground. HP’s horizontally-aimed PCI solution, for example, offers credit card “Security-as-a-Service” by interoperating with industry standard messaging systems and XML schemas. With SOA interfaces enabling easier access to valuable—but traditionally siloed—business and operational data, HP is already talking about “Data-as-a-Service” as a component of the “intelligent cloud” it is assembling:
But the holy grail—and one which should be almost within HP’s grasp, at least owing to its product and technology portfolio—is to hide the complexity and offer a simple but powerful “customer intelligence-as-a-service” interface to provide that single view of the consumer which is so critical to providing superior customer experiences profitably.