Cendant taps IBM eServer systems, Linux for expanded airfare system

It expects to save 90% of the IT costs associated with its old eFares system

Cendant Corp.'s Travel Distribution Services (TDS) division has moved its airline fare system to IBM's e-Server systems to deliver fares to customers faster. Cendant's travel sites include CheapTickets.com and Galileo, a corporate reservations site.

By switching to IBM from a Unix-based fare-pricing system, the company will over three years save 90% of the IT costs associated with its Galileo 360 eFares system, said Robert Wiseman, chief technology officer at Cendant TDS.

Although Wiseman declined to name the vendor of the old system, the company in 2002 said it was moving from a mainframe-based fare system to a Unix-based system from Sun Microsystems Inc. (see story). At that time, Parsippany, N.J.-based Cendant said the project would save the company "tens of millions of dollars" in hardware maintenance and programming costs.

"As our existing system became increasingly expensive to operate, we began looking for a new solution," said Wiseman. "We chose IBM Intel-based clustered systems and Linux because the combination provides a sustainable 99.999% reliability through a highly redundant, scalable architecture, coupled with a consistent infrastructure. Using Linux on Intel-based servers helped us establish our goal of a cookie-cutter architecture that we can replicate across our organization to simplify the overall data center infrastructure and significantly lower operating costs."

By using industry standards, Cendant said it had reusable components that allow it to rapidly develop and deploy new services and applications to meet customers' needs and remain competitive.

"The resources and people needed to support our standardized architecture are considerably less because every solution does not require a customized design," Bryan Harwood, director of platform architecture at Cendant TDS, said in a statement.

The Galileo 360 eFares system is running on Red Hat Linux on more than 100 clustered IBM eServer x440 and x445 systems, Wiseman said.

Based on IBM mainframe-class technology, the IBM x440 and x445 are high-performance, four-way and eight-way SMP servers that use Intel Xeon processors, which allows Cendant to link the servers together in powerful clusters or computing grids, he said.

Cendant's new system links with IBM zSeries mainframes handling the travel agency's schedules, availability, purchasing and ticketing, the company said.

With the new IBM system, Cendant said it reduced hours of preprocessing work necessary to post the new fares issued by airlines six times a day. Without the delay, end users can access airline updates immediately and get the new fares faster, according to Wiseman.

Whether this migration made sense for Cendant depends on the company's IT budget "pain points," said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

"If the pain revolves around hardware acquisition costs, many times organizations will consider industry-standard, high-volume -- and thus, hopefully, low -- acquisition-cost systems. That usually drives people toward Intel architectures or AMD or one of those competitors," Kusnetzky said. "If the pain point revolves around software acquisition and maintenance costs, that often drives people toward open-source software, which includes Linux. If the intersection of those two pain points is where the pain is, then moving toward Intel architecture machines running Linux in a stack of open-source software could certainly help them solve that requirement."

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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