Open systems – old hat?
I was interested to read this week that Amadeus are blogging about their increasing use of ‘open systems’ technology; specifically a switch to Linux as their operating system of choice. Good to see that a GDS is finally moving into the 21st Century and updating their core systems from ancient proprietary TP (transaction processing) platforms.
For years all the GDS’s have been ‘wrapping’ their old systems with newer technologies to provide XML and Web Services interfaces. However, as anyone who has tried to actually use these systems will testify, these XML interfaces are often a very thin layer of structure over an underlying unstructured host terminal session i.e. screen scraping. Horrible. As soon as you get into details, like ticketing, you find the recommended solution is to send host commands directly to the terminal as a single string element in a generic ‘host command’ XML element. All the GDS’s have some variety of this approach, and whilst technically they can then claim they have a modern XML interface, its really not the case.
Conversely, many smaller travel technology companies have been employing modern open systems technologies to build solutions for years. The advantages are obvious; no licence fees, systems that are easily maintainable and a huge user community to draw ideas, fixes and best practice from.
One other advantage of open systems technology is that there is no-one to keep changing things for the sake of it (i.e. unless they are broken). Systems are therefore much more stable across versions, avoiding re-engineering of applications just for the latest platforms. Proprietary vendors seem to feel the need to constantly rip up and change things for no good technical reason. I guess they need to keep changing stuff to sell new licences. I’m sure everyone has had this experience as an end user of XP, Vista and then Windows 7, and also the various incarnations of MS-Office. How often will we all have to re-learn how to use Microsoft’s word processor?
Amadeus have produced a handy little set of slides about the benefits open systems, and I have included it here
RWA use a predominantly open systems approach; Centos and RedHat Linux operating systems, the PostgreSQL database, Apache and Java for web sites and middle tier technologies. However, we do also have some Microsoft based client technologies for our call centre environment (Visual Basic .NET), with thin client deployment using Microsoft terminal services. We went down the Microsoft route because it provides the most rich, interactive, productive and trouble free way to build complex, interactive, multi-modal applications. We also use VMWare for virtualisation (the basis for our ‘private cloud’ hosting platform), because it seemed to be the most widely used platform and we had first hand experience of its absolute stability and ease of use as a hypervisor system.
I welcome any move towards the deployment of opens systems technologies, lets hope all GDS providers follow their lead.