Qantas ditches Linux for AIX

Airline looks to IBM's Unix-based AIX platform to handle internal finance systems, says "stability issues" were a factor.

Qantas Airways next month plans to shift the underlying platform running its internal finance systems from Linux to IBM Unix variant AIX.

"(We're shifting to the IBM AIX environment) to address some stability issues we were having," said Suzanne Young, the airline's group general manager for finance improvement and segmentation. The decision was made last year as part of the planning for eQ, a Qantas initiative designed to improve the company's technical and management operations.

The platform conversion project is currently in the final stages of planning and is scheduled to take place in May.

Young made reference to the switch during a speech at the Hyperion Solutions 2007 conference, presented this week in Orlando, Fla., by business intelligence vendor Hyperion Solutions, and did not clarify them further. Qantas was not immediately available for comment.

The airline's move would appear to go against an industry trend that has seen many enterprises migrate their Unix infrastructure from old variants of the operating system such as AIX, HP/UX and Solaris to Linux, the newer kid on the block.

Australian poultry producer Bartter Enterprises, for example, had previously been using Hewlett-Packard's True64 Unix operating system for a number of functions, including order entry shipping, but migrated to Red Hat Linux running Oracle in a clustered grid configuration in late 2005.

The eQ program in general is designed to more efficiently deliver information for the airline, which has a complex structure with multiple, segmented internal businesses using different approaches.

The new platform for the project will be based on Oracle's 11i database and applications, Hyperion's financial management and consolidation tools, and a Teradata data warehouse. Oracle announced its plans to buy Hyperion in early March this year.

Oracle has long been a vocal promoter of Linux as a core platform for large enterprises. The airline's original plans called for a totally Oracle-based solution, but that was subsequently shifted to a multivendor approach to better match Qantas' specific needs, according to Young.

"Our business continues to seek information on a more real-time basis, and that continues to be a challenge," she said.

The impetus to change the internal systems began way back in 2002. "There was a need to transform the way we currently worked, shifting from a transactional focus to more analysis and insight," Young said.

Accuracy and sustainability were also vital, she said. "The safe word at Qantas is a big deal--it's one of the big recognition points for our brand, and finance is no different." Internal surveys identified fatigue among the airline's 1,200 finance staffers as a particular concern, she added.

While testing and implementing the technology was important, getting the finance team to accept the new working approach and assist in the transformation was just as large a task, Young said.

Many Qantas finance employees have long experience in their field, although retention and hiring were also a concern. "It really is a reasonably tough environment to get out there and hire quality and experienced people to help do this stuff," Young said.

The airline has used a Balanced Scorecard approach to set key performance indicators and identify goals. The transformation project is scheduled to continue until at least 2008. "You simply can't do all this stuff in one hit," Young said.

Pressure on the finance team has increased considerably since the announcement last December of Airline Partners Australia's proposed buyout of the airline. If the buyout does go through, the finance transformation will help prepare the airline for any compliance requirements under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Young said.

Angus Kidman, of ZDNet Australia, traveled to Orlando as a guest of Hyperion.

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