April 27, 2007 6:36 AM PDT

Qantas ditches Linux for AIX

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.

See more CNET content tagged:
Hyperion Solutions Corp., IBM AIX, airline, finance, Oracle Corp.

11 comments

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So they're the one...
I guess this is newsworthy. Aren't 99.99% of companies are moving the other way?

Stability? Linux? The Netcraft stats wouldn't tend to support that assertion.
Posted by directorblue (148 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who knows what they're running & how
Since they're not elaborating who really knows what they're running, what it's running on and how. Be interesting to know what their operational system & GDS equivalents are running on.
Posted by dinkeldorf (478 comments )
Link Flag
Actually
Linux in its existing market is declining. Linux is still hitting the 24%-27% of the market being voided by old big iron.

We will most likley see more and more of these type of stories over the next few years.

Its not really about Linux more so that the distro/support side is becoming more and more fractured making more and more companies frustrated.

I know when we looked at a back end upgrade on some systems here last year. We thought about keeping some of the back end db servers on Linux, but then end cost of support maintenace was actually higher then switching.

Red Hat these days is not seeing a growth in market they are seeing a growth in support mainteance contracts.

Now looking at Netcraft it only tracks Web servers. And if you notice the stats Linux Apache based systems have declined from near 80% of the sites surveyed to the 58% mark.

Over the same period MS based servers in the hosted market went fro 22% to 36% most of that market gained at the expense of Linux Appache.

Lastly over the past 2 years linux has moved away from stable, to a concern. Comercial versions are some what more stable, but you then run into the cost factor.
Posted by wolivere (780 comments )
Link Flag
99.99% ???
Maybe companies that traditionally ran Unix are moving to Linux - it's very difficult to get good statistics but as far as Netcraft is concerned - as has already been pointed out - the trend for Web servers (not all server types) has in recent times been in the other direction. For Secure Web servers - last time I looked IIS and Apache were neck to neck (you have to pay for this info from Netcraft - some Linux users have an aversion for paying for anything even if it has good value ;-) ).
Posted by jasmred (14 comments )
Link Flag
wolivere makes a good point
The current 2.6 Linux kernel is not know for its stability. See:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/Linux+kernel+getting+buggier%2C+leader+says/2100-7344_3-6069363.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/Linux+kernel+getting+buggier%2C+leader+says/2100-7344_3-6069363.html</a>

This is a byproduct of Linux adding the feature richness and scalability needed to run the back-end applications.

However, I believe this was an architectural stability issue rather than a Linux stability issue. The scale of this project may have exceeded the capacity of the a distributed Linux/x86 cluster.

I would not be surprised if the size of a distributed application deployed across hundreds of small x86 servers was simply too complex to be manageable.

As for dinkeldorf's question, the article says they are running Oracle Applications. They were attempting to get the architecture working on a Linux on x86 architecture.

The big question is what portion is moving to AIX, and what, if any is staying on Linux. It might just be the database tier which is moving to AIX.
Posted by meh130 (145 comments )
Reply Link Flag
As I understand,
Linux is fine for smaller machines (up to 4 CPU), but does not scale in performance to larger machines. UNIX does much better with the "large" servers that typically run databases i.e. 32 to 64 CPU's.
Also, having dedicated support from a large company is very important to a corporation. Keeps management happy.
Posted by Marcus Westrup (630 comments )
Link Flag
You said the magic word
Oracle Product - it just isn't working for them.
Ever tried using the HR management system they built and deployed on the intranet?

Unstable, poor usability and it can't even cope with intranet traffic that it shows system errors frequently - ugh...dreadful.

By the way - did I mention that the oracle products were given for free - obviously there's a catch there somewhere.
Posted by qf_mrniceguy (4 comments )
Link Flag
simply a matter of scale.
It isn't so surprising that Qantas would make the shift. They've been growing steadily since the early 00's and AIX is more scalable at the higher end (it runs on bigger iron).

It's the same story with Solaris, which tends to be more cost effective at mid-large to large scale transactions processing.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nope - simply cold feet.
Once the other departments realised that this platform / project was a dud.

No one else wanted to migrate to it. Not unless they fixed their issues... current issues, it still seems.

Anyway, I do hope that QF IT recovers from this. They have good IT group there...unfortunately most are at the bottom of the food chain. They seem to be always left with fixing bad decisions.
Posted by qf_mrniceguy (4 comments )
Link Flag
Understand the real truth behind this....
It amuses me when I read this article. In particular the quote - "(We're shifting to the IBM AIX environment) to address some stability issues we were having"

Remember the Ex-Qantas CIO? Who supposedly left for a better opportunity somewhere else?

Well, this is the fruit of a decision made by IT bigwigs to shift QF onto the Oracle Platform - this platform was in its early stages back then - it has not been proven. I've heard of other companies who had projects where they tried using this platform and failed. When they found out about its instability - they bailed out. QF on the other hand - didn't, you can take a guess as to why.

Up to this time, the whole eQ project has not been able to deliver a platform for which they can run their finance systems reliably - has there been any?

And to think they have a company website where bookings are made which is accessed by millions of users. Guess what platform the website is running on? Its definitely not the big O.
Posted by qf_mrniceguy (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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