IBM Flies Through United Upgrade

Jim Wagner

Updated · Apr 01, 2002

Officials at IBM's global services division say they are
flying through the upgrade of United Airline's conversion to DB2 and
outsourcing services, transferring one terrabyte (TB) to Big Blue's eServer
Cluster 1600 servers in the past six months.

According to John Charlson, IBM spokesperson, the time it's taken to reach
the 1TB milestone airline is noteworthy.

“That's a very fast turnaround since we began the conversion of United's
database six months ago,” he said. “Not many companies out there could
have handled it. Some of our biggest competitors, like Microsoft and Oracle don't even have customers who
need this scale of service.”

Charlson wouldn't put a dollar figure on the contract, which was struck
last year, but said a contract of this size is usually more than $10
million all told.

IBM has been working with the airline industry since the 1960s, Charlson
said, with most of the international and U.S. carriers already under their
belt. Only lately have the companies been upgrading to IBM's DB2 database
solution to streamline their operations and put the mountain of data
they're aquired to good use. According to United figures, the carrier logs
1,700 flights in a day.

He points to a study by the University of California-Berkeley, which finds
that in the next three years, more information will be published on the Web
than in the first 300,000 years of civilization.

“The airlines want to use the information they've gathered to fill up their
planes, using customer relationship management (CRM) tools to find out
which flights are most popular and what people's flying habits are,”
Charlson said.

Conversion of United's remaining information, 5 TB's worth, will be
accomplished in the next 18 months, IBM officials said. By way of
comparison, the Library of Congress has 8 TB's worth of material and in
2001, 11 TB's of email passed through the Internet ether worldwide.

Charlson said United officials expect a return on investment (ROI) on their
$10 million software upgrade in the next one to two years. By outsourcing
the CRM service, they say, it's not just a possibility but an eventuality.

“We were confident that IBM could deliver a complete, integrated solution
that could scale to meet our infrastructure demands,” said Eric Dean,
United chief information officer. “When we're finished, United Airlines
will be well positioned as the carrier to provide more efficient operations
and responsive customer policies.”

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