Quantas chooses AIX to replace Linux

Airline plans to shift the platform running its finance systems from Linux to IBM's Unix variant AIX, citing stability issues

Qantas will next month shift the underlying platform running its internal finance systems from Linux to IBM's Unix variant AIX as part of its wide-ranging eQ transformation project.

"We're moving from a Linux platform to an IBM AIX environment — we did that to address some stability issues we were having," said Suzanne Young, Qantas group general manager for finance improvement and segmentation. The decision was made last year, as part of the planning for the rollout.

The re-platforming project is currently in the final stages of planning, and is scheduled to go live in May.

Young made the comment in brief during a speech at business intelligence vendor Hyperion's Solutions 2007 conference in Orlando in the US this week, and did not clarify it further. Qantas could not be contacted by press time.

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 new kid on the block.

Local poultry producer Bartter Enterprises, for example, had previously been using HP'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 deliver more efficient 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 around Oracle's 11i database and applications, Hyperion's financial management and consolidation tools and a Teradata data warehouse. Oracle flagged 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. Qantas's original plans called for a totally Oracle-based solution, but that was subsequently shifted to a multi-vendor approach to better match Qantas's 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 amongst Qantas's 1,200 finance staff 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 staff had long-ranging experience; however, retention and hiring were also concerns. "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 the Balanced Scorecard approach to set key performance indicators and identify goals. The full transformation project is scheduled to run 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 ahead, the finance transformation will help prepare the airline for any compliance requirements under Sarbanes-Oxley, Young said.

Angus Kidman travelled to Orlando as a guest of Hyperion.