Migrating platforms for improved BI and lowered mainframe costs
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has been has been at the forefront of implementing modern solutions. Launching shortly after the conclusion of World War II with flights to Europe, it quickly expanded, with routes to the Far East and South America.
It quickly emerged as a fore runner in the adoption of technology to improve service to its passengers. This included pioneering polar travel with the polar path gyro device (to overcome the problems of flying over the magnetic North Pole) in the early 1950s, being first airline to put the Caravelle twin-jet into scheduled commercial service in 1959 and being the first airline to introduce an "instant booking" electronic reservations system in Europe in 1965.
As mainframes became an important part of business, SAS invested heavily in an IBM mainframe environment in the 1980s. As needs arose, Cobol programmers wrote hundreds of mainframe applications. Although the mainframe provides a reliable and robust solution, it was not able to meet current business needs in the area of reporting and analysis on data stored across various databases.
In 2003, SAS formed four independent companies to serve Norway, Sweden Denmark and international flights. As the largest airline in Scandinavia, SAS was traditionally a businessmen’s airline but recently moved into being an airline for all types of passengers. This increased the need to be able to respond quickly to customer needs and market trends. With flights to 150 destinations, 32,000 staff, 40 million passengers travelling with SAS annually, the demands of such a large scale business required it modernise its systems to meet an evolving
MigrationWare, a Cape Town based IT-company, has completed a project assisting the Denmark based Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) Nordic to migrate its data warehouse suite of applications off its mainframe to a Windows hardware platform.
João de Oliveira, MigrationWare Sales Director, says the SAS IT team faced the challenge of resource conflicts between transactional systems and data analysis applications on the mainframe. As a result, the performance of analysis applications accessing the data warehouse was often impeded because priority was given to transactional systems.
"Data analyses on the mainframe could take as long as six hours to perform which meant that reports were only delivered the next day to analysts. This prevented the timeous access to data, slowing up the business’ ability to make decisions," he says.
One of the options available to SAS was to re-write all the mainframe applications for a modern platform, built around Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server. However, de Oliveira says the cost implication of this as well as the time it would have taken meant this was simply not viable. MigrationWare, together with its UK based partner, Micro Focus, provided a "lift and shift" solution, migrating the data warehouse suite of applications to a Windows hardware platform.
Micro Focus products were chosen to capitalise on existing Cobol programming expertise. Micro Focus's Revolve analysis tool was also used to map out the viability of the migration from the mainframe to the Windows environment.
"MigrationWare was able to take SAS's data warehouse applications and modify them where needed to ensure they functioned in a Windows environment. It also provided the technology to emulate mainframe behaviour to ensure that the data warehousing applications functioned optimally in their new environment," de Oliveira says.
Furthermore, the 500 Cobol programs and 250 DB2 tables were migrated without any significant modifications to the applications.
Per Petterson, System Manager: Enterprise Data Warehouse at SAS, says migrating SAS' data warehousing applications off the mainframe into a Microsoft environment not only saved us the cost and time of re-writing the applications, but gave our programmers the flexibility of a Windows environment.
"This opened up the use of Business Intelligence (BI) tools to the business for the analysis of data and gave SAS the ability to quickly analyse trends within the business and make business decisions based on the data," he says.
Results and benefits:
De Oliveira says the results of the migration included a reduction in associated mainframe costs, while lowering cost of ownership of the company's hardware.
"Reports that had previously taken six hours to perform now could be done in two hours, allowing analysts to have more timeous access to data in order to make critical business decisions," he says.
The self-help environment for SAS business analysts now allows them to quickly design their own queries and reports to respond to competitor action and market trends as opposed to waiting for an external vendor to create the reports, as happened previously, de Oliveira adds. This flexibility enabled SAS to improve its relationships with its customers and increase per-customer revenues.
Petterson says SAS can now respond far quicker to market trends.
"Detailed analysis of customer behaviour, such as Internet reservations and check-ins, call centre interactions can now be performed. The impact of flight delays and cancellations on SAS customers has also been reduced. And the migration into a Windows environment has resulted in a 50 percent reduction in the total data warehousing cost," he says.
MigrationWare specialises in modernising legacy code and aging IT infrastructure by transforming and extending existing valuable investments in IT onto contemporary, open, more cost-effective environments or software languages. Through its commitment to automating the conversion and migration process, MigrationWare reduces to a minimum the costs and risks associated with IT rejuvenation projects.
MigrationWare and Micro Focus:
MigrationWare is a strategic partner of Micro Focus. MigrationWare's products supplement Micro Focus's offerings which are distributed by Micro Focus worldwide. MigrationWare also partners with Micro Focus on a number of international clients and distributes and supports Micro Focus software in Southern Africa.