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Sabre Bids Mainframe Adieu With Unix Move

Four-year program to migrate applications from IBM to Unix servers begins.

InformationWeek Staff

October 4, 2002

2 Min Read

Sabre Holdings Corp. last week revealed it has begun to migrate its well-known airfare-pricing application from its home on IBM mainframes to Hewlett-Packard NonStop servers. The application migration is the first part of a four-year program to switch Sabre's entire pricing, scheduling, and seating system from IBM's proprietary transaction-processing technology to Unix systems using relational-database technology.

The Sabre airfare-pricing application continuously updates about 20 million fares and 1.5 million schedules to provide travelers and travel agents with real-time data. The app evaluates billions of potential fare combinations for each requested origin, destination, and nearby airports that may offer lower fares.


Craig Murphy


Sabre pays if it messes up, Murphy says.

Sabre's pricing application is critical for it to compete with Expedia.com and Galileo International. NonStop servers will cut the cost of running Sabre's airfare-pricing application by about 40%, says Craig Murphy, Sabre's chief technology officer, though he wouldn't provide specific figures.

IBM's mainframe system has been reliable over the past 25 years, but NonStop will let his company better plan for the future, Murphy says. It's easier for him to hire programmers proficient in languages such as C++ and Java than to maintain aging code written in assembler language and C.

Availability is key. If Sabre's system goes down and an airline's pricing changes, it's still responsible for selling the tickets at the price a customer has agreed to pay. "We have to pay the difference if we mess up," Murphy says.

Service provider EDS will maintain the NonStop servers, but Sabre will own them. Sabre outsourced its IT operations to EDS in March as part of a 10-year, $2.2 billion contract.

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