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News Scan

* Sabre Pours Millions Into Technology Upgrade
Sabre Holdings Corp., the travel-service provider and operator of the massive Sabre airline reservations system, is replacing some of its aging mainframes with NonStop Himalaya servers and database software from Compaq in a deal valued at more than $100 million, the companies disclosed last week.

The deal is one of the largest single technology investments Sabre has made and will culminate in one of the world's largest installations of NonStop Himalaya systems. The NonStop Himalaya systems were developed by Tandem Computers, which Compaq acquired in September 1997.

Sabre will migrate its mainframe-based "air shopping system" applications to the Himalaya servers during the next three to four years, says Jean Allen, technology solutions VP at Sabre. Customers and travel agents use the applications to search for available seats and air fares. Sabre's booking and fulfillment applications will continue to run on mainframes for the foreseeable future, Allen says.

The first phase of the project, involving the installation of up to a dozen 16-processor Himalaya servers, is scheduled for completion during the first quarter of next year. The new technology will reduce the system's cost of ownership by 40% and cut by 75% the amount of time needed to update fares, seat availability, and airfare rules.

"This gives us the ability to realize lower costs and greater developer productivity without giving up 7-by-24 availability," Allen says. On a typical day, more than 300,000 changes are made to the 45 million fares stored in the system's database, according to Sabre. Sometimes as many as 2 million fare changes are made at times when airlines offer airfare specials.

--Rick Whiting ([email protected])

Boeing Sharpens Its Fiscal Sense
The Boeing Co. is using Business Objects SA's WebIntelligence query, reporting, and analysis software to manage the finances of the multibillion-dollar International Space Station project. With the project generating 1 million financial records every month, the software will have its work cut out for it.

Boeing's Space and Communication Division in Houston, which is the prime contractor for the space station, began using WebIntelligence in June to track all project costs and stay within the budgetary guidelines set by NASA. WebIntelligence analyzes information in a data warehouse based on Informatica Corp.'s PowerCenter, which in turn gets its data from PeopleSoft Inc. financial applications.

WebIntelligence is running in parallel with the project's old financial-analysis system, a patchwork of spreadsheets and disparate databases that provided managers with only a consolidated view of expenditures, says Bessie Estep, IT and data-systems director at the Houston operation. With WebIntelligence, managers "can explore all the details down to the lowest level," she says.

Later this month, the old system will be shut down and 125 managers and analysts at multiple Boeing facilities will rely solely on the WebIntelligence system. Boeing wouldn't disclose the project's cost.

--Rick Whiting ([email protected])

CompuCom Offers Wireless Test Drive
CompuCom Systems Inc. says it has an answer for companies that want to evaluate wireless technology in real-world situations without incurring the risks associated with large-scale mobile deployments. Under the systems integrator's new Mobile and Wireless Test Drive program, CompuCom will install a wireless infrastructure that businesses can test for 30 days for a nominal labor charge.

The infrastructure consists of hardware and software from CompuCom and its partners. Compaq is providing iPaq Pocket PC handhelds; Infowave Software Inc. offers software to enable secure data access; and Sierra Wireless Inc. manufactures the wireless modems. Companies participating in the program get access to wireless E-mail applications and airtime through Sprint's national PCS network. CompuCom offers wireless consulting, integration, infrastructure, and outsourcing services to companies that want to move to a full deployment. The program is open to large companies and government institutions that maintain their own IT staffs.

But some analysts question the effectiveness of such a program. Says Ken Dulaney, VP for mobile computing at Gartner, "It would typically take a lot longer than 30 days to determine how supporting wireless devices will impact your organization."

--Paul McDougall ([email protected])

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