Voice of Experience: Figuring the Right Price

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2004-09-01 Print this article Print

Robert Wiseman, chief technology officer of Cendant Travel Distribution Services, figures his company saved $6.2 million in labor and software-licensing fees last year by standardizing on Intel-based servers.

Robert Wiseman
Cendant Travel Distribution Services
Parsippany, N.J.

Manager's Profile: In charge of technology strategy and deployment for the 4,800-employee Cendant unit that provides travel services. The 14 brands of Travel Distribution Services (TDS) include Galileo International and CheapTickets.com.

Pumping Iron: In 2001, TDS was running its fare-pricing application, which searches fares from 500 airlines to calculate a ticket price, on an IBM zSeries mainframe running IBM's Transaction Processing Facility (TPF) operating system. Wiseman says it's still one of the fastest high-transaction systems available—it can handle up to 8,000 transactions per second—but its ongoing maintenance costs were "prohibitive."

His Project: TDS in July 2003 started migrating the fare-pricing system to IBM xSeries servers running Red Hat's version of the Linux operating system; it now has about 100. (The unit still uses the IBM mainframe for other applications, such as flight and hotel-room bookings.) By standardizing on a repeatable, "cookie-cutter" configuration for Intel servers, Wiseman says, TDS saved $6.2 million last year related to labor and software licensing.

Sun Downer: Before TDS rolled out the xSeries servers, it tested the fare application on a 24-processor Sun Microsystems server running that vendor's Solaris operating system. Wiseman says the clustered Intel servers, which process an average of 400 to 500 transactions per second, are three times as fast as the Sun box and 90% less expensive.

Break the Chains: Besides cost, Wiseman opted for Intel-based Linux servers to avoid being locked into proprietary technologies. With a mainframe, he says, "you're caught in an awkward situation where you have to completely rely on a single vendor." But he adds that no technology has the edge forever: If Sun's servers "suddenly became the best price/performance system, we'd move to that."


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