Embrace open systems to drive innovation, says Amadeus

The travel industry has been urged to embrace open source technology by GDS Amadeus which says it is 12 to 18 months away from completing its switch away from closed proprietary systems.

The firms believes that open systems are the key to unlocking innovation and drive greater efficiencies in the travel sector and has commission a report entitled ‘Open for business’.

In the 22-page document Professor Jim Norton, a leading expert on open source technology, argues that open source technology is now sufficiently developed to run business critical systems.

Amadeus has been switching to open source technology for over a decade and says it is only 12 to 18 months away from completing the project.

Professor Norton said: “Open source has now a substantial track record and has reached maturity. It’s not a play thing anymore, it’s worthy of use in business critical systems.

“Open source is having a profound effect. Most of what’s happening on the web today has been related to open source.

“The plethora of web apps, the ability to do all sorts of new things is being driven by open source. There are very substantial benefits in this beyond the business community.

“For companies it more a question of how much rather than if they embrace open source.”

One of the benefits of open source technology is that it is available to a huge community of developers around the world who are able to use the platform to develop new products.

As well as investing in research and development this community also acts like a huge IT outsourcing facility fixing bugs and problems as they arise and policing the system from outside attack.

Speaking at a press preview of the report in London last week Professor Norton said there was no fundamental reason why open source systems were more vulnerable than closed systems.

And he said the advantages in a fast moving world should outweigh any concerns firms have of switching away from existing systems.

“There is no single community that can seek to out-invest the creativity that’s going on in the open source community,” he said.

“Systems are never bug free whether you are open or closed. But one question is how quickly can you resolve a problem once it arises. You have this massive open source community now which leaps out at problems and proposes solutions very fast.

Professor Norton warned the transition to open source can be “quite challenging” and firms who switch must take account of all the costs associated, like changes in business processes and training.

Herve Couturier, Amadeus executive vice-president of development, said: “We wanted to show that open source systems have matured now and are capable of handling high level, high volume mission critical applications which a couple of years ago we not deemed feasible.

“Today we are living proof that it works. We have made a massive investment in decommissioning our legacy systems and it works.

“The benefits we were anticipating when we moved are now materialising in terms of speed of innovation, cost avoidance, attraction of new talent the motivation of staff.”

As part of a new consultative approach from Amadeus the GDS ha started talking to travel agent and travel management company clients about their systems.

Amadeus believes through open source it can take away much of the day to day cost and time updating and fire-fighting problems leaving clients to concentrate on developing and innovating.

Professor Norton added firms that follow Amadeus’ lead in moving to open source will be able to move some functions outside of their businesses.

“This will hopefully lead to greater innovation,” he added. 

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