SITA has unveiled a new initiative to develop a community cloud computing backbone for the industry that it believes could generate at least $100 million annually for the air transport industry in cost savings.
The IT and network provider will roll out its first cloud-computing applications in June. The technology essentially reduces the need for IT hardware by hosting services in a network.
“It is about using IT resources that are remote from you through a network,” explains Gregory Ouillon, SITA’s vice-president heading the air transport cloud programme.
“From a business standpoint, it is a cost saving. You consume it as a service.”
He says it gives airlines and airports the flexibility to quickly adjust IT needs as required. “For example, by deploying new applications on virtual servers and by providing access to desktops in the cloud to its ground operations staff and partners, an airline will be able to adapt its IT to route expansion, disruption or traffic spikes at lower cost.”
SITA chief executive Francesco Violante says: “We believe the air transport industry requires something more specific, a vertical private cloud operated for them. SITA has a community ethos of providing solutions to the air transport industry and providing the air transport industry cloud is the logical next step for SITA.”
The cloud is based on six regional virtual data centres. Investment in the programme is already underway, with around $50 million invested in its new data centres. “We plan to invest [another] $40 to $50 million in the infrastructure,” adds Violante. “The investment will be linked to the usage. We don’t need to do [this] investment up front.”
Roll-out of the cloud initiative begins this summer. SITA’s senior vice-president, products and solutions business division, Rene Azoulai, says: “We will talk to airlines and airports. There is no big bang, we will be able to do it at a pace which works for them. We will initiate two sets of services in 2010, desktop as a service in June. The second will be infrastructure as a service.” More services will roll out towards the end of the year and SITA also plans to host third-party supplier applications over the cloud.
The scale of the cost benefits to the industry depends on the extent and which services airlines and airports switch to the cloud. “If you think of infrastructure, we believe through the cloud, the cost savings could be $100 million [annually],” he says. But he notes other estimates suggest that if the whole industry moved over to cloud computing, the savings potential could be as much as $40-50 million a month.
SITA says several airlines are working with it on proof-of-concept pilots. “There are airlines that will have an interest and I think the first interest will be around the virtualisation of the desktop,” says Violante. “There are some services, like desktop virtualisation, they can see an immediate benefit.”
Virtualisation technology is already being utilised within the sector. The 2010 Airline Business/SITA Airline IT Trends survey
showed 40% of airlines had implemented virtualisation technology within the organisation and two-thirds of carriers planned to by the end of 2011.
Speaking at the Aviation ICT forum in London recently, Gatwick
Airport chairman Sir David Rowlands also highlighted the importance of cloud computing to the sector. “The challenge for all in the aviation industry is to work out how best to make use of the technology that is changing businesses around the world.”