Qantas silent about Solaris to Linux shift

Despite trumpeting a significant migration from Unix to Linux as part of 10-year IBM Corp. global services outsourcing agreement inked last year, Qantas Airways Ltd. is reluctant to disclose details about the scale of the project.

As early as November 2002, two Qantas employees said at an OracleWorld conferernce in the U.S. that the company was eyeing a switch from an Oracle database deployment on Sun Microsystems’ Solaris to a service provider model featuring the database on Linux.

The attraction of Linux is its price-performance, according to the attendees.

Qantas’ principal architect for technology and integration Ross Goodwin told Computerworld’s sister publication Infoworld: “It’s a pretty convincing story.”

Two years later, CIO Fiona Balfour told Computerworld: “widespread deployment of Linux” was being considered throughout the organization, particularly where Unix machines are used.

Balfour has stated to the media that the number of Unix servers involved is around 600.

According to IBM, the outsourcing agreement with Qantas involves migration of the company’s servers to a “shared infrastructure” at an IBM data centre in Sydney, which will enable Qantas to access processing power and storage capacity in an on-demand fashion.

Under a “variable pricing model”, Qantas will pay only for the computing power it uses, which, according to IBM, has the potential to “significantly” reduce the airline’s IT costs.

Sources familiar with Qantas’ plans have indicated that among the changes, is the migration of a core enterprise application from Solaris on Sparc to Linux on Intel’s Itanium2 processor.

Questions like motives for moving to Linux, the architecture and type of Linux systems, and the core applications the migration involve, all remain unanswered by the airline.

A spokesperson for Qantas said the airline “just doesn’t have anything to say” on the matter and that it is too premature to comment, even about the company’s future Linux strategy.

James Eagleton, Sun Microsystems’ newly appointed Solaris product manager for Australia and New Zealand, declined to comment about migration strategies of specific customers, saying he is “not familiar” with Qantas’ specific situation.

“I will talk to customers about infrastructure strategies to increase adoption of Solaris,” Eagleton said. “Over a three-year scenario, including licences and support, a two-way Solaris system can cost 22 to 58 percent less than Red Hat Enterprise Linux.”

Eagleton said he expects strong uptake of the new Solaris 10, which is progressively being open sourced, because the x86 port is built from the same source tree and application migration involves a straight recompile.

“There are now 270 certified platforms for Solaris 10 and anyone can download it and use it for free,” he said.

— With files from Paul Krill and Steven Deare