Travel firm looks to take off with app integration

LibGO Travel Inc. has to deal with competition from companies it doesn’t even consider competitors. But lately the vacation-bookings firm started using software that it hopes will give it an edge in this battle against the once-removed.

LibGO, based in the U.S., is a traditional vacation-bookings company. It has a retail side, Liberty Travel, and a wholesale division, GOGO Worldwide Vacations. These days LibGO faces competition from the likes of Expedia Inc. and other online travel companies.

But “we don’t really compete with them,” said Danny Hudson, LibGO’s vice-president. “We feel market pressure because of all the advertising and marketing they do.”

LibGO is banking on improved information processing to help it fend off these Web-based, almost-competitors. In the past little while the company has been migrating its human resources and financial applications from a Unisys Corp. mainframe platform onto an Oracle Corp. system composed of the software maker’s E-Business Suite, a set of apps designed to help companies learn more about their own operations.

With Oracle’s Self Service program, LibGO hopes to build on the intellectual capital currently locked away in the minds of individual travel agents. Hudson said the software would let agents exchange information, expertise about vacation destinations, thereby distributing the erstwhile contained data to improve LibGO’s customer relations.

LibGO was one of Oracle’s client success stories at OpenWorld, the software firm’s gathering for users to learn about its latest tech achievements, held in San Francisco from Dec. 5 to 9. Hudson spoke about his company’s experience with Oracle’s enterprise info-digging apps during a panel about Business Integration, a new set of high-tech tools that makes it easy to get info from one computer system into another.

Oracle said Business Integration includes an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) — an increasingly common integration tool. ESBs provide data routing and filtering to help get information to the right application.

Business Integration also offers business process management functions based on the service-oriented architecture and the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) — an XML-based tech tongue that essentially defines how cooperating software is supposed to handle specific business processes.

Business Integration has business activity monitoring capabilities so enterprises can scrutinize performance, and B2B integration with industry-specific info exchanges like RosettaNet, UCCNet and SWIFT.

According to John Rymer, vice-president of Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., an IT advisory firm, Business Integration puts Oracle in the hunt for software makers that specialize in enterprise application integration (EAI).

“They’re growing,” Rymer said of Oracle in the EAI space. “A lot of customers are questioning why they should acquire this kind of technology from a TIBCO (Software Inc.) or a SeeBeyond (Technology Corp.) when they can get it from Oracle,” particularly if those customers happen to be Oracle app users already.

For LibGO’s part, the firm uses Oracle’s InterConnect to move information from customized apps on the Unisys system to the Oracle environment. Hudson said his company plans to spend 24 months undertaking the migration. HR, finance and payroll are done. Next year: booking and the Self Service app for employees.

Oracle announced other initiatives at OpenWorld. On Dec. 7 the firm said the second version (Release 2) of its 10g database would be available mid-2005. This new iteration provides quicker query processing and index creation than did its predecessor, and augments disaster recovery by automating backups-to-tape — an addition to the forerunner’s automatic backup-to-disk function.

Oracle also unveiled Enterprise Manager 10g Release 2, which has new grid control functions (“Oracle Grid Control”) meant to simplify app-management in distributed-computing environments. And Oracle presented Application Sever 10g Release 2. It supports J2EE 1.4, a Java dialect that developers can use to create Web Services apps.

Oracle also announced Project MegaGrid, a joint effort including PC and server maker Dell Inc., data storage system provider EMC Corp. and microprocessor manufacturer Intel Corp. that will see the quartet design and test grid computing technology.

Asked why MegaGrid leaves out Sun Microsystems Inc., a company heavily involved in grid computing R&D, Dell’s senior vice-president of products Jeff Clarke said the endeavour includes companies equally committed to a standards-based, non-proprietary computing future.

“It’s not clear to me that other companies are aligned with that strategy,” Clarke said.

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