New IBM framework targets transportation sector

LAS VEGAS—IBM Corp. is betting on the air and rail transportation industry as “a major growth opportunity” with its announcement of a new software framework designed to alleviate the usual traveller headaches caused by overburdened systems.

The IBM Travel and Transportation Framework is the latest of IBM’s industry frameworks that combines IBM software and guidance on process models into a platform upon which customer-specific applications can be developed, deployed and managed.

The driver behind the framework is the massive amount of government investment that countries are feeding into transportation systems around the world, said John Soyring, vice-president of solutions and software with IBM, during a press conference at the Impact 2010 conference.

Much of the development of the framework is taking place in China, a country where a considerable amount of effort is being fed into building a high-speed rail system. “In China alone, once their high-speed passenger rail is in place and the reservation system is up and running, it will add 60 per cent additional transactions worldwide,” said Soyring. “It’s just a massive volume.”

Based on open standards and designed for high-volume systems, the framework has five focuses: reservation system modernization; asset optimization; safety, security and surveillance; multi-channel sales and service; and, operations control systems.Read our Day One coverage of IBM Impact 2010

With reservation system modernization, for instance, the framework helps customers deal with the typically old and monolithic nature of such systems.

The framework also accelerates IBM’s vision of a smarter planet by recognizing that what customers need is not more hardware and software, said Raul Arce, vice-president for travel and transportation with IBM. “They need to manage those outcomes,” said Arce. “How do we move over to the business of running the business as opposed to just IT?”

Arce said efficient travel and transportation processes are important considering the planet’s population has exploded to 7 billion and high-speed rail systems will triple in the next two years or so.

One company that is using the framework is travel transaction engine provider Travelport. The company’s senior vice-president and chief information officer Mark Ryan said the Travelport Web site counted 102 million travel searches in 2009 and gets 1.2 billion daily visitor transactions.

A system modernization initiative, said Ryan, requires guidance to ensure things are accomplished systematically. “You want a blueprint, a framework, for which to be able to chunk these modernization efforts,” he said. “You don’t want to go into the big bang theory because you will fail.”

The framework, said Ryan, proved useful in not only outlining what should be done, but also in identifying what traps to not fall into.

IBM Impact 2010 continues through Friday.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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