Is Cloud Based Open Source Software the Right Option for Airlines and Airports?

24/09/2012 12:29 | Updated 21 November 2012
  • Judith Lewis Blogs about chocolate, runs an integrated digital consultancy, and is co-ordinator for London Girl Geek Dinners

In this day and age of huge pressures on airlines and airports alike to move more people than ever from A to B safely and quickly, is moving to a cloud-based, open-source software solution really the right one for these businesses to make? One of the world leaders in software solutions to the air industry thinks so and is trying to convince not just their customers but the industry as a whole that this is the future, and the future is safe, secure and robust.

Recently Amadeus released a white paper and interactive animation about the history of cloud computing and open source software and their role within utilising both these concepts. From within this animation, a viewer can also download their whitepaper about open source software, cloud computing and their role in Amadeus' own software which runs airlines, airports and more. From checking what flights are available through to load balancing on a plane as well as everything and more between, their software is rather vital to ensure a smooth journey. But given the nature of open source software and the perceived vulnerabilities of cloud computing, I was initially skeptical.

Here is the animation and if you wish, you can download the free whitepaper which goes into more detail:

I can see the allure of cloud computing. It provides a faster fail-over, more up-time, easier global system access and a whole host of other advantages. Just because it is "cloud" does not mean it is "vulnerable". In fact, with distributed systems with redundancy, they seem to be less vulnerable than "cloud computing" on a popular platform which, at times, seems to have a single point of failure (this may not be the case, it is merely external perception). This up-time, in something as critical as airline systems and airport software access, is extremely attractive and I would suggest essential.

Cloud computing is, of course, not new as the paper outlines. By charting the history of cloud computing I really think it'll open a lot of the airline industry's eyes as to how old a technology it is (in terms of how new cloud computing seems) and also how safe it is. I'm probably preaching to the choir here a little but before you stored your music on iCloud and used SaaS solutions, had you given much thought to it? Yes, the airline industry is well late to the party but I think that is more because they were working towards it safely and securely, rather than being late to the party. They are, of course, dealing with highly sensitive information on systems that if they go down can stop planes from flying. This move to cloud-computing for some systems only demonstrates how dedicated they are to better than 99.99% up-time.

Open sourcing the software also may seem risky but they make a compelling argument in the animation and white paper. They aren't opening their core software up to all and sundry to work on improving (which is what I had initially wondered) but rather enabling free and open development on their framework upon which Amadeus IT Group's web solutions are based (called ARIA which is a trademark). This, they feel, will help them service the diverse needs of clients through enabling them to design and build their own. This also ensures those used to working in this way are able to continue building on open source platforms.

So is cloud computing and open source the wrong move for something as highly sensitive as airlines and airports? I'd argue that it is high time that they move into the 21st century and make the great leap out of the 70s - but that's me and my opinion. What do you think? Is it safe? Should they stay proprietary? What are the dangers or benefits in your eyes?