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Reaching New Heights: NEC helps All Nippon Airways upgrade systems to expand into the global market.

by Alison Weiss

Executives at All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest passenger airline, know that the airline business is rapidly changing. As part of the Star Alliance, the leading global airline network, ANA must have systems that link with overseas airline companies. In addition, customers increasingly want to make reservations and purchase tickets online.

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In order to meet these new demands—and continue to grow the international business—ANA management needed a standardized infrastructure for linking mission-critical enterprise systems, both internally and externally.

“It is essential to build a durable infrastructure that allows prompt responses, not only to risks that are beyond our control—such as currency exchange, weather, and natural disasters—but also drastic changes in the business environment,” says Akihiro Yamaguchi, team leader of the Planning Management Team at ANA.

Recently, ANA IT staff decided to work with Oracle PartnerNetwork Specialized Partner NEC to create a standardized enterprise infrastructure. In addition to having been an Oracle partner for more than two decades, NEC has vast experience with mission-critical business domains and was named Japan Partner of the Year in 2011 as part of the Oracle Excellence Awards.

NEC’s team recommended Oracle Service Bus, a lightweight integration technology that can integrate, virtualize, and manage services in a service-oriented architecture (SOA), as the core software for ANA’s infrastructure. Oracle Service Bus can process the differences between systems, using a variety of protocols and datatypes, and loosely couple the services vital to the SOA.

The knowledge gained during this project will be useful. . . for other clients that are considering the use of SOA.

Instead of using a traditional “point-to-multipoint” relationship to make connections between systems, Oracle Service Bus enables complicated systems to be connected one-to-one. Such simplified links between systems make them easier to manage, and also enable systems to be added simply through connection to the common infrastructure.

In addition, Oracle Service Bus enabled ANA staff to connect systems without degrading performance or availability levels. This was a critical concern to the airline’s executives, who knew that ANA’s domestic seating reservation system requires a high level of performance and availability, particularly during busy travel seasons.

The new common system infrastructure was put into operation at the end of October 2010, and by February 2011 approximately 70 systems had been successfully migrated to the new infrastructure. “The migration plan was prepared and implemented smoothly,” says Yamaguchi.

Now, the airline has a reliable, highly available interface to link enterprise systems internally and externally. The implementation also lowered associated management costs by as much as 30 percent.

With standardized interfaces and automated testing tools, ANA’s team can now implement new interfaces in as few as five days, instead of the one or two months previously required to complete the process. In 2012 the airline’s IT workers also began migrating passenger systems.

ANA’s successful implementation provides a powerful model, says Seira Takahashi, IT Software Division chief at NEC. “This was an important project for NEC,” says Takahashi. “The knowledge gained during this project will be useful not only in future projects pursued by ANA but also for other clients that are considering the use of SOA.”

Alison Weiss is a regular contributor to Profit.

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