Be More Than A Commodity


IT has always been the backbone of the airline business, and because of globalization fast networks and advanced applications are more important than ever. Airlines are striving to differentiate their brands, increase cross-airline collaboration, and streamline operations. All of these business goals heavily depend on a solid IT infrastructure, but legacy applications and protocols simply cannot keep pace with the performance the industry requires today.

The stakeholders of the air transportation vertical, including aircraft manufacturers, airport operators, and airlines, used to work in silos and were primarily driven by engineering objectives, such as building and operating bigger and faster airplanes. Today, their main goals are happy passengers, streamlined operations, and an engaged workforce. IT is the foundation for achieving all of those goals.

Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques (SITA), the leading IT vendor to the airline industry, and Riverbed Technology have partnered to address the challenges of the evolving airline industry. SITA delivers and manages business solutions for airlines, airports, governments, and global distribution systems (GDS) providers over the world’s most extensive communications network ever built for the exclusive used of the air transport industry. Riverbed ® offers IT solutions that dramatically increase performance of highly specialized airline applications such as reservation systems as well as generic email or file sharing apps.

Airline initiatives, where Riverbed is key:

  • Foster cross-airline collaboration
  • Increase operational efficiency
Foster Collaboration

Foster Cross-airline Collaboration

Challenge: As the airline industry matured and the competition became fiercer, two trends emerged: consolidation and collaboration. In order to effectively compete on the global scale, smaller airlines either merged together (e.g., KLM and Air France, United and Continental) or got acquired by bigger players (e.g., BMI and Brussels Airways by Lufthansa). Simultaneously, even airlines strong enough to operate independently were more inclined to collaborate with partners within the same alliance (e.g., SkyTeam, Star Alliance) to rapidly expand their destination base by co-sharing routes. As a result, airlines have been unifying their IT infrastructures by quickly adopting available off-the-shelf applications. Although the applications could be deployed rapidly, it also meant incurring the cost of high bandwidth consumption. Cross-airline collaboration implies the exchange of large amount of passenger and related data over long distances and often over connections with limited bandwidth. Operating an increasingly complex air transportation ecosystem that connects the networks of different airlines and integrates them with the infrastructure provided by airports and airline suppliers requires new tools for network management and troubleshooting.

How can airlines quickly share big chunks of data with their own local sites as well as partner airlines?

Solution: Symmetric WAN optimization, network visibility, and automated troubleshooting.

Why Riverbed: SteelHead ® WAN optimization solutions accelerate performance of applications up to 100 times by streamlining data and communication protocols. Through deployment of Riverbed SteelHead appliances, the world’s leading airlines achieve up to 80 percent performance improvement of Marlin and Maintenix, two applications critical to managing aviation assets throughout their lifecycle. Geographically dispersed aircraft engineers can now quickly exchange big .CAD files with aircraft schemes and collaborate easily.

With SteelCentral network performance management tools, international airports with 200 external network connections can troubleshoot these complex environments in minutes rather than hour, which is common with legacy network monitoring systems.

Operational Efficiency

Increase Operational Efficiency

Challenge: In order to improve customer experience and foster cross-airline collaboration, airlines are increasingly forced to deploy and maintain high bandwidth consuming and computing heavy applications. Bandwidth is still a costly and scarce resource-- just ask anyone operating from a rural location that is connected via satellite. Smooth operation at rural or remote sites requires IT to have full visibility and control to maximize usage of the limited bandwidth. With greater visibility and awareness, IT managers can accelerate business critical applications with WAN optimization solutions and prioritize them above non-business critical traffic. Occasionally, IT may choose to deploy certain applications locally to ensure performance in the case of unreliable Internet connections.

How can airlines decrease their cost base while maintaining great performance levels?

Solution: Network performance management systems, deep packet inspection (DPI), QoS, and symmetric WAN optimization.

Why Riverbed: With SteelCentral network management solutions, airline HQ can monitor performance at branches to quickly discover bandwidth bottlenecks and their causes (e.g., YouTube) and apply traffic shaping tools if necessary. With SteelHead appliances, a leading international airline managed to reduce their Lotus Notes traffic from the HQ in Asia and local sites in the USA by up to 77 percent. SteelHead appliances already present at a local site can be used to host certain applications locally on a virtualized partition to further improve customer and employee perceived experience.

Case Study: SITA Integrated Traffic Management (ITM) Case Study: Riverbed SteelHead appliance optimizes the performance of SITA ITM system in 200 countries.

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