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 Open for businesses, large and small THE REVIEW ›› TECHNOLOGY

OPEN source is a very good idea that needs to be grasped by the travel industry as a matter of urgency, writes Mike Swindell. This is the view of Professor

Jim Norton who over the last 30 years has worked on key technology issues inside and outside at least two governments, served on boards, panels and committees within industry and academia and whose list of posts, positions and honours fills the best part of half a page. The professor is a heavyweight

and the travel industry will ignore his views at their peril. Having been asked by Amadeus to produce a report that explores the advantages and challenges of moving from closed to open systems, he says: "The road from proprietary to open systems is long and often challenging but represents nothing less than a revolution in the IT industry. "Almost every major business

will need to make at least some elements of this transition over the medium term, so under- standing how open source software can bring benefits, but also realistically evaluating the challenges of transition, is critical." Describing open source as a

development whose time has now come, Norton's report traces its gestation over a surprising 40 years, with the Linux operating system – the best-known open source flag bearer – now 20 years old. "Open source now has a

substantial track record and has reached maturity," says Norton. "It is not a plaything and is having a profound effect on everyday life. Much of what is happening on the web is down to open source and there are substantial benefits for everyone. "The question is how far it will penetrate into business – not if." From an Amadeus point of

view, the answer is pretty much all the way. The technology provider that has built its reputation on a philosophy of innovation is home to about 4,500 developers and last year spent an eye-watering ¤340million on research and development, ranking the company Europe's heaviest

investor in R&D in both the travel and computer services sectors. It is also well on the way to

scrapping all its 'big iron' proprietary systems, relying instead on software developed in the vast open source community. Amadeus IT Group executive

vice-president for development, Hervé Couturier reckons it will be just 18 months before the company is running entirely on open source systems. "The long-term benefits in

terms of innovation, implementing new developments more quickly, attracting the right talent and driving cost savings are extremely compelling both for us and our customers," he says. "By pioneering open systems

we have been able to bring powerful new innovations to the market including our core Altéa Customer Management System and Extreme Search portfolios." While Amadeus is drawing

heavily on the open source community for product such as Altéa, e-Retail, Dynamic Website Manager and Extreme Search, it is also contributing to the open source community bank. Amadeus ARIA Templates,

the framework on which the company's IT Group's web solutions are based, has recently been made open source,

“The open source community makes particular types of applications and facilities available in a cost-effective way to smaller organisations that would not otherwise have been possible”

allowing third party developers to use it without charge. While all this may sound big

beast corporate, open source also makes perfect sense for the SME business sector. "We regard this as a demo-

cratising process, driving down to small business things that were once only the preserve of very large business," said Norton. "The open source community

and model makes particular types of applications and facilities available in a cost- effective way to smaller organisations that would not otherwise have been possible – it levels the playing field," Norton explains. "It takes out cost, it builds

systems that are much more responsive to the SME's needs and it brings innovation to the SME quicker than would be the case in the normal model." Many decision makers in the

travel industry might not understand open source, but they can be assured that their new wave of executives, graduates of the last five years, will expect to see it as part of the corporate fabric. It is the future, starting now. • The Amadeus Open for Business report can be down- loaded from


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