Continental Airlines standardizes for savings

With essential business components, as well as flight critical operations on the line, Bob Edwards, staff vice president of IT operations at Continental Airlines, keeps IT infrastructure on a short leash.

Managing hardware requirements at one of the largest airlines in the world is a consuming task, but Edwards has made his department's job easier by standardizing the entire infrastructure on a single platform, Hewlett-Packard's x86 Proliant server.

Edwards' single-server vision allows his company to leverage economy of scale in pricing, parts and training -- which is crucial in an industry facing soaring fuel prices and cutthroat competition.

What is the biggest challenge your IT department faces?
Trying to manage the cost associated with operating a robust computing environment. For example, our Web site, Continental.com, is our primer distribution channel. Ensuring this site is operating at optimal levels is imperative. The site has become our customers' preferred method to conduct business, so consequently, outages represent a potential loss of revenue and a significant inconvenience to our valued customer. Providing a reliable consistent service with the best performance, and at a minimum cost to operate, is a continuing challenge for our organization. What drew your organization to standardize on Hewlett-Packard's Proliant servers?
HP has been a valued partner for seven years and during that time they have continued to innovate while providing a reliable and cost-effective platform. Additionally, HP has always come through when we needed them most, the sign of a true partner. The decision to standardize on a server platform is based totally on economics. Standards minimize our investment in training, tools, parts, maintenance and resources.

For more information:
Gartner to IT: Complexity can be good for you
Are you using any emerging technologies, such as virtualization or grid computing?
We're looking at grid computing, but don't have any active projects at this time. However, this IT organization continues to aggressively pursue the adoption of emerging technologies. As an example, we offloaded functionality from our mainframe environment and scaled Continental.com with great success, using blade servers very early in their product lifecycle. We will continue to partner with companies like HP and Microsoft to assist with the development of new server and storage platforms, applications and operating system releases. Do you have cooling or power issues in your data center, and how do you deal with them?
As data center density continues to increase, we will have to find solutions to issues like hot spots and power distribution. Most of these issues are addressed by ensuring that data center space is engineered properly, but manufacturers are also continually releasing new innovative products to bridge any gap. Problems that we have run into in the past have been easily resolved with a little ingenuity and a maybe a small investment in time. Do you have to deal with fluctuating demand for CPUs, and how do you do it?
Edwards: Across the enterprise, we deal with a constant change in demand for resources, storage, CPU and network. Accurately forecasting what the demand will be and where it will be needed is an art. I believe our methods for dealing with this are pretty standard with industry practice. We do the best job we can forecasting requirements and engineering the specific system, providing ongoing capacity planning exercises and proactively managing critical systems to ensure we minimize surprises. When we figure out how to eliminate all surprises, then I will call it a science.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, News Editor

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