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The migration stakes fly high at WestJet

Many HP 3000 customers are looking toward the future with plans to upgrade their computer systems. The plans these days often lean away from extra years for the 3000, which CIOs and executives consider unsupported — at least in the shorthand of the business press.

WestJet is one of the leading low-cost Canadian airlines and a long-time user of HP 3000s. The company installed Open Skies software back when the solution was available to individual firms. More than a decade later, the solution is still working as remote-hosted application, but WestJet has been working on a migration.

An article in the Canadian Financial Post showed how much the work has cost, and sad to say, reported a disappointing outcome of the migration. The overall outlook at WestJet is upbeat, according to the article. The carrier is working to become one of the top five international airlines by 2016. It's a more than $2 billion company now with 70 aircraft.

This is no Southwest Airlines, but WestJet wants to be one. It has also wanted to shift away from the HP 3000. The Post report took note of the price tag for a migration away from a working application.

Even through WestJet set a record for single-day ticket sales this year using an HP 3000 solution for $10.6 million in bookings, it's been working to leave the Navitaire Open Skies solution behind. The reasons for the departure of the 3000 quoted in the Post article centered on the HP 3000 being "unsupported."

The cost of the migration that failed was more than $30 million. And the old joke about that being "in Canadian dollars" doesn't fly anymore. Canada's dollar trades above the rate for the US Dollar by now.

The Post said in its story from late last month

WestJet reported in July a $32.1-million non-cash write-down related to a failed reservation system project, AirRes, with Travelport Inc.

WestJet is now in the fourth and final phase of upgrading its existing OpenSkies reservation and distribution system with Navitaire.

But [CEO Sean] Durfy said some decisions on the new reservation system will have to be made going forward, as it runs on an HP 3000 operating platform.The platform is archaic and likely won’t be supported by 2009, he said, so a decision will have to be made on that.

“I can tell you we won’t co-develop another system with anybody,” Durfy said.

Durfy is a CEO, and so can't be expected to know what the support outlook is for the HP 3000. But he's now seen a lesson on what it's like to make a well-working application take a back seat to something co-developed. Taking an application off the shelf, with some in-house modifications, or completely port what's working — those look like the migration choices which fly the furthest.