MPE's Skies app flies from Open to New
September 4, 2013
A healthy clutch of HP 3000 N-Class servers is going onto the used market soon, the result of a migration off of MPE. These computers represent a couple of futures, one dreamed of in 1998, and another, the reality of some 2013 computing for MPE.
The servers have been running the Open Skies application almost since the N-Class was released. Open Skies in its first incarnation was a software company with an application by the same name. Southwest Airlines put Open Skies, with its reservation breakthroughs, into everyday use. The application only ran on MPE/iX. In time, in a move characteristic of another Hewlett-Packard, the vendor purchased the Open Skies software company. The deal was designed to show markets of 1998 what could be done with an HP 3000 and cloud-based apps. At the time, HP was calling the strategy Apps on Tap.
Here in the waning days of summer 2013, what remains of Open Skies has been migrated to Windows .NET by Accenture and its Navitaire division. Industry-standard environments are easy choices for companies like Accenture, a consulting company that grew out of the '90s-era Anderson Consulting. The migrated app is called New Skies and now takes over for Open Skies completely. Airlines around the world used Open Skies to perform revenue accounting on online ticket sales. But at one time, even the fundamental concept of online ticket sales was a novelty. It was led into the world by MPE servers.
Mark Ranft has been managing the transition from the Skies which were Open to the Skies that are New. The work has been performed for Navitaire, a company Accenture created when HP sold off Open Skies at the end of 2000. Of course, less than a year later, that generation of Hewlett-Packard, led by its revenue growth queen Carly Fiorina, ended 3000 futures at the vendor.
Ranft says that of the 35 N-Class servers which did revenue accounting for airline customers, about six are still installed and will be sold now that the migration is complete. The final customer relying on Open Skies, rather than the New Skies .NET replacement, switched off the 3000 this year. Open Skies founder Dave Evans wrote an eulogy and history for the software that put HP into the airline business.
"We were successful because of the rock-solid nature of HP 3000 and IMAGE," Evans said, "and we competed with the legacy mainframes. But we are set to retire our HP 3000 Airline/Rail reservation system Open Skies after 19 years of faithful service."
Over these years it has been responsible for the efficient handling of over 1.5 Billion passengers. I'm sure many of you have flown carriers that have used the Open Skies system over those years -- more than 60 airlines around the world have used Open Skies. Here is a brief history:
1986 - Morris Air Charters (in Salt Lake City) converted a basic Tour Operator/Charter booking system from our Zicomp minicomputer to a HP 3000 Series 42
1992/1993 - I wrote MARS (Morris Air Reservation System) on the HP 3000. MARS was the first true Ticketless airline reservation system. Remember when you had to have tickets to fly?
1994 - Morris Air merged into Southwest Airlines. MARS became the base of Southwest Airlines Ticketless system for over 10 years.
1994 - Open Skies company was founded -- Open Skies was the next generation of ticketless systems written on the HP 3000.
1995/1997 - With the help of Adager we convinced Southwest Airlines (SWA) that the HP 3000 and IMAGE could support them better than a mainframe, and we commenced a project to write a reservation system for Southwest. That project actually went very well -- we also enlisted the help of Quest's Netbase to get the scale and reliability we needed. Unfortunately, Y2K panic popped up its ugly head, and the current SWA reservation system vendor pushed SWA to invest a lot of money to ensure that their system would work in Y2K. Eventually, for many reasons, SWA decided to invest in the current system and shut down the project.
1998 - Open Skies company WAS sold to Hewlett-Packard Company and became one of the launch "Software as a Service" products for HP.
2000 - Apparently Hewlett-Packard didn't want to do Software as a Service anymore, at least with the airlines. They focused on the more profitable printers, PCs, Servers, and we all know where that got them. Thanks, Carly. She sold us to Navitaire/Accenture in November 2000.
2002 - After HP announced the end of HP 3000, we began a project to rewrite Open Skies on newer technology -- we chose Microsoft .Net. and MS SQL for the database for "New Skies".
2005 - New Skies was launched, first front to back new technology Airline (and bus and rail) Passenger Service System. Major competitors are Amadeus and Sabre, both still rely on Mainframes.
2005 - 2013 ... New Skies has now booked around 1.6 Billion passengers for over 50 Airlines in 30 countries.
Fall of 2013 - last Open Skies customer will move to New Skies. Going to be a sad day...
We owe the success of Open Skies really to many people, many of you in this [community]. We have had our struggles over the years, but this community has always been there to help us.
Our systems are mission-critical, 24x7x365.25 in nature. We have seen many competitors come and go over the years -- their downfall was usually caused by a lack of operational stability and performance scalability. It was easy to pick off all the guys in the '90s that architected their systems on 'open systems,' Unix, and relational databases.
Again, thanks to all who have pushed the HP 3000 forward over the years. Open Skies will probably not make the history books, especially in relation to the HP 3000, but together they did change history for the traveling masses.