Why the mechanics behind travel distribution will blow your mind

Global distribution systems are crunching and processing travel data at astonishing scales and speed, but travellers (and probably many in the industry) would not have any sense of how it is done.

Amadeus has its main data centre in Erding, Germany, while Sabre and Travelport‘s are located in the US cities of Tulsa and Atlanta respectively.

Protected like a military establishment, vital given the type of sensitive information running through its digital arteries, Travelport’s Data Center is housed in a rather ugly building (it doesn’t need to be pretty) on the outskirts of the city, close to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

The drabness of the exterior masks what is going on inside – over 7,000 physical and virtual servers, for example, are running the travel shopping systems, while eight IBM mainframes are capable of crunching 60,000 million instructions per second.

The facility is mirrored – meaning that there is a double the amount of every piece of hardware to ensure that if something goes wrong, there is a backup of all the data, including passenger name records, fares, routes, availability, etc.

Other factoids chief technology officer David Lauderdale, Travelport’s chief technology officer, likes to throw out on tours of the venue include:

  • 35 million+ lines of code supporting the systems.
  • More than 9 petabytes of shared data storage.
  • 37,000 messages are processed every second.
  • Response times for agency customers and the airlines hosted by Travelport are typically less than 300 milliseconds.

The facility contains a dizzying array of different types of technology, each piece of which is replaced or upgraded every 18 months.

The largest hardware project in recent years, Lauderdale explains, was when the company brought its Galileo and Worldspan data centres together under one roof (beginning in 2008) following the acquisition of Worldspan. Galileo was previously located in Denver, Colorado.

The migration was named by Information Week as one of the largest IT project in the US at the time.

But it is control centre which takes the breath away, a moment saved by Lauderdale with a dramatic opening of curtains surrounding a room known as the fishbowl.

The control centre is staffed by just seven people working in three shifts, 24 hours a day. Every piece of kit is monitored constantly for traffic fluctuations, errors and other issues affecting customers.

It is (no hyperbole here) like mission control at Nasa.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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