Back to Air Transport IT Review - Issue 2, 2012

Simplicity reigns: Network vendor management

By Sebastien Fabre,
Director, Network and Mobility

As networks deliver more resource, so integration becomes more complex to manage. SITA is developing its network vendor management framework to swap complexity for simplicity.

The networking landscape is radically changing, and will keep changing. Complexity is increasing exponentially. Nothing is static and no long-term forecasts of technology development should be treated as certain.

That's the magic that promises so much for the air transport industry. Yet it also creates profound concerns over investment strategies and operational structures.

Integration of the network is clearly advantageous, but as network opportunities have grown, so too have the difficulties in managing integration.

SITA has always been a network integrator. From our earliest days, SITA's business was concerned with bringing together a broad range of services, and sharing them across the community wherever possible. We take the complex and make it as simple and straightforward as possible.

Consistent service

So while Orange Business Services' IP VPN forms the core of SITA's IP network offer, we have been increasingly tailoring it to the specialized needs of airline customers. We've identified and developed services that are complementary to IP VPN, so we can deliver a full portfolio to the air transport community.

A key requirement for these hybrid services is the ability to effectively manage providers, including Orange Business Services. It means being able to offer a consistent service supported by SLOs and SLAs.

Our vendor management capability - backed with advanced operational tools - gives a single view of network performance and a single point of contact for pricing, provisioning and fault resolution. Remove complexity, simplify integration.

Mission critical

Take SITA's Airport Hub, offering managed resilient infrastructure in 120 airports, with another 50 being added in 2012/13. Airport Hub is built using Orange Business Services' IP VPN. To that we add managed switches and a range of LAN/VLAN components from airport authorities, third party cabling contractors and SITA DSLAMs (digital subscriber line access multiplexers).

Airport Hub brings network access into the airport. It's designed from the base up to be mission critical. It removes the need to manage local providers, buy dedicated leased lines (which can be up to 50% of the cost of IP service) and make price/service decisions over an affordable level of redundancy. Instead, we manage the mix of providers under a single vendor management process.

A comparable service is offered in every airport using SITA CUTE systems. With shared IP and legacy support, this extends the managed, shared airport infrastructure to 300 airports.

Single point of contact

Another example of removing complexity is our approach to integrating Internet services.

SITA has well-established relationships with Internet service providers (ISPs) and other network suppliers in 170 countries. We then manage contracts with local providers on our customers' behalf.

We take care of ordering, billing, payments and any operational issues - covering more than 2,000 ISP connections on behalf of customers. Further development of our vendor management framework is giving SITA customers a single point of contact for ISP services anywhere in the world.

In the same way, we are increasingly asked to manage third party network services for customers. For example, we are managing as many as 40 vendors for one full service airline, 20 for another. For a major shipping line, we are managing 62 vendors.

Third party offers

SITA has complemented Orange Business Services' standard network lines with SITA-specific offers developed by Orange. These include AirportConnect Net and Airport Hub, network services integrating third party network solutions, and increasingly SITA managed and third party offers to improve application performance.

These include Integrated Traffic Management (ITM). This is delivered using Riverbed's Steelhead appliances and ever more sophisticated tools to measure and improve application performance.

SITA is also developing offers to accelerate internet and web performance in partnership with CDNetworks. And we've integrated web performance expert Gomez/Compuware's capabilities to provide vital intelligence on the effectiveness of airline B2C web sales application platforms.

Managing third party

To maintain the focus on simplifying complexity for our customers, later this year we will introduce a new network vendor management framework. Further announcements will be made as we monitor, benchmark and integrate new partners from the APM vendor market to meet the changing requirements of the air transport community's application performance life cycle requirements.

As a result, SITA will act as a single source supplier for all network requirements across the growing spectrum of solutions, covering both the offer from Orange Business Services and all third party suppliers. Single source, single billing, single service management.

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