Farnborough Air Show: HP flies the flag for IT

The Farnborough Air Show does not attract many IT suppliers, but HP is...

The Farnborough Air Show does not attract many IT suppliers, but HP is one exception. The company is using the air show to raise its profile among airlines and aerospace manufacturers.

In an interview with Computer Weekly, Art Prangley, director for aerospace industry enterprise business, said HP is already working with most of the companies displaying at the show.

HP's clients include major airlines such as BA, Virgin and Lufthansa. It has worked with aerospace manufacturers including Finmeccanica, Rolls Royce, Boeing, EADS, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems.

"We provide the foundation of IT they run on. In some cases we run their SAP environments, we run their engineering environment. In some cases they have outsourced to us. We supply all the IT building blocks," said Prangley.

In other cases, HP has joined forces with aerospace manufacturers to bid for projects in areas ranging from homeland security to cybersecurity.

HP believes that aside from its expertise in IT and consulting, it can help aerospace companies, which often lack the global reach of HP, to expand into new markets.

"We are able to bring together our country presence, because we have such a global reach, with their companies' capabilities. They have the ability to be prime contractors on top class complex contracts. But very much the content of what we do is IT," he said.

HP does everything from "stamping out a new plant" and running and implementing IT systems for aerospace companies as they expand. "We have done that a couple of times in Asia Pacific," said Prangley.

The company is also looking to deliver high-performance computing power to aerospace companies to help them model composite materials and aircraft designs.

Datacentre services

Last year, for example, HP supplied a high performance datacentre "in a pod" to a major European aerospace company. "They ran out of capacity in their datacentre. And this was a very flexible way of getting them an extra datacentre. We brought it in, we managed it and connected the power supply."

Under the contract, the aerospace company only pays for the computing power it uses, so if the datacentre stands idle, there is no cost to the customer.

The datacentre means that the manufacturer now has the computing power it needs on tap, eliminating the need for engineers to annually update the company's processing power. HP expects to fit a second pod this year to increase the company's capacity further.

HP sees big opportunities for IT work as the airline industry continues its trend to merge and consolidate.

The company was won systems integration deals in the past, for example when American bought TWA six years ago. It expects a number in the near future.

John McGovern, business development officer for transportation and logistics at HP, said the company has supplied flight reservation systems, flight planning systems and departure control systems for airlines including Swiss, American, Virgin Atlantic, Flybe, and BA.

"One of the big trends is the consolidation of these airlines. You have to get them to integrate pretty quick. Getting them to work off a common platform makes that a lot easier," he said.

Consolidation impact

As airlines merge, they will need to ensure that customer service is consistent across all of their brands, said McGovern.

For example, control systems need to capture frequent flyer numbers, and the airline systems should make sure passengers are offered the right seat upgrades.

HP was coy about disclosing how many of its staff work in aviation, and was reluctant to disclose what proportion of its turnover comes from the industry.

But Prangley was adamant that it is vital for HP to have a presence at the air show. "It's important that we are here. It's important that we understand what drives the issues," he said.

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