Ebookers selects thin clients with .net

Ebookers, the largest online retailer in Europe, is planning to focus its systems development on Microsoft .net Web services...

Ebookers, the largest online retailer in Europe, is planning to focus its systems development on Microsoft .net Web services technology and expand its Indian offshore operation, the company's new chief information officer has revealed.

Ebookers, which operates in 11 European countries, is in the process of replacing Unix-based legacy systems with a thin client system based on .net, said Philip Dale, who became the company's IT chief in June.

Ebookers hopes the thin client system will improve efficiency by as much as 50%. "The current Unix systems constrain growth because they do not allow for a breadth of development," Dale said.

"We are replacing more than 10 internal systems with a single thin client system - to be known as Impact - which will have a consistent interface."

Using the .net platform means systems development can be carried out rapidly, and offshore. Ebookers has about 50 developers based in Delhi. "Using .net removes the constraint of expertise that Unix brings," Dale said.

"The platform allows us to develop systems rapidly in-house and offshore which, in turn, will enable the parallel development of new products."

The .net platform also acts as a migration tool, Dale said. "It gives us the capability to smooth the transition from our old systems to Impact," he explained.

"We can change the look and feel of the front-end without having to change back-end systems at the same time."

One of the first .net-based services, due for launch before the end of the year, is the Dynamic Package Builder, which will allow customers to build their own holiday packages, Dale said.

"We now have the technology to focus on what the customer wants rather than what we want to serve up," he said.

"Consumers will be able to book theme-based travel on the site - for example, a flight to New York to see a particular show, a hotel near that theatre and a car to take them to the airport."

Dale also revealed that Ebookers is planning to expand its successful offshore operation in India, which began 13 months ago and now has 350 employees working in the call centre, on back-office administration and pursuing technical developments.

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