Novell systems bring major savings for BA

British Airways' regional airlines division, CitiExpress, has announced savings of £600,000 after implementing Novell Groupwise...

British Airways' regional airlines division, CitiExpress, has announced savings of £600,000 after implementing Novell Groupwise messaging software. The company also expects to achieve seven-figure savings by linking complex infrastructure using Novell middleware, writes Antony Adshead.

The airline was faced with the decision of whether to replace existing infrastructure or integrate it with those of four newly acquired airlines. Because of financial constraints it opted to integrate the IT systems it inherited using Novell software, which it chose over Microsoft Windows 2000 Active Directory.

For e-mail it chose Novell Groupwise, which has been gradually replacing Lotus Notes. The company expects Groupwise to continue to supplant Notes, with users given the freedom to choose their messaging software.

Gavin Megnauth, CitiExpress' head of IT, said, "We have historically been a Lotus Notes and Microsoft house. When we acquired Manx Airlines we inherited a Novell infrastructure, which gave us the chance to assess it.

"We considered going for rip-and-replace but curbs on capital expenditure meant we were forced to look for alternative ways of knitting together a robust infrastructure from the diverse environments we inherited."

Megnauth said the company hopes to link the disparate elements of its IT infrastructure through Novell's eDirectory, although this will co-exist with Windows 2000 Active Directory.

"Within BA, Active Directory is used in specific application areas [such as a Citrix-Windows NT configuration] but it is seen as a developing technology and resource-hungry - for example, in terms of server requirements. We use it in specific application areas but we are not trusting it yet as a backbone technology. eDirectory is used as a repository for all our people data," he said.

BA CitiExpress has seen its Groupwise installed user base increase by 50% in the past nine months. Groupwise co-exists with Lotus Notes but Notes' share has decreased. Megnauth said this is because Groupwise has features which make it more suited to the mobile nature of the company's workforce.

"You cannot use Notes easily from any location. It needs a user ID file on the client PC or on a personal drive on the network, so you either need to log onto the network or carry the file on a disc. This is too cumbersome for our aircrew and cabin staff to deal with. A web-based solution is far easier for the user and we get better bandwidth usage of 66% for Groupwise over Notes," said Megnauth.

CitiExpress is also piloting Groupwise workflow solutions for its engineering department, where processes involving 20-30 logical steps have to be carried out. For cabin crew, the IT department has built a system to replace paper-based messaging.

Megnauth said that by allowing users choices in messaging software the department can save money by keeping existing software and avoiding additional training costs.

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