Lastminute's new IT chief puts web stability top of the agenda

Systems integration and website stability will be the major IT challenges faced by Lastminute.com during 2003, the new chief...

Systems integration and website stability will be the major IT challenges faced by Lastminute.com during 2003, the new chief technology officer at the online leisure and travel retailer said this week.

Chip Steinmetz, who has more than 20 years' experience in IT, most recently as head of technology at the Walt Disney Internet Group, said his primary role will be to provide the infrastructure to support the anticipated growth at Lastminute.com.

"We expect volumes to double by the summer and then double again by the end of the year," he said. "I have to ensure that the stability and performance of the site is ready for the peak season in the summer with, for example, performance engineering and application tuning."

Lastminute.com has traditionally been an acquiring business, a trend the company intends to continue in 2003, and this will present its own challenges for the IT team, Steinmetz said.

"When we acquire a business we do not run it as a silo, it is fully integrated into our systems," he said. "This can be complex - we are still integrating systems from some of last year's deals - but XML feeds can make it easier."

In addition, Lastminute's Dynamic Package Builder service means it has two reservation environments - for hotels and flights - which have to be run concurrently, Steinmetz said.

"They are separate environments but we run them together in real time using J2EE open source software," he said. "Everything on the site runs on Java as it is relatively easy to find people with the relevant skills these days."

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