British Airways' trust in Java set to pay dividends as savings take off

BA aims to save £100m a year by moving customer service online

BA aims to save £100m a year by moving customer service online

British Airways is set to save £100m from its customer transaction costs and was able to move its systems to a Linux platform because of investment in Java technology.

The UK's leading airline completed a £30m business transformation programme, Customer Enabled BA, in March. The programme was based around online self-service and relied heavily on Java technologies.

It will have paid for itself within six to nine months and is on target to create £100m annual savings for BA overall, according to Mike Croucher, head of IT delivery. Savings have been made from internal efficiencies and reduced demand on call centres.

The Java development language has also allowed the airline to easily move applications from a Sun/Solaris environment to Intel/Linux.

Because of Java's platform independence, BA was able to move its applications from Sun/Solaris systems on to Intel/Linux without rewriting code or interrupting its punishing development cycle. The airline used BEA's JRockit Java Virtual Machine product in the transfer.

BA was an early investor in Java. In 1997, just two years after the technology was announced, it began work on a system to allow BA Executive Club members to access their accounts online, based on Java and BEA Weblogic technology.

The airline has put its entire customer-facing functionality online, allowing customers to book, upgrade and control account information. Java has been a key component in giving the company this ability, said Croucher.

Peter Roberts, BA technology manager, said, "From the start, with some help, we have been able to build a well architectured application."

He said Java's standardised environment allowed developers to create reusable components for business operations, as well as technical components. For example, a component that could validate credit cards could be used in several applications.

"Before [Java], business components could prove very difficult to achieve, but we have had some good successes at that now," Roberts said.

The airline is also using these components to communicate with other systems within BA and outside the company. This transition to web services could, for example, allow a customer to hire a car online without leaving the airline's website.

Sun still shines despite long-running spat >>


10 years of Java

May 1995 Java technology is officially announced at Sun Microsystems' SunWorld user conference, as a programming language for developers to write a program once and have it run on multiple operating system platforms, a feature termed "write once, run anywhere".

1996 Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.0 is released. The first JavaOne developer conference takes place, and JavaBeans, Servlets and other technologies are announced. Microsoft licenses Java technology from Sun for five years.

1997 JavaBeans Development Kit is released, and Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) technology is announced. Sun sues Microsoft for breach of contract and copyright infringement.

1998 Visa launches the world's first smartcard based on Java Card technology; Sun ships the Java 2 platform, with an improved graphical user interface, and many additional packages. A judge orders Microsoft to remove the Java logo from its products.

1999 Jini technology is announced, to simplify the connection and sharing of devices, such as printers and disk drives, on a network. JavaServer Pages technology is unveiled, and J2SE, J2EE and J2ME platforms announced. The J2EE platform is shipped.

2000 Microsoft announces C# and .net Framework, to compete directly against J2EE.

2001 J2EE Connector Architecture is announced. Sun and Microsoft settle their 1997 lawsuit.

2002 J2EE 1.4 Beta is released. Sun files a private antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, seeking immediate injunction against Microsoft shipping Sun's JVM in Windows, or distributing a standalone version of its own JVM.

2004 Sun releases Tiger (Java 5.0). Sun and Microsoft settle all litigation and sign a technology-sharing agreement.

May 2005 Java's 10th anniversary.

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