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Letting in the light on Amadeus

February 18, 2013

(Published in TTG 07.11.12)

Changes are afoot at Amadeus. Over the past two years, the global transaction and IT provider has been decommissioning its old “proprietary”platforms to make way for a new way of working.

It is now giving third-parties access to its Altea customer management system (used by airlines), and the chance too for those third-parties to develop for free, and then sell, apps that use Adadeus data, by making the code for its Aria templates Open Source.

So how does laying bare the way it builds its IT solutions and allowing others to take over actually help the travel industry – and how does this filter down to travel agents using the GDS?

By releasing a white paper titled “Open for business” in mid-September, the company – which has just become an ITT corporate partner – is now seeking to educate the trade on its change of direction.

The paper was written by technology expert Professor Jim Norton, who says that Open Source has now come of age.

“Open source has reached maturity, it is not a plaything anymore,” he said at the launch of the white paper. “It is having a profound effect. It supports a wide range of systems – it works with what’s there, at all stages of lifecycle.”

Indeed, the concept has existed for two decades, but only recently have sectors such as banking and defence adopted the method.

Diane Bouzebiba, the new managing director of Amadeus UK and Ireland, backs the move as she believes it is what agents need at the moment. “The conditions are tough for agents at the moment, and the holiday planning process is getting shorter… and now there is an acceleration of change.”

Getting onboard

As a result, she argues a company that provides Open Source will be better equipped to help those agencies that are keen to respond quickly – owing to the speed at which third-party developers can react to market conditions.

“Agencies and call centres say they are constantly peddling. There is usually a layer of IT, but we can be fast.”

Norton added: “I love to see things that level the playing field, and Open Source puts a lot more power to SMEs.”

As well as fast innovation, lower costs are another advantage, according to

Herve Courtier, Amadeus’s new executive vice-president of development: “The benefits are now appearing after a decision made seven years ago,” he said. “It helps business travellers. If our costs go up, then we pass those costs onto the customer. Open Source helps us conserve our costs, and not pass on extra costs. It’s not just about being a cloud company. “

From Norton’s point of view, he claims it can also future-proof an organisation, as it attracts new talent: “There is motivation, and community, he said. “There is a new generation of developers who want to work with tools they’ve studied – not on old proprietary systems; they want to work with it, they believe in it.”

However, as a note of caution, Norton added that the transition path was challenging. “It’s about business change – it’s not always an IT problem. Open Source is an ongoing story.”

At the end of August, Amadeus officially opened its library of code to third-party developers. How the next chapter turns out depends very much now on how the airlines and agencies respond to the GDS’s brave move in uncertain times.

Myth busting

1. There’s more scope for fraud. With so many people having access to data behind the scenes, is fraud a risk? Norton believes the risk is no greater than with using proprietary systems: “Sadly, IT systems are not bug free – whether you are open or closed. But with Open Source and a massive community, they leap on such problems, and talk to each other.”

2. Open Source is expensive. Could this move by Amadeus lead to an increase in prices for its products? Norton argues using open source will in fact lead to cheaper prices for its customers. He predicts cost could decrease by as much as 20% “once you’ve made the transition”. And, he argues, “no single company can out-invest a community”.

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