Sabre turns to its neighbor, Compaq

IBM Corp. helped build the transaction processing facility (TPF) for American Airlines Inc. in the late 1950s and early 1960s that would become the Sabre global distribution system (GDS). IBM built a similar TPF system for Chicago-based United Air Lines Inc. That system later became the Apollo GDS.

So why didn't Sabre Inc. turn to IBM when it was time to update its infrastructure? Craig Murphy, CTO at Sabre, said that Compaq's plug-and-play capability and standard development kits were main reasons for choosing the Houston computer manufacturer.

Compaq, for its part, boasted that it has done this sort of thing before.

"We run the top 15 stock exchanges today," said Howard Elias, Compaq senior vice president and general manager of the Business Critical Solutions Group. "These systems just do not go down."

That Compaq and Sabre are neighbors probably didn't hurt either, said Richard Eastman, president of The Eastman Group Inc. in Newport Beach, Calif. But there are other considerations as well.

"IBM has a culture that would be threatened by what Sabre is trying to do now. IBM's airline people are all legacy mainframe guys. IBM's network guys don't have [business contacts] at Sabre, Eastman said. "Right now Compaq needs the business, and I betcha if their technology is essentially equal, pricing played a role."

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