Compaq takes off with Sabre

In a big win for Intel-based computing, Compaq Computer Corp. on Tuesday announced it has struck a deal with travel industry giant Sabre Inc. to migrate Sabre's travel reservation system onto Compaq's NonStop Himalaya servers.

The Sabre deal offers further validation of Compaq's recent decision to all but exit the RISC computing market and embrace Intel's 64-bit Itanium processor architecture going forward.

"Compaq's movement to open systems and their movement to Intel architecture all played a part in our decision," said Craig Murphy, the CTO of Sabre, in Fort Worth, Texas.

Sabre is currently running its travel reservation technology, such as Sabre's Fair Shopping application, on IBM Corp. mainframes, said Murphy. Sabre officials met with several potential new vendors, as well as IBM, prior to making the decision to go with Compaq.

"We've known for a long time we needed to move from proprietary to open systems," said Murphy, who added that the overall service offering from Compaq played a big part in Sabre's decision to go with the Houston-based computer maker.

"This really wasn't a bid situation," said Murphy. "We have talked to IBM, but we felt that now was the time to go with Compaq."

Murphy also said Compaq's Intel-based technology would offer Sabre "faster time to market, a doubling of developer productivity, and a reduction of cost by 40 percent."

Migrating all of Sabre's mainframe applications over to Compaq's Himalaya servers will be done in stages during the course of the next several years, said Howard Elias, the senior vice president and group vice president for Compaq's business critical computing division.

"Nothing will go offline," said Elias of Sabre's transition to Compaq's infrastructure. "Phase one will go live by the first quarter of next year. The rest will occur over several years. This is a long-term deal."

Sabre's Tulsa, Okla.-based data center maintains a data base of airline fares and complex fare rules that handles more than 300,000 changes a day and as much as 2 million fare changes when airlines run discounts and specials.

When complete, the Sabre deal will be one of the largest Compaq NonStop installations ever, with a value in excess of US$100 million, which includes the cost of Compaq services.

Services are the key, said Murphy. "This announcement covers more than just the hardware and software," he said. "The service and collaboration [with Compaq] has been excellent. Working with Compaq has addressed our fear of the unknown -- moving into open systems."

Compaq is ranked No. 6 in the world as an IT service provider by revenue, according to International Data Corp., based in Framingham, Mass. IBM currently holds the No. 1 spot, according to IDC.

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