Aviation ISV pilots Web services migration

Mxi Technologies, which tracks the maintenance lifecycles of aviation equipment, is finally coming to the end of a three-year migration from client/server to a Web services platform.

The Ottawa-based company works with commercial

airliners including Air Canada and Quantas, the U.S. Navy and manufacturers like Italian firm Fiat Avio. Its flagship software, Maintenix, follows airline parts and equipment through their life and every repair, replacement and routine maintenance they undergo during that span.

There’s no room for error, which helps to explain why it took three years to get the project in the air, but Mxi didn’t nail the take-off on its first try.

“”Our first take was to try and move our (Sybase) PowerBuilder code into three-tier using the Sybase enterprise application server and their development tools,”” says Mxi manager of strategic technology Marc Lennox. “”That was something that we tried to do for about a year, but we gave up on it just because of serious technical difficulties.””

The second and successful attempt saw the company move to a pure Java environment using Borland’s JBuilder. Mxi will retain the Oracle 9i database it was using for its client/server environment, but a Web-based application makes it much easier to report and communicate to clients.

“”It’s going to allow us to provide operation to remote sites much easier. The data warehousing and the management of the data is going to be much simpler. We see huge benefits to this for sure,”” explains Lennox.

Another misstep in the move to a Web services architecture was one that couldn’t be foreseen: a serious decline in the airline industry due to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The industry wasn’t ready to embrace technological changes at that point, says Lennox.

“”In fact, it gave us the opportunity to spend some time adding new functionality and preparing for when the airlines did eventually come out of this,”” he adds. “”Financially, we were okay, so it’s not as if we had to downsize or anything like that.””

JBuilder hasn’t been used extensively in Web services engagements to date, says Borland Canada‘s director of systems engineering Kirk Farquhar. But that may be because it’s still a young market.

“”The bulk of the move into the Web services space is for internally-enabled applications. Generally, I would say it’s a small percentage of the overall JBuilder market, he says. “”That being said, virtually every major corporation I’ve ever talked to is looking at doing it over the next year or so.””

A prototype version of Mxi’s Web service has been tested for six months with NetJets — a private airline that, according to Lennox, actually saw an increase in corporate business after Sept. 11 since people were wary of commercial flights.

The Web architecture should offic

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