Travelport signed a new multi-year, multimillion-dollar software agreement with IBM for significant upgrades to the existing systems architecture and software infrastructure of its technology platform. The new investment in IBM software will more than double the information it processes, Travelport said. The deal will upgrade Travelport's core system operating software to the IBM z/Transaction Processing Facility (z/TPF).

The technology aims to provide the best of both worlds, taking advantage of the positive aspects of the TPF mainframe platform -- its reliability in processing massive volumes, for example -- while enabling systems to integrate withopen-standards architectures. Mark Ryan, chief information officer for Travelport GDS, said the agreement would enable a "full refresh to a platform for service oriented architecture."

It also will allow Travelport to "execute against 64-bit architecture, running the database in memory rather than seeking it on the disk," Ryan said, noting that 32-bit is limited to one gigabyte, "so you have to go out to the physical disk." With 64-bit architecture, a bigger chunk of memory is cached closer to the processor, he said.

The upgrade to z/TPF also will allow Travelport to use Java, C++ and other programming languages that are common to open systems, Ryan said. "We are no longer locked into TPF code language," he said.

"This allows us to use state-of-the-industry coding practices and software tools. When you put it all together, it enables us to have better efficiency and performance, along with increased speed to market for new product introductions."

The agreement also includes elements of IBM's software portfolio including WebSphere, designed to set up, operate and integrate electronic business applications across multiple computing platforms using Java-based Web technologies; Rational, a software development platform that improves the speed, quality and predictability of software projects; Tivoli, a suite of systems management software, and Information Management products, which help an organization analyze its information to identify breakdowns and make better decisions.

While some organizations are making a concerted effort to move away from mainframe technology to distributed systems -- Amadeus is a notable example -- Ryan said TPF is still the best option for certain kinds of transactions.

For example, Teradata, the provider of enterprise analytic technologies such as data warehousing, business intelligence and customer relationship management, deals with "huge ad hoc queries," Ryan said, so it operates best in a distributed environment. GDSs, on the other hand, deal with a huge volume of short byte-count transactions, for which TPF is ideal, he said.

In short, distributed systems are best for shopping, while TPF is best for booking, he said.

The IBM agreement will create a modern service oriented architecture platform that will allow Travelport's developers to run applications on the underlying middleware that best supports it. User interface functions run best on WebSphere Process Server, while the parts of the applications that create, read, update or delete travel reservation records will run best on z/TPF.

Worldspan signed an agreement with IBM in October 2006 that included a provision to upgrade to z/TPF. Two months later, however, Travelport announced that it would acquire Worldspan, and the data centers of Worldspan, Galileo and Apollo were consolidated in a single data center in Atlanta in 2008.