IT underpins Emirates business says CIO

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I thought I'd share with you an interesting interview I heard with Patrick Naef, Senior Vice President IT, Emirates carried out by Phil Buzzard of AME Info. He speaks about the his IT challenges at this rapidly growing enterprise centred around the Emirates Airline. For your convenience I have highlighted some of the key points in the interview below, but you can listen to the interview in full on AME Info via the link above:

  • Emirates employs 2000 people in IT and IT support. The majority are based in Dubai, with some in India;
  • IT serves all of the group. In addition to the airline this includes the travel agency, cargo and ground handling operations;
  • They have just opened a brand new terminal in Dubai for their crew. It is crucial to support the growth of the company as they needed to make the physical processes for crew as quick as possible. The terminal is completely automated so that it can scale to cope with future growth;
  • The main IT demands currently are around distribution and commerce. They have just bought 90 new Airbus 380s and they need to sell all the seats. This requires projects in online sales and integration with travel agency systems;
  • They have already invested heavily in operational systems such as maintenance, scheduling etc, so they hope to capitalize from that now. This includes a new cargo system;
  • The volcanic ash crisis was an learning experience for them and it showed that they had some weaknesses in their disruption handling systems. However it also showed that their infrastructure was robust enough to deal with an immediate 30% increase in web traffic and a doubling of calls into the contact centre in just a couple of hours. They were able to identify this and increase the capacity to deal with the increase in traffic seamlessly;
  • Emirates runs two data centers in Dubai, including its high-availability mirrored reservation system and its other 350 applications;
  • The resilience of IT is key, because the whole company's processes depend on it. If the IT fails then the company can't function: the crew can't check in and planes can't take off so it is vital. Smaller airlines can do some of this manually, but for large airlines like Emirates it's impossible.

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.