April 21, 2010

ITA Software and Needlebase

Rumors are flying that Google may acquire ITA Software. I know nothing of their validity, but I have known about ITA Software for a while. Random notes include:

ITA’s software does both price/reservation lookup/checking and reservation-making. I’ve had trouble keeping it straight, but I think the lookup is ITA’s actual business, and the reservation-making is ITA’s Next Big Thing. This is one of the ultimate federated-transaction-processing applications, because it involves coordinating huge OLTP systems run, in some cases, by companies that are bitter competitors with each other. Network latencies have to allow for intercontinental travel of the data itself.

Indeed, airline reservation systems are pretty much the OLTP ultimate in themselves. As the story goes, transaction monitors were pretty much invented for airline reservation systems in the 1960s.

A really small project for ITA Software is Needlebase. I stopped by ITA to look at Needlebase in January, and what it is is a very smart and hence interesting screen-scraping system. The idea is people publish database information to the web, and you may want to look at their web pages and recover the database records it is based on. Applications of this to the airline industry, which has 100s of 1000s of price changes per day — and I may be too low by one or two orders of magnitude when I say that — should be fairly obvious. ITA Software has aspirations of applying Needlebase to other sectors as well, or more precisely having users who do so. Last I looked, ITA hadn’t put significant resources behind stimulating Needlebase adoption — but Google might well change that.

Edit: I just re-found an old characterization of (some of) what ITA Software does by — who else? — Dan Weinreb:

I am working on our new product, an airline reservation system.  It’s an online transaction-processing system that must be up 99.99% of the time, maintaining maximum response time (e.g. on www.aircanada.com).  It’s a very, very complicated system.  The presentation layer is written in Java using conventional techniques.  The business rule layer is written in Common Lisp; about 500,000 lines of code (plus another 100,000 or so of open source libraries).  The database layer is Oracle RAC.  We operate our own data centers, some here in Massachusetts and a disaster-recovery site in Canada (separate power grid).

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5 Responses to “ITA Software and Needlebase”

  1. ITA Software and Needlebase | DBMS2 — DataBase Management System … - Sinnerx on April 21st, 2010 2:43 pm

    […] here: ITA Software and Needlebase | DBMS2 — DataBase Management System … ita, know-nothing, may-acquire, their-validity, validity Leave a comment […]

  2. doug little on April 22nd, 2010 9:18 am

    Hi Curt,
    We use ITA services and are definitely intrigued by the acquisition. I thought I’d add some business background to the complex nature of the business.

    In the airline industry, each airline has inventory (flight/seats) that needs to be booked. In order to book, one need so search for availability, request and then confirm.

    there can only 1 authoritative source for the seat committment, but for availability there are many sources. Ideally we’d all go to the primary source, but the airlines charge a transaction fee, so a secondary market has developed for the flight information and availablity. ITA’s market niche is to provide a real time cache to the multiple reservation systems that cost less than contacting the authoratative system. For actual reservation/confirmation we still need to contact the airline inventory system (which itself is often outsourced to a different 3rd party).

    It’s an interesting model of the fracturing/maturing of a business market.

  3. Curt Monash on April 22nd, 2010 2:12 pm

    Hi Doug,

    That IS a complicated information market. Thanks for pointing out some of the nuances!


  4. Aaron Sherman on April 23rd, 2010 4:34 pm

    I suppose Google could be used as an adjuct to Dan’s comments:


  5. Why Banks or Financial Companies prefer Oracle than other RDBMS for their “Core” systems? [closed] - QuestionFocus on December 21st, 2017 8:01 am

    […] salesforce and amazon (http://highscalability.com/amazon-architecture) and flight reservation (http://www.dbms2.com/2010/04/21/ita-software-needlebase-google/). And Oracle can run on multiple operating systems so you are less locked than MS […]

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