Linux breeds Boeing's new jets in Australia

Hawker de Havilland, the Australian arm of aircraft engineering giant Boeing, will retire its 30-year-old VAX system in favor of its new Linux-based environment in the manufacture of parts for the company's next-generation 787 jets.

With about 1300 employees, Hawker de Havilland has been operating for more than 75 years and manages IT with two "legacy" ERP systems, according to applications and architecture manager Peter McTaggart.

"One is home-grown and still running on a VAX for some 30 years and the other is a commercial system customized to the hilt and it is also more than 20 years old," McTaggart said at a BEA Systems conference in Sydney. "We have a strategy of replacing those, but since they drive production systems they're not easy to replace."

There are also numerous ad hoc systems, including Microsoft Access, and spreadsheets developed by users, and with a "50-strong" IT group the capacity for application development is "very small".

After three years of thinking about how to modernize its core systems, the company began implementing a SOA last year based on BEA's Weblogic platform and a clustered Oracle-Linux database on the backend. The first client services went into production in March this year and remainder are due in the next month or so.

HDH now enjoys the flexibility of an enterprise service bus (ESB) which plugs into its manufacturing, HR, and quality management systems, with new apps to be added.