Birmingham Airport tech on flexible flight path

Head of information services Wayne Smith talks virtualisation and consolidation...

...hundreds and hundreds of virtual servers that were set up for a test for two weeks but were never used again," he added.

Smith also sees the virtual environment as "a step towards cloud computing" as people don't know or care where their service is and the environment is relatively easy to scale up and down.

The airport isn't currently engaging with cloud computing in the true sense of the term but is discussing what Smith called "more flexible technologies" to pick up increased demand for technology services.

The organisation is using Rackspace to host some more public-facing systems but is talking to the supplier and other companies about different technologies.

Desktop virtualisation

Following the server virtualisation project, the IS team is now looking at desktop virtualisation, although Smith said the business case is more complex than the server project because the move to a more sophisticated technology is likely to need more upfront investment from the board.

Birmingham Airport's IS department is aiming to consolidate its tech contracts

The development of Birmingham Airport means the IS team is keen to consolidate technology contractsPhoto: Birmingham Airport

"Obviously it's more secure to be in a datacentre and it would get backed up centrally and all those nice bits and pieces but when a board is looking at hard figures, the desktop virtualisation figures aren't as easy to sell to the board - it's not such a black-and-white project to get approved," Smith said.

Funds have been allocated for a pilot scheme to take place at the beginning of the next financial year in April, with 25 of the airport's 650 PCs being virtualised, although the decision about which technology to use has yet to be taken.

Some of the PCs best suited to desktop virtualisation include those at boarding gates, check-in and flight management.

A move to a virtual environment should make desktop operating system upgrades easier, although Smith said this kind of migration wouldn't be carried out using a big-bang approach. "[Desktop virtualisation] will certainly allow things to happen more easily in the virtual desktop world than in the physical world," he said.

The airport is generally a Microsoft shop with the organisation adopting every other Windows operating system. Much of the PC estate is currently on Windows Vista after the airport bypassed Windows XP when it moved from Windows 2000, something which created a few issues.

"While [Vista] was OK for a good proportion of the standard desktops, there are the odd systems here that wouldn't run on it. So because of a loss of support for Windows 2000, we've had to go to XP on some of those – but only a small handful," Smith said.

Although the plan would tend to be to upgrade the desktop OS when the successor to Windows 7 emerges, Smith suggested if there was an easy way to...