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NATS is shifting its software to a cloud infrastructure

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September 16, 2015

Earlier this morning, Britain's National Air Traffic Service said it was moving its data infrastructure system to a cloud infrastructure, which it hopes will help reduce delays the next time it's hit by a major systems outage similar to the one it suffered in December 2014.

The agency is spending tens of millions on its so-called "aviation cloud" that will supposedly improve "resilience and operational flexibility".

It is greatly hoped that the cloud platform will allow it to remove some of its legacy software, said Simon Daykin, chief IT architect at NATS.

"By moving to the aviation cloud and through virtualization, we hope to improve our IT system and its redundancy," he said.

During one of the most busy time at major airports last year, several hundred flights were grounded close to Christmas and the Holidays due to both the body's server channels going down at the same time.

A subsequent report into the incident found that the failure occurred because of a latent software fault that was present from the 1990s.

And in 2013 as well, NATS was also hit by a massive IT outage due to a technical fault with an apparent touch screen interface.

But the body has since denied the recent outage was due to it skimping on IT investment. Former chief executive Richard Deakin has also previously said it would be unrealistic to expect IT failures never to occur given the large complexity of the systems.

Daykin added-- "We can't afford to be at the bleeding edge of technology. But by having more loosely coupled IT architecture, we'll be able to upgrade more easily."

The on-premise software will allow it to run safety critical systems over the next five year period, NATS said.

David Hawken, operations director, said-- "Instead of investing in legacy systems, we are looking at a new architecture, which will be around for the next 20 years or so."

The move to the on-premise setup will begin to happen over the next 12 months, and it's hoped it will gradually complete within the next five years.

It is also hoped that the new runway proposed at Heathrow's International Airport will reduce future flight delay.

The airport is currently operating at virtually full capacity, meaning small delays can create huge backlogs through cascading effects.

But it could be several decades before any building work begins, either at Heathrow or Gatwick Airport, the alternative site for a new London runway.

Source: Britain's National Air Traffic Service.

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