How are you adopting advanced technologies like digital prototyping and collaboration?
The Dreamliner was digitally prototyped. Taking computer aided diagrams to the supply chain has allowed us to get the Dreamliner to market faster. That is the present and the future -- not just the design, but the maintenance of the plane. Using software to facilitate the collaboration of engineering projects is also a big part of Boeing IT.
We use engineering manufacturing products, and the defence operations uses Siemens Unigraphic. These are global systems that engineers use for collaboration. For example, the Melbourne team designs wings for assembly in Seattle.
Do you encourage the use of social networking applications among staff?
Boeing also has an internal tool called Insight which is similar to Facebook and MySpace where employees enter a profile and join groups within the company. For example, there is a composite structural engineers group.
In just one year of use the number of subscribers has risen to around 30,000 so it has been successful.
We do allow employees to go to public social networking sites, but we have a warning screen to tell people not to disclose private information. We also have frequent e-mails sent to employees on what to remember when they are outside the firewall.
What about virtualisation and cloud computing? Is it suitable for a large engineering organisation with a lot of internal IT?
There are a lot of areas where could computing doesn’t make sense, particularly with proprietary systems, but we are talking to cloud providers like Microsoft and Amazon about where we can leverage cloud computing. For example, the Boeing online store was developed in-house, but is now hosted by Amazon.
We have virtualised all of our servers and employees in different programs can tap into the private cloud for server and storage space. We took our existing environment and put it together in a much more cost effective way.
Most of Boeing’s large servers are virtualised and about 50 per cent of the total number are virtual. That will continue to be greater trend as the collaboration between suppliers is getting better. In the future everything will be virtualised.
Also, is SaaS a viable software sourcing model for you?
I’m a strong fan of Salesforce.com and we are using it today and working on some CRM apps for commercial airplanes. For business service applications it has real promise. It really comes down to speed to market and the time it would take to develop internally.
A lot of our work is very proprietary in nature, and there is government work that needs to remain secure. Those are IT positions that can't be outsourced.
Boeing has a long history of using Linux and open source. What’s your strategy here and what do you think of open source on the desktop?
Boeing has always been on the cutting edge of technology. We have a policy for open source and work with Red Hat and other companies. We are also careful to understand the code that comes in. So much code is open source in the world we live in today, so we need to take advantage of it.
Some internal systems in R&D are open source, which makes a lot of sense. These are areas where you can take a little more risk.
We've looked at open source on the desktop, but it's not ready for prime time. At this point we haven't been successful.
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