FAA open-source system saves $15 million

Today, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it has saved $15 million by migrating to an open-source platform for traffic flow management (TFM). The upgrade is part of a broader service-oriented architecture that will exchange TFM's old proprietary systems with Java, Web service, open source and Oracle applications.

The FAA switched from Unix to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, an open-source operating system that consolidated hardware and software installed in 1999.

The traffic flow system, called the Enhanced Traffic Management System, is used to predict traffic surges, gaps and volume across the national airspace. With about 8,000 airplanes flying at any given time, the FAA's mission to keep the skies safe depends on this real-time system.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux is on all traffic management systems at the central processing facility, located in the Transportation Department’s Volpe Center in Cambridge, Mass. More than 100 sites, including military facilities and international sites, rely on the system for air traffic management.

When officials first considered upgrading the entire system, they faced an estimated price tag of $25 million and an 18-month wait until full deployment. With Red Hat's Linux platform, they spent less than $10 million and finished in one-third of the projected amount of time.

“By going to Linux, we now have choices of hardware” in the future, said Joshua Gustin, FAA’s TFM-Modernization program manager.

The agency will have greater flexibility in buying new hardware and a single platform for all development testing and training, he said.

Gustin is now working to replace software coded 20 years ago.

“We are truly going to rewrite all the software and build a brand-new software base that will be deployed on Red Hat again,” he said.

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