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Aviation vendor flying high with VPN

Aviall's switch from frame relay to managed VPN cited as a key to better reliability.

By , Network World
January 05, 2004 12:01 AM ET

Network World - Aviation parts distributor Aviall has experienced a major financial turnaround over the past three years that executives attribute in part to a strategic investment in Internet-based network technology.

Founded more than 70 years ago, the Dallas company is the largest independent provider of aircraft parts and related services. In January 2000, it brought in a new management team that emphasized IT investment as part of its turnaround strategy. Since then, revenue has increased from $380 million to more than $1 billion.

"We wanted the very best technology and the very best tools for our people to use," says Joe Lacik, Aviall's vice president of information services, who joined the company on the same day as the new CEO. "We proposed to the board that we invest about $40 million in technology to bring this place to where it needed to be."

That investment represented more than three times the company's annual IT budget at the time.

Included in the $40 million were purchases of new software, servers, workstations and a network infrastructure. Aviall's small IT shop - it has fewer than 50 people - initially focused on rolling out the new software architecture to 700 employees in 40 sites around the world. The software includes CRM systems from Siebel Systemse-commerce systems from BroadVisionmiddleware from Sybase , and new software packages for inventory control and inventory management.

Last year, Aviall decided to replace its point-to-point frame relay  network, which didn't meet the company's requirements.

"We were experiencing very poor reliability in the field," Lacik says, adding that the company averaged only 93% availability but needed to support around-the-clock operations. "We were putting a lot of the remote sites out of business every day."

The legacy network also lacked many of today's common network management features.

"We had no alerts, no alarms, no monitoring, no capacity planning," Lacik says. "We only had what we could put together with our skills . . . and we have only one WAN engineer."

Aviall chose an Internet-based VPN and outsourced the management  of it to a service provider. Migrating to IP made sense for Aviall because one of its business units runs a successful electronic marketplace that offers 5 billion parts used in the aerospace, marine and power utility industries.

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