British Airways not only surfing the skies

Major airport networks being tested using 'Skylab'

British Airways is using a new applications testing platform to check the performance of new and existing apps over its disparate worldwide network.

To help address network-related issues the British Airways network administration team has established its own testing lab called "Skylab", with major airport networks being tested using the lab.

Ian Matthars, senior network infrastructure engineer at British Airways, said Sky Lab was the hub for testing all the network integrations involving its back-office and front-end networked applications.

He said: "Before an application can go live we thoroughly test for all the variables experienced in 'real-world' live networks, including conditions such as latency, loss, delay and jitter."

To support Sky Lab British Airways went to supplier KCom to purchase iTrinegy's INE LCD network emulator to replicate the network and all the associated network conditions.

iTrinegy's INE LCD network emulator is a portable appliance that tests WAN, cloud, mobile, wireless and satellite networks prior to app roll-outs.

British Airway's major new application "FLY", for instance, will be deployed over the coming months after INE LCD testing on British Airways' global networks.

FLY is a replacement for the airline's old green-screen application delivered to check-in operators, using faster hardware and software.

The major issue the team had was that the existing green-screens used very little bandwidth - as little as 16Kbps - and this suited most of British Airway's end-point locations - some 150 airports.

Now, with a richer client and poor links to some airports like Nairobi, for instance, there could have been issues due to the much higher bandwidth demands of the new application. Some of the locations rely on satellite links and here the high latencies would have to be taken into account.

Matthars said: "We needed to replicate a target network environment between the UK and Africa. We noticed very quickly that FLY was running much slower in Nairobi due to the high latency associated with the country's in-place satellite links, and using the network emulator we were able to easily set-up and test the application as if we were actually testing using the actual network in Nairobi."

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