PLATFORMS: Orchestrate runs on the RS/6000-based IBM SP2 platform running AIX 4.2.1 and PSSP 2.2. Also runs on the Sun SMP servers.
PROBLEM SOLVED: On any given day United's yield-management system controls more than 4000 daily departures--approximately 1.4 million flights. United's old leg- based system, though very sophisticated, had limitations in terms of flexibility and dynamic, rapid response to market changes. These limitations could be eliminated by an itinerary-based demand forecasting system which forecasts passenger flows by their exact path of travel, (for example, Frankfurt to Chicago to Des Moines). This would allow the airline to optimize its entire flight network at once by tracking each of these itineraries as opposed to one flight leg at a time, resulting in additional annual revenues for United of over $50 million. The challenge lay in overcoming the exponential number of combinations that an itinerary-based forecast system results in due to connecting traffic--over 100 million itineraries are forecasted to flow over the 1.4 million flight legs. This problem is inherently parallel and could be easily solved by partitioning the data by market O&D (origin and destination of an itinerary), since forecasting passenger demand from Frankfurt to Chicago is independent of demand between Frankfurt and Des Moines.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Orchestrate runs the forecasting application code in parallel on a massively parallel platform while shielding the application developers from esoteric parallelization issues so that the developers can focus on building application logic using their programming language of choice. A core team of Orchestrate developers can then move their code, without recompilation, into a parallel environment using the Orchestrate Shell (OSH) scripting language in a matter of days.
STRENGTHS: Orchestrate enables the building of scalable and machine-independent systems. The parallelization strategy is executed at run time via a configuration file containing the system resources definition, such as processing nodes, data and scratch file areas, etc. The application code can be moved between shared-memory (SMP) and shared-nothing (MPP) architectures with changes required only to the configuration file. A rich set of built-in operators can partition and manipulate data in ways that satisfy most requirements. Custom operators can be created by deriving from the base class of operators, providing for easy extensibility. Orchestrate has extremely low overhead and has exhibited near- linear scalability for most of our programs. Last but not least, it truly provides a way to build parallel systems with a very low training liability for the application developers.
WEAKNESSES: Although a powerful tool, to unleash its full potential highly proficient UNIX developers are required. In its upcoming version of Orchestrate, Torrent will deliver enhanced features, including a GUI, to streamline ease of use for a broader range of developers and programmers.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Orchestrate is the only parallel programming environment available that allows for the isolation of application code development from complex parallelization issues, attaining ease of use and high scalability.
DELIVERABLES: Orchestrate currently runs a large daily batch system at United consisting of nearly 100 jobs which process 300- 400GB of data in under 16 hours. These jobs include complex analytical forecasting models as well as straightforward data preparation routines.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Torrent Systems has provided outstanding support services both during pre- and post- installation phases.
DOCUMENTATION: Extensive manuals are available including SP2 installation procedures and performance tuning guidelines. As is the case with most complex software products, formal training is a must.
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