Through support for virtualization, aircraft maintenance software is becoming more versatile because the user experience is no longer tethered to a particular hardware platform. To appreciate just one way in which virtualization can save time and therefore money, consider a scenario where a smartphone serves as a remote terminal that an engineer uses to request the part that he or she needs.
What Virtualization Is
Although virtualization is relatively new to the world of aircraft maintenance software, it is not a new concept at all. In fact, the technique was first used in a rudimentary way to share mainframe resources as far back as the 1960s. At its core, virtualization is a means of using available computer hardware in the most efficient means possible, and thanks to modern techniques and sophisticated hardware, it is often possible to have a virtual server that is not dependent on hardware specifications.
In an aircraft maintenance environment, system downtime is a disaster. That entire local organization relies on that system, and its failure sets off a chain reaction. The cost of downtime could lose companies thousands of dollars a minute, and in commercial environments, that domino effect can reach as far back as consumers dealing with delayed flights or important packages not making it to their destination on time.
The most common reason for downtime of aircraft maintenance software is hardware failure. In the past, if a mainboard failed, then the AMS system was down until an IT specialist could acquire a new board, replace it, reboot the system and reconfigure it. In a virtualized system, the AMS is not dependent on that particular mainboard. In fact, there are additional mainboards waiting in the wings. As one fails, another steps up, and the IT department can replace the bad board under no pressure.
There are many ways that virtualization is transforming the aircraft maintenance industry. So far we’ve mentioned virtual desktops and server virtualization. A third method is data virtualization. Here, the goal is to eliminate the dependencies between the data storage systems, the data retrieval mechanisms and the people and services who consume the data.
Such virtualization is making file storage and handling more efficient because many people and services need access to the data at the same time. With virtualization, an engineer can request rivets on-site while an off-site vendor fills an order based on lowering rivet stock and a management service queries the database in order to analyze increased rivet usage over the last 12 months.