West Palm Beach, FL--In 1997, the well-known aeronautics company Pratt & Whitney won a government contract to develop prototype engines for the new Joint Strike Fighter, scheduled to enter service in the early 2000s. Such an engineering project required a reliable way to schedule, plan, and coordinate the various stages of engine development with a large group of people across varied user platforms. The company needed a product data management (PDM) package.
Enter I-Kinetics (Burlington MA) with its DataBroker® Java enterprise data access CORBA product and Sun Microsystems with its Java thin-client software. With Java running on a Sun Ultra Enterprise 3000 Server, Pratt transformed its mainframe into a three-tier expandable architecture in six weeks.
"To improve project scheduling and monitoring, Pratt & Whitney needed to make PDM data on the mainframe readily available to all users via a variety of PCs and workstations. The Java platform was the ideal solution for the Joint Strike Fighter project," says Reed Hornberger, director of market development for Sun Microsystems.
Pratt & Whitney decided on Java after consulting I-Kinetics, provider of CORBA-based data access products.
Pratt & Whitney migrated the mainframe database to an Oracle-based database hosted on a Sun Solaris (UNIX) server. Pratt & Whitney used the I-Kinetics DataBroker(TM) to encapsulate Pratt's database and transform it into a CORBA server. IONA's OrbixWeb was used to develop Java applets that accessed the DataBroker.
Two key benefits were immediately realized: database independence and multi-language support, including Java and C++.
"We could focus our resources on new intranet-based applications while using our current investment in production legacy systems. We deployed new Java and CORBA-based intranet applications using the same staff responsible for our mission-critical COBOL applications," says Robert Landgraff, computer specialist, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft.
More than 1,200 users, including Pratt & Whitney employees, government accountants and officials, and U.S. Airforce engineers, needed to access the project's progress. "Their information requirements differed greatly," says Ted Morin, vice president of professional services at I-Kinetics. "Some wanted just project management data. Some wanted to track potential bottlenecks in the engineering design."
I-Kinetics suggested Java with a CORBA-based data broker. "With Java, you can download the applet to any client and CORBA lets you access the server from anywhere in the network. The result is a 'low' maintenance client that's extendible throughout the enterprise," says Morin.
This PDM system allows everyone to look at designs and follow the manufacturing tasks because all the scheduling and planning information is stored on a web site. The timeline as well as critical point factors are on line. The web site, deployed in real time, updates changes immediately. A modification made in one part of the project automatically updates all other dependent factors.
"This is especially important for a global engineering project where people are working on it 24 hours a day worldwide," says Sun's Hornberger. "Java provides instant communication."
More than 300 Pratt employees use the Java front-end to access the company's program planning and control application, check their group's progress, and ensure the Joint Strike Fighter project remains on track.
"We are very pleased with the new system," says Landgraff. "We have an architecture that works and we hope to make this program a new standard for other commercial and military engine program initiatives."