October 11, 2011, 2:32 PM — ORLANDO -- Since it almost went under in 2007, Jet Blue has undertaken several cost-saving and technology streamlining initiatives, including outsourcing its data center infrastructure and rolling out desktop virtualization this year in support of its 14,000 employees.
When it came to employees using smartphones, the airline issued Blackberries, but they also allowed iPhones and Android smartphones as long as employees connect through a VPN.
As JetBlue CIO Joe Eng told an audience at Computerworld's SNW conference Tuesday, "we chose to embrace mobile and get ahead of it.
"It allowed us to skirt around the issue of having to issue Apple in the environment," he continued. "I fully support Apple, just yours not ours."
Over time, Eng said JetBlue won't even have to issue corporate Blackberries because most employees will want to use their own devices . "They keep them up to date better than enterprise does at times anyway," he said.
In 2007, JetBlue was reeling financially from high fuel prices and service problems that stranded passengers on grounded jets for hours. The problems resulted in the ousting of founder and CEO David Neeleman.
"If you know anything about this industry, you know it's a very tough industry from a margin perspective, a revenue perspective ... and the cost structures are very difficult," Eng said.
The following year, the airline embarked on a complete technology overhaul that included a web services infrastructure, the outsourcing of most of its data center operations to Verizon, and the deployment of a Citrix-based virtual desktop infrastructure, which is still under development today.
Previously, the airline had been a Window-based operation and had run its own data center, networks and call center. Eng said the airline "struggled" with letting go of that control, but given the scale and size of the IT investments it was trying to maintain, an infrastructure- and software-as-a-service model was the more reliable, scalable and cheaper approach.
Eng noted how many IT managers struggle with rolling out every new version of Microsoft Office, keeping up to date with each new release. "Over time you don't take the next version, and the next thing know you're four versions behind," he said.