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Marriott Stays Ahead of the Competition by Maintaining an Agile IT Environment

Misha Kravchenko, vice president of information resources for Marriott International Inc. — Photo by Howard Korn


Customer: Marriott International Inc.
Headquarters:Bethesda, Md.
Business:International hotel chain
Challenge:Keeping up with hardware and software advances to retain its competitive advantage
Solution: Upgraded its mainframe and storage environment and deployed a service oriented architecture to improve services and lessen operating costs
Hardware:Two IBM zEnterprise 196s and an IBM System z10
Software:A litany of homegrown mainframe and open-system applications

The word agile no longer applies just to athletes who possess speed, flexibility and competitiveness. It also applies to businesses that have become faster, nimbler and more ambitious as they compete in today’s ever-changing marketplaces—despite tighter operating budgets.

IT plays a crucial role in this, enabling organizations to access critical, actionable information when and where they need it. Perhaps more important, however, is the thought that goes into IT. It’s one thing to fill a data center with servers and software, hoping they’ll work together seamlessly, but quite another when IT is explicitly designed to meet the essential requirements of the business.

One organization doing this is Marriott International Inc. Rather than throw together a hodgepodge of hardware and software tools, Marriott has focused on using best-of-breed solutions—including several IBM mainframes, a host of targeted homegrown applications and an open standards-based service architecture—that its competitors emulate, according to Misha Kravchenko, Marriott’s vice president of information resources.

Dynamic Thinking

The international company’s breadth spans more than 3,700 properties in 73 countries and territories worldwide, and among its most well-known brands are Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Courtyard, The Ritz-Carlton, Fairfield Inn & Suites, and Gaylord Hotels. Because of the scope of its property holdings, Marriott processes an amazing amount of transactions every day. People book rooms through its website, mobile apps, affiliated online booking sites, at hotels and travel agencies. In fact, it logs some 100 million shopping and booking transactions on a daily basis.

Supporting this is a homegrown reservation system called MARSHA, which runs on an IBM zEnterprise* 196 (z196).

“All of our reservations are routed through MARSHA so we can apply dynamic pricing rules to sell every room we can, which in our industry is called last-room availability,” Kravchenko says. “Others don’t track that, so they don’t have a real handle on how many rooms they have to offer. Because we do, we can provide dynamic pricing, which allows us to charge depending on a number of factors, such as how long someone will be staying, in which market they’ll be staying, and when they’re staying. All of this is calculated immediately, at the time when someone is shopping for a room, to create the correct pricing model for that individual.”

Other key applications, which run on an IBM System z10*, include Rewards for the company’s frequent-guest loyalty program, Marrpay for payroll processing, OneYield for revenue management and CTAC for travel agency commission processing. Both the System z10 and the z196 hosting MARSHA are replicated in real time to an off-site z196.

“We test that once a year,” Kravchenko remarks, “and we can usually recover in less than 30 minutes. Our actual record is 13 minutes, but whatever the number, it’s key that we keep it as low as possible, because we can’t afford—literally, in terms of revenue—to be down for a lengthy amount of time. We’re truly an around-the-clock, around-the-world operation, and every bit of time counts.”

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at



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