The Bay Area Rapid Transit system, known as BART to the citizens of the San Francisco/Bay area, operates five commuter train lines on 104 miles of track with 43 stations in four counties. With average weekday traffic of 400,000 passengers, it is the fifth-busiest heavy-rail rapid transit system in the United States. Just as it works to speed passengers throughout the area, BART officials turned to IBM and Synchrony Systems for help in accelerating it mobile application delivery. To do it, the companies instituted a pilot program that leveraged IBM’s Bluemix Platform-as-a-Service and DevOps. A Smarter Planet sat down with Slavik Zorin, president and CEO of Synchrony Systems recently about the work his firm conducted for BART. The following is an excerpt.
Smarter Planet: Why did Synchrony see a need for a DevOps approach with the BART project?
Slavik Zorin: Due to its expansive reach and physical infrastructure, BART maintains a large network of legacy, back-end systems of record, containing track and car information, and data generated from sensors, alerts, and maintenance systems. These systems house tremendous volumes of incredibly valuable data.
To support a 24/7 operation, BART relies on its Maintenance and Reliability Information System (MARIS) to conduct preventive maintenance of train cars. As a mission critical application that runs on the web, MARIS enables BART to track the status of cars on four maintenance yards, as well as shops, exchange and storage tracks. Based on our work migrating MARIS to the web, BART reached out to us for guidance. With the need to get the latest up-to-date information in the hands of an increasingly mobile workforce, we advised BART to pursue an approach to make the data available to their mobile users in a fast and secure manner. We began a pilot program using IBM Bluemix and DevOps.
SP: How do you think BlueMix will help BART?
SZ: BART’s ultimate goals are improving maintenance response times and providing better service. BlueMix mobile services allowed us to quickly build an app that provides instant access to yard tracking data on a mobile device. We had the first iteration up and running within a few days and we had the complete app in just a couple of weeks – a timeframe that far exceeded BART’s expectations. Bluemix allowed us to integrate services instantaneously.
SP: How are you planning to pilot this app with BART?
SZ: Now that we are done presenting the Mobile MARIS pilot at Innovate, we’ll plan to go back and finalize the requirements of the app with BART’s Office of the CIO and their key users. Aside from finishing the implementation of some minor remaining features, we will be discussing production deployment as it pertains to BART’s security requirements of hosting this application on the Bluemix cloud.
SP: Do you know if there was any feedback from any of the users of the mobile app?
SZ: We had a chance to present the mobile app to the Mechanical Office a few weeks ago and received a very positive and encouraging response. The few things that they’ve asked to have in the app we already have in place today. It was obvious that there is a real need for such an app and that they would love to have it in their hands.
SP: What’s next?
SZ: It’s pretty clear, based on [BART’s CIO] comments, that enabling the workforce with the mobile capabilities is strategic to BART. It is my understanding that there are good compelling business reasons for BART to move deeper into mobile and cloud integration with Bluemix and DevOps for several of its internal mission-critical applications. This is why putting this first mobile pilot app into production is so important.