Icelandair Sets Cloud Strategy with Amazon Web Services, IBM, and Nyherji
This is a guest post from Pétur Eyþórsson, Resiliency Offerings Manager at Nyherji.
Icelandair Group is one of Iceland’s largest corporations. The company includes Icelandair (a global airline), logistics, and several related business units. Like most businesses, Icelandair Group strives to optimize business results by choosing the most advantageous mix of capital and operating expenses. Small adjustments can impact profitability, operating budgets, and a number of other areas. Airlines and logistics operations work hard to reduce over-capacity, while also keeping in mind that empty airplane seats can kill profitability.
Traditionally, Icelandair Group acquired IT infrastructure capacity upfront and consumed it over time. Running out of IT capacity has serious business impacts, so a cushion was built into capacity planning analysis.
Icelandair Group recently made the strategic decision to migrate key IT workloads to Amazon Web Services (AWS), after determining that doing so would move essential services closer to their customers around the world, enhance business resiliency, and enable rapid scalability.
Another benefit of this migration was the shift in IT consumption model from capital intensive investments to pay-as-you-go operating expense. At Icelandair, some aircraft are purchased while others are leased. Now, cloud computing enables Icelandair Group to emulate these lease/purchase decisions with IT infrastructure. Icelandair Group can now manage IT capacity more efficiently by offering capacity on-demand.
“Our ability to acquire IT infrastructure as needed, gives Icelandair increased business flexibility to respond to changes in demand,” said Elisabet Halldorsdottir, Director IT Operations at Icelandair Group. “Now, IT can become more efficient and less capital-intensive.”
Migrating Customer-Facing Applications to AWS
Icelandair Group chose AWS because of its global reach, rapid scalability, and resiliency capabilities. The first cloud initiatives consisted of the following:
- Move customer-facing services such as the Icelandair website, retail, and booking services to the AWS Cloud to improve the customer service.
- Use Auto Scaling to respond faster to changes in demand.
- Take advantage of multi-Region deployments for increased business resiliency.
A redesigned Icelandair.com web page and Business Portal are now running on AWS. In early March 2017, new capabilities were introduced using AWS website hosting services, including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), Auto Scaling, Amazon Route 53, and Amazon CloudFront, deployed over multiple Availability Zones. In the latest version, customers can pay for tickets using a combination of Frequent Flyer points and credit card, which is expected to improve customer satisfaction and revenue. The Icelandair development team is currently updating the Public Portal, Frequent Flyer, Ticket Booking, and other applications that are accessed from Icelandair.com, using AWS.
Migrating Backups to AWS
Currently, Icelandair Group is moving their backups to the cloud, too. Backups are a significant data center workload and, therefore, a significant opportunity for cloud migration.
Icelandair Group and their Managed Service Provider (MSP), Nyherji, have developed a proven process to audit backups and restores, which was easily adapted to the cloud. The existing backup software, IBM Spectrum Protect, recently added cloud integration features to make migrations straightforward.
The team found that AWS makes it easy to store data in multiple AWS Regions, and copy data between Regions for Disaster Recovery testing.
“Cloud storage improves business resiliency by giving us more places to store data, and more ways to recover” – Finnur Oddsson, CEO at Nyherji
Icelandair and Nyherji designed a series of progressively complex tests for AWS and IBM Spectrum Protect.
Test 1: Backup server deployment
Results: Deployment time reduced from 72 hours to 10 minutes.
Benefits: Faster deployment. Less expert labor. Consistent and repeatable results.
Icelandair deployed a new backup server to manage cloud backups so there would be less potential to disrupt existing backup operations. Cloud backups could run in parallel at first, which provides the ability to carefully examine cloud and on-premises backups for differences.
Icelandair used a new solution from Nyherji called Forteco, which automates backup server deployment and embeds Nyherji Best Practices for enterprise-class data protection. Nyherji Forteco provides automated configuration for AWS backup storage, so there is no additional set-up process. Nyherji Forteco uses IBM Spectrum Protect built-in AWS integration, so no appliances are needed for cloud access, security, efficiency or performance. IBM Spectrum Protect sites without Nyherji Forteco can still deploy AWS backup storage in minutes, with just a few easy steps.
Test 2: Deploy VMware backup interface and train VMware Administrators
Results: We found the VMware interface to be intuitive enough that VMware Administrators do not need additional special skills or training.
Benefits: Improved backup and recovery service levels.
Our testing found that VMware and server administrators can manage cloud backups and restores confidently, without reliance on backup software experts. Backup and restore operations are built into VMware vSphere Web Client. VMware administrators use a familiar interface without necessarily needing to learn new software. Restores can be initiated faster, and problems can be noticed sooner.
Test 3: Backups
Results: Reliability and performance requirements were met or exceeded. Backup throughput easily scaled up, until the network connection was saturated, indicating that both AWS and IBM Spectrum Protect are performance optimized.
Benefits: Business data can be protected without investing in on-premises backup infrastructure.
For this testing, several typical VMware workloads were backed up to the AWS Cloud. For Icelandair, we ran two sets of backups: AWS and on-premises. AWS and on-premises backup objects were compared to understand any key differences. Enterprise backup features, such as data compression, deduplication, and encryption were validated to work as expected.
Test 4: Restores
Results: Reliability and performance requirements were met or exceeded. In one test, the time required to restore 7 terabytes of VMware data was reduced from 72 hours to 3 hours. Performance improvements were due to multiple changes in IBM Spectrum Protect, including multithreaded restores, compression, and deduplication.
Benefits: Business data can be quickly recovered from AWS, reducing the need to invest in remote recovery center infrastructure.
We tested multiple restore scenarios, including:
- VM restore
- VM restore to a different host (DR test)
- Point-in-time restore of multiple VMs
Simple and complex restores can be easily executed from our remote recovery center. And in time, the need to invest in remote recovery centers may be significantly reduced or eliminated, freeing up significant capital for the business.
Benefits Achieved from Migration to AWS
AWS-hosted applications deliver improved customer satisfaction by delivering better performance and availability.
Icelandair Group has new Disaster Recovery (DR) capabilities they didn’t have before, resulting in improved business resilience.
Thorough pre-production testing can give technicians and executives the confidence they need to embrace cloud infrastructure for mission-critical workloads, where there is no tolerance for errors.
Our Backup and Recovery testing concluded that:
- Essential processes (deployment, training, backups and restores) operate as expected when using AWS.
- Cloud backups are an excellent workload for understanding scalability and performance of cloud data migration.
- Progressive testing can streamline cloud migration projects.
Learn more about how Icelandair migrated critical data and applications to cloud infrastructure. Attend a live webinar with Icelandair, AWS and IBM, at 1:00 Eastern time on May 9th.
About the author
Pétur Eyþórsson is Resiliency Offerings Manager at Nyherji. Peter is a certified Data Protection and Security expert with 18 years of experience advising corporations, such as Icelandair Group, government agencies, and vendors. The posting on this site is my own and doesn’t necessarily represent Nyherji positions, strategies or opinions. All client examples cited or described are presented as illustrations of the manner in which some clients have used IBM, AWS and Nyherji offerings, and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual client configurations and conditions.