Finnair’s Swift Migration to AWS Drives Savings and Agility

Executive Summary

Finnair achieved substantial cost savings by exiting two data centers and migrating 70 applications previously hosted on approximately 400 servers onto AWS. The airline now has a flexible, scalable system ready for post-pandemic travel.

Finnair’s Swift Migration to AWS Drives Savings and Agility

When Finnair, Finland’s national airline, needed to undertake a complex migration from its existing on-premises provider to the cloud to cut costs when the pandemic hit, it turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Nordcloud for help.

Nordcloud’s unique Managed Cloud Migration allows companies to reduce the financial and operational risk of migrating to the cloud. Finnair’s project was big and complex, involving approximately 400 servers and 70 applications which were vital to Finnair’s daily operations. The estate was a mixture of Windows, SAP, VMware, legacy Windows 2008, Windows 2003 and even Windows 2000, Oracle, and IBM AIX software. In addition, some parts of the technology estate, such as the ticketing booths, had not been touched for 20 years and required updating before the migration was even possible.

Nordcloud worked with AWS to run an Optimization and License Assessment (OLA). It conducted a full total cost of ownership (TCO) evaluation and business case for Finnair and identified the potential for substantial savings in both capacity and license costs. Nordcloud worked with AWS under a joint governance model to ensure full transparency. Together they provided the plan to build the business case for the migration to AWS as well as showing how to modernize workloads once the move to AWS had been made. Along with substantial savings the move would also provide Finnair with the scalability and flexibility to support future growth.

Then two things happened at the same time—COVID-19 stopped air travel overnight and Finnair was nearing the end of its existing contract with its previous provider.

“People didn’t think the move could be executed in such a short timeframe, especially given constraints around coronavirus.”

- Tiina Flytström, Head of Infrastructure and Cybersecurity, Finnair

Lockdown Provides Opportunity to Migrate in Months

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Finnair saw a rare opportunity to drive the migration forward. With the drastic reduction in travel, mission-critical applications weren’t operating at normal capacity, which reduced the business risks of migration. And, of course, with air travel virtually stopped, the company also had an urgent need to reduce costs.

Time was of the essence—Finnair needed to migrate fast while demand was very low. By using AWS Application Migration Service and Cloud Migration Factory on AWS, Finnair could quickly lift and shift their Windows and Linux based applications to AWS with minimal disruption and make the move at the necessary speed. In just seven months Finnair had moved all of its Microsoft workloads onto AWS and ended its data center contracts on time.

Finnair’s reliance on SAP for maintenance and operations software and IBM’s AIX and DB2 software was reduced with a shift to AWS-native solutions Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) and SAP Hana on AWS. Workloads on Windows, SQL, and legacy workloads on Windows server 2008 were also migrated to AWS. Finnair completely exited their data centers between September 2020 and March 2021. The migration went smoothly despite the challenges of working under pandemic restrictions.

“The migration result was a wonderful surprise! People didn’t think it could be executed in such a short timeframe, especially given constraints around coronavirus.” Tiina Flytström, Head of Infrastructure and Cybersecurity, says: “But we executed the migration as planned. Basic incidents have more or less disappeared, and given that every incident is costly, this is a great result. Even though the TCO calculation process was fast, we are on track, and the business is saving a very significant amount of money.”

Working with Nordcloud and AWS Brings Cost Control and Savings

Finnair was initially considering other hyperscalers but chose to work with AWS because of the great experience they previously had running other workloads on it, and due to their culture, their focus on innovation and the availability of experienced experts to support with migrating critical workloads specific to the airline industry.

By working with Nordcloud and using AWS, Finnair gained two financial advantages.

Firstly, Nordcloud coordinated with AWS experts to help Finnair access AWS funding to offset the initial cloud migration costs. Funding came from the AWS Migration Acceleration Program (MAP). This included funding for a migration readiness assessment and building the business case. There was also matched funding from AWS during the mobilize phase for creating a landing zone and making a migration plan.

Secondly, access to Nordcloud’s Managed Cloud Migration process. A normal migration racks up a variety of upfront costs—there is the initial consultancy, creation of a landing zone, followed by the actual migration costs. Even after this stage companies still need to pay out to transition to managed services so that they can optimize their cloud infrastructure to achieve the best value. And for at least some of this period organizations are in a cost migration bubble—also paying for their existing infrastructure to run in parallel.

Nordcloud provides a way to avoid any capital expenditure in favor of monthly operational expenditure. This means organizations can start to benefit from their cloud migration faster with no upfront costs and less financial risk. By taking an integrated approach to migration and managed services, Nordcloud helps companies optimize their infrastructure as they migrate, reduce license and capacity costs, speed up feature releases, and achieve value faster.

Finnair Fit for the Future

While the focus was on migrating Finnair quickly and without disruption, while also rapidly cutting costs, the migration has also provided the airline with the benefits of a future-ready and agile infrastructure able to bounce back as travel restrictions end. AWS services have provided the foundation for Finnair to continue its digital transformation contributing to future growth of the company.

The change has also helped the wider organization move to a more DevOps culture while increasing flexibility and cost savings. AWS has provided both the scalability to quickly cut capacity when the pandemic struck but it has also left the airline with an infrastructure which can cope with the continued uncertainties which airlines must deal with. Finnair will be able to scale up very quickly as travel restrictions change and demand for air travel returns, while keeping a tight control on costs until that moment comes.


About Finnair

Finland’s national airline Finnair carried 14.7 million passengers in 2019 but just 3.5 million in 2020. A move to AWS helped it cope with this turmoil while controlling costs. The migration provides an agile and future-ready infrastructure to power Finnair’s digital transformation and future growth.

About Nordcloud

Nordcloud helps organizations leverage public cloud to balance quick wins, immediate savings, and sustainable value. Nordcloud has 10 European hubs, more than 500 employees and has delivered more than 1,000 successful cloud projects for companies ranging from mid-size to large corporates. IBM announced its acquisition of Nordcloud on December 21, 2020.

Published July 2021