Using AWS and DevOps, software development is now 67% faster.
Lawrence Fong General Manager IT Solutions

Cathay Pacific Airways (Cathay Pacific) is an international airline registered and based in Hong Kong. It offers scheduled passenger and cargo services to nearly 200 destinations in 49 countries and territories. Headquartered at Hong Kong International Airport, the company is a member of the Swire Group and is a public company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Cathay Pacific has made substantial investments to develop Hong Kong as one of the world’s leading global transportation hubs. The company operates 146 aircrafts and has orders in place for the latest Airbus A350-900, A350-1000, and Boeing 777-9X models. Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary Cathay Dragon employ around 18,500 staff in Hong Kong, making it one of the Hong Kong’s biggest employers.

Did you buy your last airline ticket online? The answer is probably yes. Since 2014, more than 90 percent of travelers have been buying airline tickets using website-based booking engines.

Given this statistic, the performance of an airline’s website and booking engine is crucial. “If there are problems with either, customers can’t buy their tickets—it’s that simple—and that really impacts revenues,” says Lawrence Fong, general manager of IT solutions at Cathay Pacific.

It’s not just revenues that suffer. The reputation of the airline suffers too. “Cathay Pacific is a great brand, and we need to protect that brand by making sure our customers have a great experience at every stage of their journey with us, and that includes whenever they use our online services,” comments Fong.

Delivering a high level of performance for Cathay Pacific’s website and booking engine was challenging. “We relied too much on manual processes for making website improvements. It was slowing down our pace of innovation,” says Fong. Because the website and booking engine were supported by a physical infrastructure, Cathay Pacific also faced time to market issues when it wanted to refresh and scale the platform. “We had to over-provision the platform to ensure that we could support a growing number of online customers,” he says.

Cathay Pacific planned to rearchitect its website and booking engine infrastructure. It looked to automate infrastructure, application deployment and scaling by using Red Hat OpenShift, a containerization software designed for the cloud. At this point, Fong looked at Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a possible cloud-service provider. “We looked at many public clouds but AWS scored most highly against our key criteria, which included stability, security, and breadth of services,” says Fong.

Cathay Pacific launched a three-month proof of concept (POC) using AWS, creating several sandbox environments to run cloud native toolsets. During the POC, the team found that Red Hat OpenShift performed well on the AWS Cloud and that AWS provided an agile development environment. He adds, “We saw that security was also locked-in to every layer of the AWS Cloud, which gave us peace of mind.”

Following the POC, Cathay Pacific refactored its website applications to a Red Hat OpenShift platform running on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances. The website infrastructure, which sits inside an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), uses Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to store application data and transactional data from the website applications. The company also takes advantage of Amazon ElastiCache to provide in-memory data caching to speed up web application performance and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for storing the site’s static imagery.

Today, Cathay Pacific no longer faces any challenges with the performance of its online services. “Since we moved to AWS, customers have seen an improvement in the performance of our website applications,” says Fong. “We haven’t seen any downtime and the refactored web applications have been 100 percent reliable. Not only does this helps the airline drive online revenues but it also protects the reputation of our brand.”

Development times have also improved significantly now that the website applications are running on AWS. “Software development is now 67 per cent faster using AWS and DevOps,” says Fong. “When new software is ready for release, it is moved to the AWS environment where DevOps automates deployment and Red Hat OpenShift enables environment scaling.”

The move to AWS ensures scalability, reliability, cost effectiveness and speed to market. Fong and his colleagues scale the infrastructure behind its website applications on-demand – and therefore the IT team avoids the need to overprovision. “Because we can dynamically scale our IT infrastructure with AWS, we’ve made resource savings of 50 per cent,” says Fong.  “The speed of development and provisioning enables us to focus on software innovation, which, in turn, has increased work satisfaction among IT employees because they can focus on what they love doing.”

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