One of the top 10 online travel agencies in Europe, e-Travel operates 11 websites, including www.mytrip.com, www.airtickets24.com, and www.trip.ru. Since Since mid-2014, more than two million passengers worldwide have purchased flights, travel insurance, and car rental services through the Athens-based startup. Launched in 2007, the 180-employee company has a significant presence in southeastern Europe and Russia and is expanding into markets in Southeast Asia.
e-Travel has three core business goals: quick time to market, expansion into new countries and regions, and continuous delivery of useful features for customers. Focusing on these has been central to the firm’s success, so when its existing IT infrastructure—a combination of colocated and managed hosting services—hampered the company’s ambitions, e-Travel knew it had to look differently at its IT setup.
“As we grew, we found that our environment was slowing us down,” says Nick Bitounis, director of IT at e-Travel. “We were concentrating on provisioning hardware, but what we really wanted to do was help deliver a great experience to our customers.” Bitounis says process automation was key in enabling the startup’s 35-plus in-house developers to experiment and test new ideas instead of focusing on day-to-day IT management tasks.
With a 24/7 operation serving customers in more than 60 countries, e-Travel also needed to ensure high availability as well as elasticity to cope with significant spikes in demand. In 2012, things came to a head, with a number of hardware failures that ultimately threatened the customer experience. “Our most pressing goal was to eliminate downtime altogether,” says Bitounis.
e-Travel looked to the cloud to help it achieve the service continuity that was so vital to its business.
The online travel agency chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) because of its comprehensive portfolio and commitment to innovation. While e-Travel’s immediate requirements from a cloud provider were fairly simple, it wanted a service with which it could grow, making use of new features and technologies as they came to market.
e-Travel began moving from its colocation provider in 2012, starting with its fraud prevention and management system. This allowed the team to get some experience in AWS before it moved to the full-scale migration, which was completed with just a few hours of downtime over a single evening. “It’s a testament to the simplicity of AWS that we managed to migrate everything in one night without any hitches,” says Bitounis.
e-Travel uses AWS to run all its back-end systems for flight bookings and ticketing, as well as its 11 customer-facing websites. The services sit within an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), and include Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), with Elastic Load Balancing for distributing loads between instances. Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) provides fully redundant storage, and the managed Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) reduces manual database administration for the team.
e-Travel uses Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) and Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) to pass data between applications. The firm’s developers make extensive use of tools for Amazon Web Services, including the AWS SDK for Ruby and AWS SDK for .NET, to help integrate the company’s applications with its AWS environment.
Amazon CloudSearch provides data indexing for the company’s proprietary customer relationship management (CRM) application, while Amazon Kinesis is central to streaming log data. e-Travel hopes to expand its use of Amazon Redshift for management reporting and is currently exploring how it can use AWS Lambda to realize the benefits of a serverless architecture.
The company has the Business support plan from AWS Support, which Bitounis says has been helpful. “When the need arises, the response times, feedback, and resolution have been good,” he says.
Eliminating system downtime was a key driver for moving to the cloud. “With AWS, we have 99.99 percent availability, which helps us deliver a consistent, reliable experience for our customers,” says Bitounis.
The company’s sites all experience fluctuations in demand on an hourly, daily, and seasonal basis, and the elasticity of AWS gives e-Travel the ability to deal with these spikes in traffic. Bitounis says, “By using AWS, we can scale flexibly without having to spend time manually adding servers or removing bottlenecks. The infrastructure can easily respond to changes in demand.”
He also appreciates the fact that many of the AWS services are managed. “AWS allows us to focus on providing value to our business without having to deal with administrative and coding tasks,” he says. “Instant provisioning lets us quickly experiment with AWS, enabling rapid prototyping and quick evaluation of whether a solution is worth pursuing or not.” This helps e-Travel accelerate time to market for new features and services, making its offering more attractive to customers and giving the firm a competitive advantage. A recent example is e-Travel's new pricing mechanism that spans multiple algorithms and systems with the goal of delivering reliable and up-to-date product prices to customers. The use of AWS accelerated the delivery of a working prototype by removing the need for the manual provisioning, configuration, and management of the relevant system components.
Bitounis says the company’s ambitious global expansion plans are well supported by AWS. “With a 30 percent increase in sales year over year,” says Bitounis, “we’re one of the fastest-growing online travel agencies in our sector. AWS has been instrumental in making our international growth possible. Our AWS infrastructure gives us confidence that we can expand our presence in the markets we already operate in, as well as reach into new markets like Japan and South Korea.”
He concludes, “AWS is an indispensable part of our company’s operations. The continuous innovation and constant stream of new, very useful services reminds us that AWS is the right choice time and again.”
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