By using AWS, we can launch new services in hours instead of weeks.
Ramesh Venkat CIO

Dubai-based flydubai strives to remove barriers to travel and enhance connectivity between different cultures across its ever-expanding network. Since launching its operations in 2009, flydubai has created a network of more than 90 destinations, 65 of which did not previously have direct air links to Dubai or were not served by a United Arab Emirates (UAE) national carrier from Dubai. In 2015 it launched 16 new routes, and remains committed to creating trade and tourism flows in previously underserved markets. flydubai is one of the many young, agile businesses that are powering the country’s economy.

Because flydubai is driven by a commitment to enhance the traveler experience, it aims to be an early adopter of new technologies. So when it wanted to launch an online check-in platform, it knew it had to look beyond its existing IT infrastructure to deliver a highly available, consistent service to customers.

The airline wanted an infrastructure that could match the agility of its business operations, allowing it to stay competitive. The IT architecture would also need to cope with seasonal fluctuations in demand for flights, so it had to be able to scale rapidly. At the same time, flydubai didn’t want to pay for unused capacity. Given the criteria, and with time to market being a key driver for the firm, it saw only one option to deliver the project within its tight deadline. “We started looking for cloud providers,” says Ramesh Venkat, CIO of flydubai. “We needed to be in production in just a few months, so that our check-in platform would be operational in time for our busy summer period.”

The airline approached Amazon Web Services (AWS) in April 2015. “Speed was our number one priority,” says Venkat, “and we chose AWS because we saw that we could move much faster by using its technologies.”

Currently flydubai uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) with Elastic Load Balancing automatically distributing loads between instances. Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) provide block-level and object storage respectively. It is also one of the first companies in the Middle East to use AWS Direct Connect, which provides a dedicated network connection from the airline’s on-premises infrastructure to AWS.

The airline benefits from using the Amazon Marketplace to buy third-party software and get it up and running quickly on AWS. As Venkat says, “This is great because we’re not limited by having to use certain suppliers. We can simply buy what we need and plug it in.”

By August, the flydubai's online check-in platform was live and being used by thousands of passengers a day. Following the success of this project, flydubai has moved a number of other applications to AWS, and plans to migrate many more to the cloud as the organization continues to explore cloud technologies. It is also evaluating other products within the AWS portfolio, such as Amazon Redshift for analytics and Amazon Machine Learning to easily create machine learning models.

By using AWS, flydubai has the IT agility to support its rapidly growing business operations. “We’re one of the fastest-growing airlines in the region,” says Venkat, “and AWS offers us the scalability and innovation that matches our needs.” The proof lies in the launch of the airline’s online check-in platform, which took just four months from design to production. “It was crucial that we had the platform up and running in time for the summer, which is one of our busiest periods, and we succeeded in doing that with AWS,” he says.

Handling seasonal fluctuations in demand is now easier for flydubai. It no longer has to predict what sort of capacity it will require during peak booking times because it knows its infrastructure will scale seamlessly.

Since moving to the cloud with AWS, lead times for new infrastructure services have been reduced from up to 10 weeks to a matter of hours. This has allowed the airline to release new services quickly for a better booking and travel experience for customers. “By using AWS we can launch new services in hours, whereas before this would take us weeks,” says Venkat. “It’s the first time our IT infrastructure has been more agile and flexible than the development cycle of our applications. We’ve also now got a highly available platform that helps us ensure business continuity.”

Commenting on the cost-effective experimentation that AWS has created, Venkat says, “We can launch instances to test new features or services, but if we realize they don’t work, it’s simple to terminate them instantly—we don’t have to make a long-term commitment and pay for these resources upfront. This is vital to our ability to innovate and try new approaches.”

Venkat also explains that flydubai will continue to save money as it grows with AWS. “Our bandwidth bill has decreased considerably,” he says. Being able to avoid capital expenditure, and move to a pay-as-you-go financial model through AWS, gives flydubai better control over its costs and more flexibility to provision and pay for services on demand. “We like the fact that we can choose from a range of services and only start paying when we start using them,” says Venkat.

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