The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing 250 airlines, which account for 84 percent of the world’s air traffic. IATA supports many areas of aviation activity and formulates industry policy on critical aviation issues.

Before moving to Amazon Web Services (AWS), IATA used an on-premises data center for its BI platform, which processes data from various sources and feeds that into its database. When IATA needed to boost the speed and performance of its BI platform, the organization—long known for embracing new technologies and strategic use of resources—looked to the cloud. “We needed to move to an on-demand environment where we could satisfy the business without making huge capital expenditures,” says Pascal Buchner, Director of IT Services & CIO at IATA. “The pay-as-you-go model is critical to success in an industry like ours that moves very quickly and is very capital-intensive.”

IATA selected AWS as its cloud provider because of the pace of innovation at AWS, as well as its big data services portfolio and security features. “We needed the best in breed in terms of cloud platform, so we chose AWS,” Buchner says. “Moving to AWS was our only option if we wanted to survive in a world that’s going faster and faster.”

IATA migrated its BI platform to AWS, and runs web, application and database tiers of the solution, with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 and 2012 as its database engine, on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances. The IATA BI platform on AWS integrates with and other third-party applications. The organization uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store historical data.

After migrating its BI platform, the organization decided to create a new intranet on AWS to replace its old intranet, which ran on Microsoft SharePoint 2007 in its on-premises data center. The new intranet runs SharePoint 2013 and NewsGator/Sitrion, which provides advanced social networking features on top of SharePoint for IATA’s 1,550 users.

IATA solutions on AWS run in Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) and are fully integrated with IATA’s existing Active Directory service. AWS is currently ISO 27001-certified—which was a requirement for IATA, since the BI platform manages highly confidential information.

Using AWS has enabled IATA to provide its customers with more business value by leveraging capabilities which were not possible with traditional solutions. For example, the organization can ingest terabytes of data into storage without prior capacity planning, and then process the data in a limited period of time. Buchner says, “Every time we start a project, we have a roadmap with a list of features that correspond to business value.”

By migrating from an on-premises data center to AWS, IATA was able to achieve greater flexibility and speed of implementation. Now it only takes minutes to set up a working environment, whereas with its previous solution, it took the organization days. “The AWS Cloud is changing the paradigm—it’s letting us be considerably more strategic in how we spend our resources, not to mention providing more functionality to users,” Buchner says.

“We need AWS so that we can turn around the data quickly for our customers,” Buchner says. “Our response times have definitely improved, thanks to Amazon EC2.” The performance of front-end processes increased by approximately 100 percent, resulting in a better experience for IATA users and customers. At the same time, the performance of back-end processes increased by approximately 40 percent, enabling IATA to process more data more quickly. The organization also did not have to purchase additional hardware or software licenses to process the data. Network performance is also much more consistent now from all IATA locations when compared to the former on-premises setup.

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