Since 1997, InteRES has been developing software solutions for the tourism industry. Prominent tour operators, travel agency chains and airlines all use products developed by the software company based in Darmstadt, Germany – especially when it comes to software solutions for air travel. Customers include Thomas Cook, TUI, FTI, Canusa, LH City Center, DER Part, LH City Line, Condor, Eurowings, SWISS and Sabre.

In 2016, InteRES created a new Airline Solutions business unit and introduced an innovative new product concept: The InteRES Retail Engine is a new Offer and Order Management System for airlines, which has been developed completely from scratch based on IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) and ONE Order industry standards. Final enhancements to the product are currently under way, as the first airline customers began piloting the solution in the summer of 2017. A full-scale roll-out of the Retail Engine is planned for mid-2018.

For more than 15 years, InteRES has been developing and selling price calculation and booking engines for airlines. With the help of its new innovative software, the company aims to drive the digitalization of flight sales. “We’re already highly familiar with software development, technical standards and airline distribution strategies,” notes Alexander von Bernstorff, Director Airline Solutions at InteRES, “and that’s why we can provide airlines with both the technical implementation and the related consulting services. With the Retail Engine, airlines can easily create and structure their product offering, and retain full control over the marketing of their own flights.”

At the core of the new solution is an Offer and Order Management System. This application generates customized flight offers – automatically and based on each customer’s individual inquiry. To this end, the software accesses a range of data sources such as the product database, the database for additional services, or applications that handle flight seat assignments. The application receives shopping inquiries from the front end and delivers customized offers via an industry standard NDC interface. An in-house component enabling the creation of offers with a so-called Admin GUI is part of the Retail Engine’s scope of services, as are features allowing for the creation and administration of bookings, or the synchronization of bookings with the airline’s host system.

The example of a Tier 2 airline with 25 million passengers a year shows the kind of demanding infrastructure requirements the new application has to meet. In this case, the InteRES Retail Engine has to create and deliver 7.5 billion individual offers every year. That’s 238 offers delivered every second.

For a larger airline of 70 million passengers with 50% direct sales, the Retail Engine has to deliver 2,220 offers per second. And to ensure that passengers enjoy a comfortable booking experience, the reply time cannot be any more than two seconds.

According to Alexander von Bernstorff, for InteRES this means that “we have to offer our solution together with its necessary infrastructure in a way that is both highly flexible and scalable, while also keeping the pricing fully transparent. From the very start, it was clear that this kind of product could only be implemented in the cloud.”

For von Bernstorff and his team, it made sense to seek out solutions with AWS as the market leader. “At the end of the day, our airline customers are leading players in their own markets and they expect strong partners,” noted the head of Airline Solutions. “When compared with other competitors, AWS was clearly the best in fulfilling the requirements of InteRES and its customers in terms of scalability, performance, protection against downtimes, data security and the ability to store data on a regional basis.”

For Falko Benkert, the Head of Software Development and his team at InteRES, another strong argument to work with AWS was the availability of support literature, video tutorials and forums that give developers an easy start. No wonder his team even use their own development environment partially in the cloud.

For its innovative product, InteRES uses an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC). The necessary protection against downtime is ensured by two Availability Zones with a total of four sub-networks – two public and two private. For the current pilot operation, the Retail Engine and its related Test Client are configured as cost-effective Spot Fleets with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances and stored in the private sub-networks. Each of the two server groups is part of an auto-scaling group, so that as demand calls for it, additional instances are automatically switched on.

Customers access the Retail Engine and Test Client via a secure https protocol. An application load balancer evenly distributes the inquiries among the instances. Products and services are created via an AdminGUI that is hosted as a static web application on an Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) bucket. The Maven Code Repository used in common by all developers is also hosted on Amazon S3.

To ensure that infrastructure costs arise only when the development team is actually using it, the development infrastructure is automatically created in the morning and disassembled each evening using AWS CloudFormation in combination with AWS Lambda. An Amazon CloudWatch event kicks off the responsible lambda function. In this way, developers don’t have to take care of creating and maintaining their own working platform.

Flexibility is one of the most important advantages of working with AWS when compared to other hosting providers. “We work like a start-up. So for us, it’s a huge benefit that AWS can actually scale to meet our needs,” says von Bernstorff. “Whether it’s about quickly giving access to new users, setting up a test environment or adding new services and ramping up or closing down current ones: There are clearly defined processes that are easy for us to automate and to oversee. Even the transfer of our offer database from MongoDB to PostgreSQL as a service managed by AWS, all went off without a hitch.”

The on-demand availability of AWS services helps the InteRES team drive development at their own pace. “In day-to-day operations, we have to deliver hundreds, even thousands of offers per second, with the highest quality and speed – and then reduce capacity immediately when it’s no longer needed”, explains Head of Software Development Benkert. “And even at this stage, thanks to measures like the use of spot instances, InteRES is saving on development costs.”

The high level of transparency in services is another benefit of AWS as a provider. InteRES is able to pass all AWS costs on to its own customers with complete transparency – charging them only for the environment and services that are actually used. Looking ahead, InteRES is currently planning to work with AWS to use the Amazon API Gateway for managing access, and to use Amazon CloudWatch for monitoring its applications.

Overall, AWS helps InteRES to successfully place an innovative new product in a demanding market – including additional services. As customers, the airlines receive a ready-to-use tool for marketing their products; one that meets extremely high standards of security, dependability and future-proofing. A certified provider plays an important role by providing professional oversight for the application and ensuring its continuous operation around the clock.

Learn how to monitor your AWS applications and cloud resources with Amazon CloudWatch.