Japan Airlines Accelerates a Secure and Efficient Digital Transformation Using AWS


In its management plan, Japan Airlines Co., Ltd. (JAL) Group established the "JAL Vision" and proceeded with initiatives to transform JAL into a truly global airline, create new offerings one step ahead of competitors, and achieve sustainable growth.

JAL is working on a project to build a new cloud platform called CIEL in order to revamp the system used in various businesses operated by the JAL Group, including aircraft management, aircraft maintenance, and passenger services. JAL’s IT Planning Department and JAL Infotec Co., Ltd., the main IT company in the JAL Group, support these efforts from an IT perspective. JAL is standardizing its cloud API platform and updated the customer support system on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

AWS Case Study | Japan Airlines Co., Ltd.

Cloud computing has progressed faster than initially expected, and cost reductions have been achieved while ensuring security. We will continue utilizing new technologies to further improve efficiency and convenience in the future."

Kazuhiro Kurita
Manager, IT Operations and Planning Department, IT Planning Division, Japan Airlines Co., Ltd.

Building JAL’s Hybrid Cloud Platform for Stability and Growth

In response to global changes in the airline industry, JAL aims to be the most selected and loved airline by passengers in the world. In 2016, JAL's IT Planning Department and JAL Infotec started a project to build a cloud platform to serve as the foundation of JAL’s business system. Named CIEL, meaning "sky" in French, the platform has been in operation since December 2018.

CIEL aims to allow flexible management of quality, speed, and cost through seamless coordination of operations, while using virtualization and other technologies to deploy servers, storage, and networks in the on-premises environment and on an external cloud platform.

As a hybrid cloud platform, CIEL can be broadly divided into three parts. CIEL is a private cloud built based on VMware virtualization. It consists of CIEL/J, which operates in the company's data center, CIEL/D, which utilizes an external hosting service with the same configuration as CIEL/J, and CIEL/S, which serves as the foundation built using AWS to maximize the benefits of the cloud.

“We planned CIEL/S because we wanted to promote speed, cost reduction, and flexible cloud utilization for customer optimization and business continuity. We decided to use the cloud instead of refurbishing the aging system infrastructure on-site," says Kazuhiro Kurita, general manager, IT Operations and Planning Department, IT Planning Division, JAL.

Kurita adds, “In previous on-site environments, platforms have been configured using virtualization technology since 2008. In this case, when the demand for a new system arises, each component such as the network, server, storage, monitoring, logging, and backup functions need to be readied. However, we wanted to take advantage of the fact that building on the cloud with the same requirements can be done more quickly. In addition, as the number of projects for which data utilization has become indispensable has increased, it has become difficult to forecast infrastructure demand, increasing the need to build a cloud infrastructure that feels fast and provides flexibility. Since the old system was still going strong, we decided to connect the system to a hybrid cloud platform out of consideration for business continuity.”

Deploying JAL's Requirements on AWS

In selecting a cloud infrastructure, Hiroshi Fujishima of JAL Infotec Co., Ltd., System Infrastructure Service Business Division, System Infrastructure Department, and Common Service Infrastructure Department, was in charge of the CIEL project from the formulation of the request for a proposal to each company. “The request for proposals included 236 requirements. When I inquired with several cloud vendors, AWS gave the most detailed response. I appreciated that they included a detailed description on how the essential requirements of the JAL Group relate to AWS services, including security issues and the ability to troubleshoot and recover the system ourselves if a failure occurs," says Fujishima, explaining the reason for choosing AWS.

Masashi Oshima works at JAL Infotec Co., Ltd., in the System Infrastructure Services Division and System Infrastructure Division, Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure Department, Hybrid Cloud Operations Group on the CIEL construction project. He currently plays a role in making more effective use of cloud infrastructure. Oshima adds, “AWS offers a wide variety of services and is attractive because of the large number of AWS Partners.”

The introduction of CIEL/S started around February 2018. AWS Premier Consulting Partner NEC Corporation (NEC) was in charge of installation support, with consultation support provided by AWS Professional Services. CIEL/S was released as a cloud platform for the JAL Group in December 2018.

Initially, JAL requested a method for meeting system requirements available on the old system, such as monitoring and backup, on AWS. NEC carefully distilled JAL's requirements up to that point and deployed it on AWS, allowing aircraft operation and management, aircraft maintenance, and other such systems to be built.

Building a Customer Support System with Strict Security Requirements on AWS

In March 2019, the decision was made to deploy a new system for handling customer information on CIEL/S. The system supports a connected, seamless travel experience from reservation to boarding. Many discussions were held regarding off-site operation due to a concern that any leaking or falsification of customer data could have a significant impact to JAL and its customers.

Addressing the importance of security requirements, Minoru Shoji, the head of JAL's IT Planning Division, IT Operations and Planning Department, Technology Strategy Group, says, "AWS helped us understand how the support of AWS Professional Services can solve our concerns about managing data in the cloud as well as other security concerns by explaining how they think about security at AWS."

The specific proposal was to separate accounts for each system, control access, and improve security. "This was great advice. Currently, we have separate accounts for development of the same system and for the production environment. We have also revised existing guidelines so they can be applied to cloud environments without lowering the level of security,” says Fujishima.

Cultivating a Cloud-centric Culture and Accelerating Digital Transformation

One of the factors evaluated about the effectiveness of implementing AWS in CIEL/S is cost. “The fact we have more options for building multiple environments in preparation for disaster recovery is a significant advantage. In addition, it was possible to reduce operating costs by 50 percent because volume can be flexibly adjusted according to fluctuations in demand. In the future, we would like to utilize cutting-edge technologies such as data analysis to improve the customer experience,” says Shoji.

The team reports that using AWS is helping not only to reduce costs but also to change the mindset of technical staff. "Awareness of how utilizing CIEL maximizes the benefits of the cloud has taken root,” says Oshima.

In addition, a new initiative to use AWS services to visualize airport congestion with webcams and Amazon Rekognition, which makes it easy to add image and video analysis to applications using proven, highly scalable, deep learning technology, has begun. “We have been able to improve the speed of development and reduce costs beyond our initial expectations by moving to the cloud. I'm really glad we did it,” says Kurita. “We can keep on accelerating the secure and efficient construction of IT infrastructure that supports the digital transformation of the JAL Group by changing our mindset in the IT department and utilizing new technologies.”

Kazuhiro Kurita

Minoru Shoji

Masashi Oshima

Hiroshi Fujishima

About Japan Airlines Co., Ltd.

Japan Airlines was founded in 1951 and became the first international airline in Japan. A member of the Oneworld Alliance, the airline now reaches 430 airports in 66 countries and regions together with its codeshare partners. Awarded as one of the most punctual major international airlines and a certified 5-Star Airline by Skytrax, JAL is committed to providing customers with the highest levels of flight safety and quality in every aspect of its service, and aims to become of the most preferred and valued airlines in the world.

Benefits of AWS

  • Reduced operating costs by 50% through flexible operation of IT resources
  • Promoted understanding of the cloud among JAL teams and enabled quick provision of IT infrastructure
  • Anticipated the utilization of advanced technologies such as using data analysis to improve the customer experience
  • Deployed JAL’s CIEL platform that met the company’s 236 security and recovery requirements

AWS Services Used

AWS Professional Services

The AWS Professional Services organization is a global team of experts that can help you realize your desired business outcomes when using the AWS Cloud. We work together with your team and your chosen member of the AWS Partner Network (APN) to execute your enterprise cloud computing initiatives.

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