Headquartered in Toronto, Porter Airlines is a fast-growing regional airline. The company maintains 29 aircraft and offers flights to 23 destinations across Canada and the United States. Nearly 18 million passengers have flown on Porter Airlines flights over the past 10 years.
The Porter Airlines website is the company’s primary e-commerce site, used by millions of visitors every month to reserve flights and check flight status information. Because of the critical nature of the site, Porter needs to ensure high uptime. “This is our main sales and customer service engine. Any downtime translates to dissatisfied customers and loss of revenue,” says Jason Deluce, the company’s director of information technology. However, the airline had previously hosted the site in its internal data center, which was occasionally unreliable.
As the company grew, it also sought an easier way to scale the growing traffic volume on the site. “Scaling in a traditional data center model is not fast or easy,” Deluce says. That was especially problematic when the airline would send out an email promotion to customers. “When we send out a seat sale promotion, we can get tens of thousands of people visiting the site, where there might have only been a few hundred just a few minutes before that,” says Deluce.
In addition, the company wanted the flexibility to be able to manage bursts of traffic more easily. “While scaling up to meet demand is of the utmost importance, we also require the ability to shrink compute resources during non-peak times. Having the ability to automatically control our compute and storage capacity would alleviate the fixed costs associated with maintaining capacity that may or may not be needed,” Deluce says.
Finally, Porter needed to reduce the cost of its disaster-recovery solution while making it more effective.
To improve reliability, scalability, and flexibility, Porter decided to migrate its website environment and additional internal business applications to the cloud. The company chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its cloud provider, because, as Deluce says, “AWS offered the most mature and robust automated scaling capabilities of all the platforms we evaluated. AWS was also the most advanced and easiest to implement.”
Porter uses multiple Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances to support its website and takes advantage of Auto Scaling to automatically scale Amazon EC2 capacity up or down during spikes in demand. The company uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to host images and other static web files, and it relies on Amazon Glacier as a backup solution for long-term file storage. Porter also uses Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to support the operational databases behind its critical business applications.
Recently, the airline started using Amazon Redshift at its enterprise data warehouse, consolidating analytical data into a single solution that is accessible by internal business analysts. Additionally, the organization utilizes Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES) to support an email application that sends customers check-in reminders and information about flight delays.
Using AWS, Porter can ensure high availability and reliability for its website and travel systems. “We have gone all-in on the AWS Cloud, because we know it offers the high uptime and reliability we absolutely need for our critical customer-facing website and mission-critical applications,” says Deluce.
AWS also gives the airline the scalability it needs to support tens of thousands of new site visitors. “Using AWS, we have the compute resources in place to meet any demand on our website,” says Deluce. “We can easily support extreme traffic loads, and we aren’t worried about the site’s performance. That eliminated a big risk for us in terms of system outage.”
Porter can now better manage traffic loads that spike higher or lower based on demand. “We have very little website traffic on weekends or overnight, but we also need to quickly scale to support fourfold spikes in that traffic,” Deluce says. “Using Auto Scaling, we can have just a few virtual servers running and have them automatically scale up to support traffic spikes, without us needing to do anything behind the scenes. Instead of having to go through a nine-month approval and procurement process, we can do this all instantly in the cloud.”
By shutting down its data center and moving to AWS, Porter will save significantly on operational costs. “We can do a much better job of matching our costs to actual usage now,” says Deluce. “We are truly only paying for the compute and storage resources we are using. And by using Amazon RDS, we were able to build a data warehouse that would have otherwise cost us many thousands of dollars. AWS has eliminated a lot of the heavy lifting required to support the large data sets we have.”
The airline has also greatly improved its data-analytics capabilities by taking advantage of Amazon Redshift. “By consolidating our data sources into one place on Amazon Redshift, we have made data much more accessible to the business,” says Deluce. “That has improved our analytics and reporting, and it will help us respond more directly to our customers. Using Amazon Redshift, we have accelerated our move to become a more data-driven company.”
In addition, Porter has improved its disaster-recovery capabilities. “If we were going to build our own disaster-recovery solution, it would require us to essentially purchase a duplicate set of hardware, order additional networks, and manage synchronization between the two environments,” Deluce says. “Using AWS, we avoid those costs, while getting high availability and a much stronger disaster-recovery solution than we had before. AWS gives us reliability, scalability, and flexibility without significantly increasing our costs. As a result, we are confident we’ll be able to keep growing our business without worrying about managing the underlying technology that powers our mission-critical applications.”
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