A TRANS­FOR­MA­TIVE JOUR­NEY

Cathay Pa­cific turns to AWS for hy­brid cloud.

HWM (Malaysia) - - SPECIAL -

As Hong Kong’s largest air­line car­rier, Cathay Pa­cific Air­ways op­er­ates a fleet of more than 140 air­crafts with sched­uled pas­sen­gers and cargo ser­vices to nearly 200 des­ti­na­tions in 49 coun­tries world­wide. Cathay Pa­cific, to­gether with its sub­sidiary – Cathay Dragon, has about 18,500 staff un­der its em­ploy­ment. We spoke with Lawrence Fong, Gen­eral Man­ager at Cathay Pa­cific Air­ways, about the car­rier’s de­ci­sion to re-ar­chi­tect its ex­ist­ing IT in­fra­struc­ture us­ing AWS.

What were the key rea­sons for adopt­ing cloud com­put­ing? Lawrence Fong: 18 months ago, we were fac­ing many is­sues with our IT in­fra­struc­ture. The com­bi­na­tion of legacy ap­pli­ca­tions, ag­ing in­fra­struc­ture, and reliance on man­ual pro­cesses had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on oper­a­tions, which not only slowed down our pace of in­no­va­tion, but also led to un­happy cus­tomers caused by sys­tem and ap­pli­ca­tion down­time.

Be­cause of that, we made the de­ci­sion to tran­si­tion from our on-premises in­fra­struc­ture to a hy­brid cloud model. This dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion ex­er­cise is a nec­es­sary one, as we want to be able to scale up the plat­form and de­ploy new tech­nol­ogy to sup­port a grow­ing num­ber of on­line cus­tomers for the next five to 10 years.

How big of an un­der­tak­ing was it for Cathay Pa­cific to tran­si­tion its IT in­fra­struc­ture to a hy­brid cloud ar­chi­tec­ture? Fong: Ini­tially, there were some push­backs from our in­ter­nal IT team, as they were not fa­mil­iar with pub­lic cloud ser­vices while the higher-ups felt that cloud com­put­ing was not ma­ture in terms of se­cu­rity, scal­a­bil­ity, and cost. We de­cided to start small, in­still­ing con­fi­dence in the team through train­ing and proof of con­cepts. It was dur­ing this time that we looked at the dif­fer­ent cloud ser­vice providers out there. We went with AWS as it of­fered a broad se­lec­tion of new prod­ucts and ser­vices.

To what ex­tent were AWS ser­vices de­ployed as part of Cathay Pa­cific’s mi­gra­tion process? Fong: Af­ter the proof of con­cepts, we over­hauled the web­site and book­ing en­gine in­fra­struc­ture, and moved our B2C, B2B, and B2E apps to the pub­lic cloud. The web­site in­fra­struc­ture sits within an Ama­zon Vir­tual Pri­vate Cloud, and uses Re­la­tional Data­base Ser­vice to store ap­pli­ca­tion data and trans­ac­tional data from our web ap­pli­ca­tions. Ama­zon ElastiCache and S3 were also de­ployed to speed up per­for­mance and store static images, re­spec­tively.

Thanks to AWS, we were able to au­to­mate in­fra­struc­ture, ap­pli­ca­tion de­ploy­ment and scal­ing based on us­age de­mand and work­load. Our down­time is al­most zero since we moved to AWS, while its scal­a­bil­ity and cost-ef­fec­tive­ness al­lowed up to 50 per­cent in re­source sav­ings. Fur­ther­more, our time to mar­ket and de­vel­op­ment time are re­duced by two third.

What is Cathay Pa­cific’s ap­proach to Ag­ile and DevOps im­ple­men­ta­tions? Fong: Now that our IT team is more com­fort­able with AWS ser­vices, they are us­ing a blue-green de­vel­op­ment ap­proach to run older and newer apps si­mul­ta­ne­ously. It’s ac­tu­ally like a dial, where you can di­vert traf­fic from one to the other seam­lessly.

Is ‘fully cloud’ the fi­nal step in Cathay Pa­cific’s trans­for­ma­tion jour­ney? Fong: That de­pends. We have no con­trol over cer­tain legacy ap­pli­ca­tions, if the sup­pli­ers them­selves don’t have a roadmap to the cloud. IT lega­cies are dif­fi­cult to man­age, and there need to be a strong busi­ness case for Cathay Pa­cific to com­mit to a fully cloud-based en­vi­ron­ment.

“We de­cided to start small, in­still­ing con­fi­dence in the team through train­ing and proof of con­cepts. It was dur­ing this time that we looked at the dif­fer­ent cloud ser­vice providers out there...”

Lawrence Fong, Gen­eral Man­ager, Cathay Pa­cific Air­ways.

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