A TRANSFORMATIVE JOURNEY
Cathay Pacific turns to AWS for hybrid cloud.
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.