WTM 2017: JacTravel confident of setting new benchmarks for speed after tech ‘super-charge’

WTM 2017: JacTravel confident of setting new benchmarks for speed after tech ‘super-charge’

London-based wholesaler JacTravel says its move to a computing system better known for its use in the financial sector will help it set new standards in terms of response time speeds.

The firm has invested what it described as “significant” capex budget into switching its systems away from a traditional tiered server architecture to ‘in-memory’ computing.

This approach means that the computations, queries and entry processing are conducted on the same servers taking average response time from 2.5 seconds to under 20 milliseconds.

Francesco de Marchis, JacTravel chief technology officer, who led the project, said having data and business logic all in one place means data processing systems can achieve “fantastic speeds”.

This is crucial in an extremely competitive market with multiple accommodation and other suppliers feeding their product into agents’ selling systems as they battle the online giants.

“This is technology that’s fairly new. In the finance sector it has been revolutionary,” de Marchis told Travolution at last week’s World Travel Market.

“It’s cutting edge, rather than bleeding edge, but it is difficult to build and the right skills are not easy to find. We found this technology, we tested it and the results were astronomical.”

JacTravel used existing open source in-memory computational platform from GridGain called Apache Ignite.

For the project the wholesaler opted to licence Intuitive’s iVector contracting and distribution software, which came into the business with the acquisition of TotalStay in March 2015.

De Marchis likened it to a ‘Hot Rod Garage’ where an old but reliable vintage care gets a new engine, a restored exterior and becomes a super-charged vehicle for the future.

“We can guarantee hotels better distribution because they will be first on the page and are going to appear in all searches with all clients across the board,” said de Marchis.

The technology uses a new cloud-based ‘plug and play’ cache which means data is distributed and can be updated in real time which improves accuracy and, therefore, conversion.

De Marchis said the new technology also means greater efficiency for JacTravel and he has been able to replace 100 web and database servers with just eight.

But he said existing hardware capacity will be retained to expand search capabilities for its trade clients.

As well as significant search efficiencies in-memory computing’s more simple structure means it has ‘linear scalability’ helping JacTravel to forecast and scale up its technology capacity accordingly.

“If sales tell us we expect to grow 30% in volume, I can say this is what we need in terms of the building blocks and I can put that in. It’s a little like Lego,” said de Marchis.

“Before, the more complexity in the system the more you create a bottleneck that is almost impossible to get out of.

“The more data you had the more your data farm had to grow and you reached a level where it’s almost impossible as a company to replicate.”

The plug and play cache can be implemented with clients in just one day compared to six to 12 months for conventional systems and without any errors, claimed de Marchis.

It opens up the possibility for retail clients to offer more broad search to their customers, for instance all five star hotels in a region like a Spanish Costa, with results delivered in milliseconds.

They can also use the speed and additional computing power to put together more complex packages of products also in sub-second speeds.

De Marchis said it took JacTravel 12 months to take the project from inspiration to going live with 25 developers and engineers working in it. Several customers are now live and roll out is continuing.

He believes the firm is the first in travel to implement in-memory technology and that it has around 12 months first mover advantage before others follow suit.

“You have to be bold because this is risky. What’s critical is this creates another type of travel technology that’s not reliant on third party technology vendors.

“Companies that go through in-house digital transformation have the destiny of their own technology in their own hands.

“JacTravel believed in going down this path and invested a lot of capex and we were able to buy software from existing companies, take it in house and modify it.”

De Marchis estimated he has three years before in-memory computing itself becomes outdated but said that was enough time to make dividends from the investment.

“It’s really put us in a position to compete with the big boys. We are small but this this technology we will be able to really show we are a player in technology.”

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