Cloud computing can deliver data wherever it is needed, in as close to real-time as possible, says Huw Owen, head of EMEA & APJ at Couchbase
Gone are the days of panicking at the airport if you’d forgotten to print out your travel confirmations. Now, everything you need to travel – from browsing, to booking, to travelling itself – can be 100% digital and right at your fingertips when you need it. With global digital travel sales increasing by 10% last year to $694.41 billion, travel companies are offering services that simply weren’t possible before, or at least, couldn’t be delivered at the scale and cost they needed.
Travel companies far and wide, from Amadeus, Ryanair and Rentalcars.com to Marriott and Carnival Cruises are innovating their apps to enhance the travel experience. Flights, hire cars, activities, hotels and more can now be booked with a click of the mouse, travel information can be accessed en route via your smartphone, and entirely new experiences can be created.
The data demands of these modern conveniences are huge, especially during peak booking and holiday seasons. What’s more, with consumers expecting a fast, reliable service when travelling, businesses must ensure their mobile applications can deliver optimum performance and availability at any time, scale and location. This is where the cloud can help.
Here are three ways cloud computing is proving its worth in the travel industry:
1. Scaling out or up to meet changes in demand
When travel companies need to respond to requirements such as spikes in demand, changes to applications, or even just long-term growth, they need to ensure they can easily move their data to the cloud or an on-premises system that best meets their needs. This is where cloud can be a game-changer: it offers travel organisations the ability to scale their storage needs up and down without disruption.
It’s vital that a business’s cloud architecture can be easily extended, while still maintaining performance at scale. Since the travel industry experiences huge peaks and troughs when it comes to demand – with the booking season at the start of the year, then the increase in travel in the summer season – if a company’s architecture isn’t built to cope with highly seasonal workloads, customers will be left with a less than satisfactory experience.
Amadeus is a prime example of a travel company making the most of cloud offerings to improve its services and cope with surges in demand. Since the organisation’s booking platform processes nearly 500 billion travel-related data requests per day, it offloaded its web sessions from Java virtual machines to a distributed, robust cloud system, enabling it to increase scalability and provide a responsive experience for the end user. By implementing a cloud strategy that can scale in or out, up and down to meet its customer’s needs, Amadeusl has ensured that its applications won’t run out of steam when customers need them most.
2. Protecting against downtime
When it comes to application performance, modern users expect extremely quick responses, often with sub-millisecond response times. This is especially true in the travel industry – holidays and business trips can be stressful enough, so even small reductions in performance can leave customers frustrated.
What’s more, if a travel company was to suffer a major outage where services were not able to work at all, the impact on the organisation’s reputation could be disastrous – as Expedia’s website outage last December illustrated. This is how a cloud strategy can help get applications back up and running when it’s most important and can help enterprises divert workloads from one cloud provider to another at very short notice.
Take Marriott, the hotel group that processes 1,900 transactions each second, for example. The sheer volume of data that Marriott processes means the company must be confident it won’t suffer outages during the most critical booking times for customers. Thanks to its use of XDCR (cross data centre replication), Marriott has the freedom to move data to any cloud, with the data being replicated between clusters. If an outage occurs, one or more clusters act as ‘hot’ standbys, taking over the load as soon as a cluster stops responding. In short, this means data is available 24/7, 365 days a year.
3. Enabling a reliable mobile experience
When travelling, it’s vital that customers have access to reservations, tickets and booking information anywhere, at any time, from any device. For instance, if an airline’s route changes unexpectedly, this change must be reflected in the app in real-time so users can accurately book alternative flights with minimal hassle and disruption. This, again, is where cloud computing can help. By pushing data closer to the edge, travel companies’ mobile applications and IoT devices can deliver a real-time and ‘offline-first’ experience to their customers.
Take Ryanair, whose booking process is now 60% faster thanks to its adoption of a mobile platform that securely synchronises data from any cloud to any mobile device. By using an embedded NoSQL database that stores semi-static data locally on users’ smartphones or tablets, Ryanair provides customers with offline access to their flight information – yet any changes made while offline will still be reflected once the connection is restored. Thanks to the newest cloud technologies, the days of helplessly praying the internet doesn’t cut out when accessing that all-important flight information are long behind us.
Carnival Cruises has adopted similar offline capabilities through its platform which connects guests via a wearable device called Medallion, enabling a more personalised holiday experience. Sensors are located in each room on the ship, collecting data even in spaces with poor or no internet connection, and data can be transferred seamlessly between all devices – whether that’s an in-cabin TV or the passenger’s smartphone. During the journey, that data is collected and stored using an on-premise system, then synchronised with the central data store once the ship reaches the shore. This way, Carnival can ensure a reliable, personalised experience regardless of location or connectivity.
Cloud is a journey, not a destination
As travel enterprises are faced with the complex reality of not only satisfying the demands of modern travellers, but architecting their technologies to meet them, it’s no wonder many find it daunting. Whether providing a service that can cope with sudden surges in demand, preventing disastrous outages or ensuring passengers can access information regardless of location or internet connection, cloud computing can deliver data wherever it is needed, in as close to real-time as possible. In today’s forward-thinking travel market, those that survive will be the ones whose cloud strategy is as modern as their customer bases.