Microsoft Windows Azure - Aerlingus An Air Transportation Company Improves Service Offerings Case Study
Windows AzureCustomer Solution Case Study00Airline Improves Service Offerings, Developer Opens Opportunities with Cloud Services<br />OverviewCountry or Region: IrelandIndustry: Air transportation servicesCustomer ProfileAer Lingus is a Dublin, Ireland–based airline. In 2008, the company had revenues of €1.4 billion (approximately U.S.$1.9 billion) and flew more than 10 million passengers.Business SituationAer Lingus wanted to replace its static route-map Web page with a dynamic, actionable route map and integrated booking system. It needed a scalable solution that did not require significant bandwidth.SolutionMicrosoft Certified Partner iPlanit used the Windows Azure platform to develop and deliver the interactive Dynamic Route Maps Web application. BenefitsCost-effective, scalable solutionImproved offerings for customersReduced bandwidthIncreased market opportunities“We are delighted with ... Windows Azure. We can dynamically scale for success without worrying about the availability of computing resources.”Ronan Fitzpatrick, Director of Network Distribution, Aer LingusAer Lingus serves more than 10 million passengers each year. One of the first stops for many passengers is the airline’s Web site and its route map. The static route map, however, did not offer customers an engaging experience or an obvious call-to-action to the booking process. Aer Lingus wanted an interactive Web application that would integrate its route maps with the reservation and booking process; however, the airline needed the application to cost-effectively scale up as traffic dictated without negatively impacting bandwidth. Microsoft Certified Partner iPlanit developed Dynamic Route Maps on the Windows Azure platform, taking advantage of scalable storage, processing power, and hosting provided by Microsoft. As a result, Aer Lingus has a cost-effective, scalable solution that uses minimum bandwidth, and iPlanit has a reliable solution that it can offer to other airlines.<br />Situation<br />Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, Aer Lingus is Ireland’s oldest and second-largest airline serving Europe, North America, and northern Africa. In Europe and Africa, the airline operates a low-fare service; it offers full service, two-class flights on its transatlantic routes to and from North America. Aer Lingus has codeshare agreements with United Airlines, British Airways, and KLM, in addition to partnerships with JetBlue Airways and Aer Arann. <br />Each year, Aer Lingus flies more than 10 million passengers. For many of those passengers, the first step in booking a flight and purchasing airline tickets starts at the Aer Lingus Web site. While many visitors to the Web site already have a destination in mind and can proceed directly to booking, Aer Lingus recognized that a portion of visitors are potential passengers who are curious first about where Aer Lingus flies. For those potential customers, the airline has a map that highlights all of its routes and destinations. <br />“Because of the multiple data centers that we can take advantage of with Windows Azure, we have global reach and bandwidth isn’t a concern at all.”Chad Gilmer, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer, iPlanit<br />However, the route map was a static map that only showed where Aer Lingus flies—there was no call-to-action to help guide potential passengers from the map to the reservations and booking system. “We saw an opportunity to drive ticket sales and revenue if we could find a solution that would make our route map more interactive and if it were directly connected to our booking system,” explains Ronan Fitzpatrick, Director of Network Distribution at Aer Lingus. Any Web application that it implemented, however, would need to scale up quickly as traffic demanded, such as during the holiday season, and, at the same time, take up minimum bandwidth and computing resources on the airline’s existing infrastructure. <br />Aer Lingus turned to iPlanit, a Microsoft Certified Partner that specializes in interactive Web site design, e-commerce solutions, and marketing. iPlanit had previously developed a route-map solution, but it was built on Adobe Flash with PHP, Apache, and MySQL and lacked the actionable qualities Aer Lingus was looking for in its solution. In addition, it wasn’t designed to support on-demand scalability.<br />iPlanit recognized that a hosted Web application using cloud services—the hosting and management of Web applications and services on the Internet—was the best solution to deliver the scalability and low-bandwidth capabilities that Aer Lingus required. As a growing company, iPlanit needed a reliable cloud services provider that could help it deliver an enterprise-level Web application with a potential global reach. <br />Solution<br />After evaluating other hosting options, including Rackspace, iPlanit decided to build a Web application for Aer Lingus on the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage Web applications through Microsoft data centers. <br />A team at iPlanit, including one project manager, one developer, and one designer, developed Dynamic Route Maps (www.dynamicroutemaps.com), which extends the static route map by including an interactive pop-up menu for each route line that gives customers the ability to book an airline ticket directly from the map (Figure 1). “By using Windows Azure, we’re able to take the concept of a route map and add a call-to-action that improves the customer’s experience and drives revenue for Aer Lingus,” says Chad Gilmer, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer at iPlanit. The solution includes routes for Aer Lingus and its codeshare airlines. iPlanit started the development phase in November 2009 and quickly completed Dynamic Route Maps for Aer Lingus by January 2010.<br />Figure 1. Dynamic Route Maps includes interactive pop-up menus for each route, giving customers the ability to book airline tickets directly from the map.<br />To start, iPlanit took its existing route-map system and, using the same business logic it had developed in PHP, ported the code to the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 and Windows Azure. The team then moved its on-premises relational database from MySQL to Microsoft SQL Azure. “SQL Azure provides us with a highly available, scalable relational database that is easy to provision—perfect for our growing company with limited personnel resources,” says Gilmer. <br /> <br />iPlanit uses Blob Storage containers in Windows Azure to store the 20,000 image tiles that the Dynamic Route Maps application uses, helping to reduce the bandwidth rather than storing them on an on-premises server. To deliver the tiles, which requires significant bandwidth in a traditional infrastructure, iPlanit takes advantage of the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network through the Windows Azure developer portal. The Windows Azure Content Delivery Network caches the blob containers at strategically placed global locations to provide the maximum bandwidth for delivering the tiles to site visitors. <br />In addition, iPlanit redesigned the user interface using Microsoft Expression Blend design software. The company also migrated the previous application from Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in to Silverlight 3, which provided enhancements for the route map, such as smoother curves in the destination lines. <br />With the initial success of Dynamic Route Maps, iPlanit has plans to continue to extend functionality in the future. For example, iPlanit plans to integrate Bing Maps for Enterprise into the application to deliver detailed zoom levels and to help provide passengers with additional information about their destination, such as a map of nearby car rental agencies, hotels, and other attractions—giving customers a full travel-package experience.<br />Benefits<br />By using the Windows Azure platform, iPlanit was able to develop a scalable, cost-effective solution for Aer Lingus that requires minimum bandwidth. Aer Lingus can now drive revenue, while delivering an interactive, compelling experience that helps customers discover new destinations, make travel plans, and book airline tickets. What’s more, iPlanit found a cloud services provider that it can rely on as it takes Dynamic Route Maps to other airline companies. <br />“Knowing that a company as reliable and trustworthy as Microsoft is on the other end of the solution means that, even as a growing company, we can take Dynamic Route Maps to other, large commercial airlines with confidence.” Chad Gilmer, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer, iPlanit<br />Cost-effective Scalability<br />With Windows Azure, Aer Lingus does not need to procure, host, and manage its own physical servers to run Dynamic Route Maps on its Web site. The airline has eliminated the need for capital costs associated with building additional infrastructure and instead takes advantage of the pay-as-you-go model with Windows Azure—only paying for the computing power and storage that it uses. Not only does Aer Lingus have a cost-effective model to rely on, but it has peace of mind that, even during peak periods, it can scale to handle the traffic. “We are delighted with the cloud computing model offered by Microsoft and Windows Azure,” explains Fitzpatrick. “We can dynamically scale for success without worrying about the availability of computing resources.”<br />Improved Service Offerings for Customers<br />By using the Windows Azure platform and Dynamic Route Maps, Aer Lingus improved the exceptional customer service that it already offers its passengers. Instead of static route information, visitors to the Aer Lingus Web site get a full-featured, dynamic experience that takes them directly to the booking process from the route map. Customers can explore destinations, find inspiration for vacations, and book their airline tickets in the same interactive Web application—helping streamline the booking process. At the same time, Aer Lingus ensures easy and direct capture of customers’ orders. <br />The two companies will continue to deliver future enhancements for customers. “We are delighted to be partnering together on continuous enhancements that will provide greater functionality and usability for Aer Lingus customers. Now that the map is live, we are already working hard to deliver some fantastic new features,” says Fitzpatrick. <br />Reduced Bandwidth<br />Minimizing bandwidth was a top priority for Aer Lingus when the airline first started exploring a new route-map solution for its Web site. It wanted to ensure that it could serve Web site traffic from across the globe, without requiring additional, expensive bandwidth or struggling with poor Web site performance. “With the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network, we can avoid that latency by using data centers here in Dublin that feed through Windows Azure to the nearest location to the user,” explains Gilmer. “Because of the multiple data centers that we can take advantage of with Windows Azure, we have global reach and bandwidth isn’t a concern at all.”<br />Increased Opportunities with a Trustworthy Solution<br />iPlanit was confident in its abilities to deliver a creative, interactive, viable Web application that would exceed Aer Lingus’s expectations. By using Windows Azure, with hosting provided by Microsoft, iPlanit has the enterprise-class service it needs and the added confidence to take on new opportunities. “We’ve identified a gap in the market and have the answer with Dynamic Route Maps,” says Gilmer. “Knowing that a company as reliable and trustworthy as Microsoft is on the other end of the solution means that, even as a growing company, we can take Dynamic Route Maps to other, large commercial airlines with confidence.” <br />Software and ServicesWindows Azure PlatformBlob StorageMicrosoft SQL AzureWindows AzureWindows Azure Content Delivery NetworkBing Maps PlatformBing Maps for EnterpriseTechnologiesMicrosoft .NET Framework 3.5Microsoft Silverlight 3PartnersiPlanitThis case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.Document published June 2010For More InformationFor more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:www.microsoft.comFor more information about iPlanit products and services, call (353) 1 4347740 or visit the Web site at: www.iplanit.ie For more information about Aer Lingus products and services, call (353) 1 8862222 or visit the Web site at: www.aerlingus.comAdditional Resources:View: Download: Windows Azure Platform Training KitView: Architecting and Developing for Windows AzureWindows Azure Platform<br />The Windows Azure platform provides an excellent foundation for expanding online product and service offerings. The main components include:<br />Windows Azure. Windows Azure is the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage Web applications on the Internet through Microsoft data centers.<br />Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure offers the first cloud-based relational and self-managed database service built on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 technologies.<br />Windows Azure platform AppFabric. With Windows Azure platform AppFabric, developers can build and manage applications more easily both on-premises and in the cloud.<br />AppFabric Service Bus connects services and applications across network boundaries to help developers build distributed applications.<br />AppFabric Access Control provides federated, claims-based access control for REST Web services.<br />Microsoft "
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