June 18, 2021

Travelers today are looking for real-time connected experiences across their digital touchpoints. To meet the demands of high-quality digital experiences, travel companies need to build resilient ecosystems that connect various stakeholders across the experience value chain. Interoperability becomes a key focus as travel and hospitality companies seek to break silos in the information ecosystems to create hyper-responsive customer experiences.

To establish such an interconnected ecosystem, a cloud-first approach is not just ‘good to have’ but a ‘must have’. Many companies in the travel and hospitality industry have been operating on legacy IT infrastructure, and are weighed down by technology debt. Cloud adoption is not a simple matter of ‘rehosting’. A cloud-based IT infrastructure will require modernizing applications and infrastructure using containers and microservices.

The legacy of technology debt

Many travel and hospitality companies have retained legacy mainframe systems which support their core-business processes, applications and data. Besides being inflexible and cost intensive, these legacy systems prevent the adoption of agile development with CI-CD methodologies which are necessary to quickly update software and applications to include new features or revise products and services in response to market situations.

Despite the urgency of modernization, the overhaul of a complex legacy system is a mammoth task. It needs a carefully calibrated approach that minimizes risk and impact on business continuity, with room for an easy rollback in the event of a failure.

The three-phase approach

Modernizing IT infrastructure and applications can be carried out in three strategic phases - transform, coexist and eliminate. In the transformation phase, applications that can be easily migrated to cloud-native solutions are modernized. Cloud service providers such as AWS offer numerous solutions for seamless migration. Compute capabilities such as AWS Serverless Lambda enable developers to choose their tooling platform and transform each feature of the legacy monolith while maintaining the data synchronization with data replication capabilities using AWS Data Migration Services (DMS). AWS messaging tools make this communication more flexible and reliable. The microservice acts as the publisher and Amazon's Simple Queue Service acts as the subscriber, eventually pushing messages to the monolith. This minimizes business disruptions as it allows applications to coexist in the legacy and cloud-based environment.

Incrementally replacing specific functionality requires a façade that intercepts requests to the backend system(s). During migration, the façade routes these requests either to the legacy application or to the new services. This co-existence allows features to be migrated gradually, and consumers can continue using the same interface, unaware that a migration has taken place.

The eliminate phase begins when most functionalities have been added to the new system at a desired pace and the legacy system gets ‘strangled’ and made redundant. Once this process is complete, the legacy system can safely be retired.

Creating an event-driven ecosystem

The nature of travel business is such that the IT systems need to support multiple inter-related events and functions. This is best served by using a microservice-based model that can ‘publish’ and ‘consume’ events through multiple components.

Let us look at a simple use case of seat reservation for an airline carrier. It has three functions: 1. seat selection 2. payment 3. meal booking. Each functionality is accomplished by microservices implemented in the respective domain using individual datastore. Failure in any functionality requires the system to roll back the entire transaction – and the company might lose out on a related transaction too.

If we look at how these functions are choreographed at the IT backend, we find a series of interrelated microservices. While AWS Managed Kafka Service (MSK) could be chosen as the main event broker, each microservice could be implemented in any desired AWS compute platform. If we choose an appropriate cloud design pattern considering all necessary scenarios, we can continue to achieve consistency across multiple data domains despite maintaining separate datastore per service.

The workflow of a designated process (saga) could be realized in the form of interrelated events in a defined manner to provide scalability and resilience while maintaining data consistency. The seat reservation process should be able to provide not just a smooth experience to an individual customer, but also be scalable to manage the holiday season rush. Higher scalability requires microservices to maintain individual datastores.

The approach of creating such a choregraphed saga is well proven in the AWS ecosystem using the compute and persistence services chosen from multiple options supported by Amazon’s highly resilient backbone infrastructure. While AWS takes the responsibility of managing the platform availability and resilience, designers and developers can concentrate on applying appropriate business logic to consume every event pertinent to address the workflow. Based on the skill sets or preference, microservices could be implemented in one or more languages while running over a single platform.

In summary, we addressed two aspects of legacy modernization in the travel sector. One, migrating in a calibrated manner to ensure business continuity; and second, using microservice-based architecture of cloud-native solutions to choregraph a seamless and scalable experience for customers. Leveraging top of the line solutions from cloud service providers such as AWS for both these aspects helps travel companies achieve key benefits including:

  • Lower capital expenditure of migration to cloud infrastructure

  • Faster deployment and scalability of applications

  • Improved protection and security

  • Less hardware to manage means a more sustainable IT infrastructure

Add to this the advantages of legacy modernization – eliminating cost of maintaining legacy hardware, inventing business models at speed, building partner ecosystems, and achieving purpose-driven customer centricity. The move to cloud is a flight path to growth and innovation for travel and hospitality companies.

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Arka J Biswas is a solution architect with TCS’ Cloud CoE focused on travel, transportation and hospitality industry in Americas. With more than 15 years’ experience in designing innovative business solutions for retail, consumer product goods and pharmacy companies, he specializes in cloud-based solutions and virtualization.