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Flybe Builds Resilient IT Infrastructure with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss Enterprise Middleware
4 August, 2011
To reduce business risk with an enterprise-strength solution, improve integration across the IT infrastructure, and increase business agility in an aggressive market
CentOS to Red Hat® Enterprise Linux®, Apache Tomcat to JBoss® Application Server to JBoss® Enterprise Application Platform
Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss Enterprise Application Platform
HP Intel x86 servers, HP storage, HP and Cisco network devices
Higher availability to handle increased web traffic; a reliable, resilient infrastructure; a strategic platform; certification and testing to ease integration with other vendor products; responsive advice and support from Red Hat experts
Originally founded in 1979 (under the name Jersey European), Flybe is Europe’s largest regional airline. A long-standing commitment to excellent service has netted Flybe numerous industry accolades, including the Business Travel Awards “Best Short-Haul Airline” award and Air Transport World’s “Regional Airline of the Year” award.
Matthew Linsey, head of strategy and architecture at Flybe, charts the history of Flybe’s long-time commitment to open source software. “We originally made the decision to go the open source route, using community-supported products, about ten years ago,” said Linsey. “The costs were low, and some great innovations were coming out of the open source community. However, as our business and the frameworks we were using grew in size and complexity, we began to run into integration issues. Total cost of ownership managing all of the different elements started to escalate as well.”
In 2009, Flybe decided to migrate from community projects to supported, enterprise open source software before it undertook a refresh of its website. “We looked at the entire infrastructure stack as the ‘pipeline’ for delivering everything for our applications,” said Linsey. Flybe wanted to minimize the risks involved in implementing massive infrastructure change from the ground up. “At that point, we began to feel less comfortable that community open source software could provide the necessary levels of performance, resilience, and security.” Having software that meets exacting certifications was enormously important to ensure effective integration and avoid compatibility issues with Flybe’s Oracle database and other layers of the infrastructure. Service to internal users was another factor. “Using the community-supported systems then in place, we didn’t feel that we were delivering to the exacting SLAs we’d set ourselves,” said Linsey.
Finding the right technology partner was not a decision to be taken lightly. “We certainly did our homework, spending a long time in the research phase—in fact, longer than on the subsequent implementation,” said Linsey. “We evaluated the market and talked to the ‘big guns’ to find a vendor that could provide a rigorously tested, easily deployed stack of the frameworks we needed.”
“JBoss Enterprise Middleware from Red Hat ticked all the boxes, and in choosing it, we picked the best, most complete, and most versatile solution,” said Linsey. “And while cost was a criterion, it wasn’t the only one. JBoss Enterprise Middleware matched what we were trying to achieve, without huge investment up front and without the risks of using community versions.” Flybe also moved from CentOS, the community enterprise operating system, to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which today touches every part of Flybe’s predominantly HP hardware infrastructure. The major migration project, involving testing and rolling out server hardware, networks, storage, and operating systems, got under way in spring 2010 and took only three months to complete. Now Flybe benefits from receiving regular security updates from Red Hat, as well as access to early patches and support.
“We have a relatively small but strong technical team, and we found the implementation quite straightforward, even though we were working with aggressive timelines and JBoss Enterprise Middleware was completely new to us,” said Linsey. “It was good to know that Red Hat experts were on hand should we have any queries. And on the occasions we did have queries, we received very helpful, responsive service. Having a single point of contact reduced some of the complexity typically associated with major projects.”
For Flybe, like many airline operators, web-based sales have moved from being a useful adjunct to traditional sales channels to becoming an indispensable ingredient in sustained commercial success. Flybe now uses Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss Enterprise Middleware to develop and maintain the website that is so crucial to its business. These solutions give Flybe’s customers seamless, reliable access to services and information, including managing their flights, checking in, and pre-booking baggage and seats. The demands on Flybe’s web-based operation have intensified in recent years, with organic company growth, greater brand awareness, increased website traffic, and higher sales volumes.
In addition to enabling online bookings, Flybe now provides services from third-party partners, such as insurance, car hire, and parking. This is another reason why infrastructure reliability is so critical. “We’ve achieved our objective of almost entirely eliminating ourselves as a risk factor and ensuring that our part in the mix is based on stable, supported technology,” said Linsey. “One of the important aspects of JBoss Enterprise Middleware from Red Hat is that rather than just fixing our immediate needs, we now have a strategic platform for the next five years, one that will grow and mature with our business,” said Linsey. “We’ll be able to scale out into different areas and are looking to implement JBoss Operations Network to help us with the management and monitoring of our expanding Red Hat environment.”
Flybe is also currently evaluating a transition to SOA (service-oriented architecture) to automate ticket systems, among other possibilities. The intention, as Linsey explains, is to move the website from being IT delivery to business delivery. “Business users will be able to map their own processes, manage their own rules, and integrate more seamlessly with internal services such as financial and reservation systems. It will be a more business-aligned platform, one that is a wholly integrated part of Flybe. Security and stability of the infrastructure, once again, come to the fore as essential factors.”
Flybe’s strong online presence is essential to maintaining its commercial success. “In the current recession, no one can predict the future, but moving to Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss Enterprise Middleware has provided a secure, reliable, high-performing platform that gives us the agility to anticipate and react quickly to changing conditions,” said Linsey.