June 06, 2011, 8:52 PM — Today's airlines live and die by their online systems. Their websites must combine performance and availability with functionality and efficiency -- and the customer experience is everything, especially when competitors are only a click away. And when you're the world's longest continuously operating airline -- Qantas -- your customers can be anywhere.
The challenge is to ensure the online experience brings together a variety of products seamlessly and fast. Downtime just isn't an option.
Read more in CIO Management.
Since its launch in 1996, qantas.com has evolved into the airline's primary means of customer contact. It began as a small site hosted by Red Square, but the airline has invested heavily in infrastructure and delivery since about 2000.
In 2004, recognising the need for more comprehensive disaster recovery capabilities and better site performance for international users regardless of location, Qantas began to look at different platforms.
The site went live on Akamai in December 2005 and Qantas has been using the service ever since.
"We ran a proof of concept with Akamai for quite a while," recalls Qantas Airways manager for enterprise solutions, Brad Tate.
"We wanted to prove the sales pitch around the performance improvement."
Tate and his team commissioned Keynote to benchmark the site, with and without Akamai, from around the world.
"The beauty of Akamai technology is that you can implement it, at least initially, very transparently. You don't have to know it in-depth or change anything on your infrastructure to use it in its simplest form.
"That proved the performance improvement case. And we could already see the other elements, such as the site failover, were going to work."
Qantas maintains two data centres in Australia, but the company wasn't keen to build out additional facilities. Apart from the cost -- the airline wanted to minimise short- and long-term infrastructure investments -- the company needed to be able to guarantee both domestic and international site performance. In the face of increasing loads, it had expanded its front-facing Web servers from two to four.
By partnering with Akamai, however, the airline was able to decommission two of the servers despite a significant increase in site traffic.
"That was one part of the business case," Tate says.
"We halved our infrastructure. Since then we have more than doubled our site traffic -- about two and a half times -- and we are still on the same two pieces of physical hardware.