09-02-2016, 10:34 #1
[EN] With Amadeus, Google Cloud is in the Air
Amadeus runs Couchbase on Google to process 4M+ flight requests per second for more than 140 airline carriers
Figure 1: Amadeus Airline Cloud Availability architecture
Google Cloud Platform
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Today we hear from Olivier Favorel, Senior Manager, Airline IT at Amadeus. Operating in 195 countries, Amadeus is a leading technology company dedicated exclusively to the global travel industry. When an increase in CPU consumption of just 100 microseconds can mean thousands of dollars of extra hosting, Amadeus turned to Google Cloud Platform to offer new alternatives to its airline customers.
At Amadeus, we develop the technology that will shape the future of travel. To understand the business needs of our customers and partners, we’re highly focused on the trends impacting airlines. One main trend is the exponential growth of consumers browsing and shopping for airline products across digital channels.
Airline “look-to-book” ratios, or the average number of search requests before a flight reservation is actually made, were previously as low as 10:1. Today, these can easily run to 1000:1. Moreover, demand is never constant, thus managing demand fluctuations requires the ability to anticipate strong traffic peaks and make necessary capacity arrangements — a challenging task for airlines. In order to cope with the pressure of ever increasing online shopping transactions, shopping engines have developed cache-based solutions. However, cache-based systems have certain limitations, as they don’t accurately reflect an airline’s sophisticated revenue management policies.
Large network carriers are investing in advanced revenue management solutions to capture maximum traveler value and generate revenue. Maximizing revenue requires real-time capability to process every shopping request and make the right “flight availability” (availability of seats in a particular fare class) offer at an optimal price. Furthermore, it’s crucial for airlines to display consistent offers across various shopping platforms to capture every sales opportunity. Cache-based systems conflict with real-time revenue optimization, thus hindering airlines’ merchandising and personalization capabilities to make the right product offer to the right customer at the right time for the right price.
Given the challenge to maintain accurate and consistent airline offers across all distribution channels, how can we ensure high performance in dynamic content distribution for massive volumes?
With the help of Google Cloud Platform, Amadeus has developed a unique cloud-based solution, Amadeus Airline Cloud Availability. The solution offloads the processing of shopping transactions outside the airline reservation system, where the booking and payment are finally performed. This solution can be deployed in any public or private cloud, bringing airline offers closer to the shopping platform serving online travel agencies, meta searches or global distribution systems, while taking full advantage of more efficient solutions.
This solution helps airlines efficiently manage the huge increase in search and shopping traffic.
We conducted a pilot of Amadeus Airline Cloud Availability in Google Cloud Platform from February to July 2015, together with Lufthansa. The objective of the pilot was two-fold:
- Demonstrate the scalability and performance of flight availability requests using Google Compute Engine. Amadeus is currently handling requests for 4M+ flights per second in its private data center in Munich, for more than 140 airline carriers. This traffic increases by 50% every year.
- Contain infrastructure cost of flight availability traffic.
The flight availability requests are handled by a farm of C++ backends accessing data through a Couchbase cluster, a distributed NoSQL store that hosts the airline flight and fare details. CPU consumption is a critical indicator for these kinds of large scale applications; an increase in CPU consumption of 100 microseconds per transaction translates into several thousands of dollars in extra hosting costs over a one-year period.
The initial deployment of our solution in Compute Engine was seamless thanks to the intuitive console and vast set of pre-installed Linux images (CentOS 7.1 in our case). First flight availability backend instances were ready to accept traffic only two hours after our initial connection.
The 1,500 cores challenge
Amadeus and Google engineering teams worked hand-in-hand to get the most out of a pre-allocated capacity of 1,500 cores spread over 3 regions (Central US, Western Europe and East Asia), each region being fed by airline data thanks to Couchbase Cross-Datacenter (XDCR) replication protocol.
Our mission was to increase the volume of flight availability requests processed per dollar. Several actions were undertaken:
- Reducing the CPU path-length per transaction thanks to several C++ low level optimizations, and usage of Google’s tcmalloc memory allocator.
- Increasing the IO throughput towards Couchbase data store to keep our application cores busy. We were quite impressed by the stability and very low latency of the internal Compute Engine network (stable sub-millisecond round-trip to Couchbase cluster nodes).
- Enabling NOOP scheduler on VMs hosting our Couchbase cluster (optimal IO scheduling pattern to increase throughput to SSD drives).
- Adjusting the VMs size (CPU/Memory ratio) to ensure that our servers were running constantly between 85-90% CPU usage (n1-highcpu-16 for application servers and n1-highmem-4 for Couchbase cluster nodes).
Pilot objectives were achieved much faster than initially planned, thanks to the flexibility of GCP and the reactivity of Google support teams.
The overall throughput of flight availability requests processed by 1,500 cores was doubled after only three months of joint effort.
We’re now engaging in the second phase of the pilot, aiming at dynamically adjusting the hardware capacity to the fluctuating shopping demand, further tuning the size of our VMs and leveraging the benefits of Compute Engine Preemptible VMs (“low-cost VMs” as we like to call them):
- Dynamic capacity adjustment is being implemented thanks to Kubernetes (Google’s container orchestration and cluster management solution) that’s being rolled out in the pilot framework to dynamically spawn or shut down application VMs in line with flight availability traffic fluctuation. Kubernetes is shipped by our PaaS partner, Red Hat, as part of their OpenShift offer (we’re building our internal application platform, Amadeus Cloud Services, on top of these strategic products, to ensure our independence to the underlying IaaS provider). Per-minute billing of instances further optimizes the hosting costs.
- Preemptible VMs, released in May 2015, run at a much lower price than standard VMs (70% off) but might be terminated, or preempted, by Compute Engine if it requires access to those resources for other tasks. Our plan is to oversize the number of computation VMs by 10% and use exclusively preemptible instance types, assuming that a fraction of those VMs will be terminated on a daily basis but still keeping our overall processing power at the required level to handle the flight availability traffic. Significant cost savings are anticipated with this new feature as well.
- Custom machine types, released in November 2015, are being setup to replace our standard instance types (n1-highcpu-16 and n1-highmem-4). Custom VMs will be sized with only the required amount of cores and minimal memory requirement (per GB). The objective is to avoid any waste of CPU/memory.
Return on experience
Our journey on GCP was very exciting and impressed us for the following reasons:
- Performance: Network latency, throughput and stability have astonishing performance. Also, the on-going migration of VMs to next-generation Intel architecture (Haswell) in many regions will bring even more CPU gains to flight availability request processing.
- Stability: We faced very few VM outages over the 6-month pilot duration. The maintenance notification process is working great and the live VM migration is really transparent.
- Monitoring: The Stackdriver framework is awesome to report both system metrics (CPU, Memory, IOs) and user-defined KPIs (like the rate of airline flights processed per second). Coupled with an efficient alerting system and the “Cloud Console” mobile app, we rapidly ended up with a production-grade monitoring solution.
- Pace of innovation: During the six month duration of the pilot, three major announcements were made that helped our project: introduction of preemptible VMs, rollout of custom machine types and most importantly a 15% price drop in May 2015.
The pilot in the Google Cloud Platform changed our approach to performance optimization, from a pure CPU cost angle to an infrastructure driven approach (the efficiency is what matters in the end). GCP proved to be a very efficient sandbox environment for internal benchmarking, and we have no doubt that it will become a natural hosting solution for more Amadeus applications in the future.
09-02-2016, 14:08 #2
"Amadeus runs Couchbase on Google to process 4M+ flight requests per second for more than 140 airline carriers"
- Amadeus is currently handling requests for 4M+ flights per second in its private data center in Munich
- We conducted a pilot of Amadeus Airline Cloud Availability in Google Cloud Platform from February to July 2015
- This solution can be deployed in any public or private cloud
09-02-2016, 15:13 #3
Google 2010: Facts about Google’s acquisition of ITA Software
Multiple Alternatives for Flight Search Data
There are many other companies offering flight search data, including Everbread, Amadeus, Sabre, Travelport, Vayant, and Expedia’s Best Fare Search (BFS) service. In fact, many of the most popular travel sites in the U.S. use ITA’s competitors.
Furthermore, industry players acknowledge that they have alternatives to ITA:
- Kayak’s CEO called Expedia’s Best Fare Search alternative “awesome” (Tnooz, 5/10/10)
- Orbitz CEO Barney Harford: “It makes sense that if you want to take ITA’s role, you have to provide something to people like us and Kayak, that you provide a compelling service. Otherwise, we’ll use someone else. If you don’t provide a compelling service, we’ll go somewhere else. There are other solutions. Sabre, Amadeus.” (Remarks at PhocusWright Conference, 11/17/10)
- Continental Airlines “There are alternatives to the [ITA] shopping solution in the marketplace, both internally and externally.” (Dow Jones, 7/22/10)
What We Aren’t Doing
- Setting airfare prices. Airfares are set by the airlines and online travel agents alone. ITA Software merely analyzes and organizes information about flight options, availability and fares.
- Selling airline tickets. Google has no plans to sell airline tickets directly to consumers, but instead will drive potential customers to airline and online travel agency websites.
- Locking out competitors. We are very excited about ITA Software’s QPX business, and we’re looking forward to working with current and future customers. Google will honor all existing agreements, and we’re also enthusiastic about adding new partners.
- Changing market shares. Because Google doesn’t currently compete against ITA Software, the deal will not change existing market shares.
09-02-2016, 15:16 #4
2012: Amadeus Supports Expedia Complaint Against GoogleGeorge Dooley | April 9, 2012
In a move that it believes will insure competition and protect consumers, GDS giant Amadeus reports that it is supporting online giant Expedia in its decision to file a complaint against Google with the European Commission. Amadeus said its decision is in the long-term best interests of the travel industry and in particular online travel agencies.
“Amadeus does not view Google as a direct competitor to its travel distribution business - while Google leads in search, the Amadeus distribution business is focused on providing services and booking capabilities to providers of travel services and travel agents," Amadeus said in a statement.
"For decades, travel agents have added value as intermediaries by providing consistent, high-quality and reliable services that allow travelers to find the best value and most appropriate travel solutions from the widest possible range of travel providers," Amadeus said.
“It is critical to ensure that Google Flight Search does not mislead consumers into believing that Google offers comprehensive and neutral results, whereas in fact they may be biased, favoring Google’s own services even if they are of a lower quality and an even higher price than other services offered by independent travel distributors. It also leads to consumers potentially missing out on the best price available in the market and limits fair competition between airlines.”
At stake is Google’s alleged dominance of the online search landscape to the potential detriment of consumers. This prompted the European Technology & Travel Services Association (ETTSA) to throw its support behind a complaint filed with the European Commission by its member Expedia.
The complaint addresses the risks to transparency, choice and fair competition posed by Google.
The European Commission opened an investigation in 2010 asking if Google was abusing its dominant market position by favoring its own vertical search services and lowering the ranking of unpaid search results of competing vertical services, ETTSA said.
"Consumers expect that Google search results are neutral, but this is not the case when the results favor Google’s own platforms, such as Flight Search. Unlike Google, other players in this arena, including the Global Distribution Systems (GDS’s), abide by strict neutrality principles enshrined in EU legislation when displaying travel search results," ETTSA said, urging the Commission to closely examine Google’s potential abuse of dominance to protect consumers.
Última edição por 5ms; 09-02-2016 às 15:22.
09-02-2016, 15:20 #5
Nov/2015: Lufthansa embraces Google Flights following 'Amadeus charge'
The airline has reached an agreement with Google Flights to reserve flights via the popular search engine. For the moment, the option will only be available in the United States, and company sources have not dared to speculate at its arrival in Europe.
Hemorrhaging sales have led Lufthansa to look for desperate solutions. Google has become an ally in light of the travel agency boycott over the 'Amadeus charge', which taxed tickets sold via intermediaries with a 16 euro surcharge. Both companies announced the agreement with Google Flights, which allows clients to reserve flights via the Mountain View giant's app.
The platform, which is currently only available in the United States, is to be launched under the name 'Book on Google', and will facilitate purchases made 'from mobile phones as much as computers', stated the German firm. The aim is to achieve "a reservation experience without having to change web pages".
The airline is the first to reach an agreement with the popular search engine. "This is a very important step in Lufthansa's new sales and distribution strategy, which focuses on modernizing existing reservation processes, as well as developing alternative distribution channels", explained Jens Bischof, director of the company.
Disasterous intermediary boycott
The measure has come about in response to rejection by intermediaries. Travel agencies have already begun to divert clients far from the German conglomerate formed of Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian. "The 16 euro surcharge has neither an impact on us, nor on Amadeus – just the client", illustrates an agency manger to 02B. "As such, we value alternatives when it comes to putting together our journeys, so that they are end up more economical for the consumers", concludes the same source.
Direct sales are not convincing the sector either. According to the Guild of Travel Management Companies, 70% of British travel agencies refuse to use the airline's website to carry out purchases, exempt from the charge. In Spain, the same percentage state that they are selling fewer ticket for the German company following the fee's application. A few weeks ago, president of the Catalan patron, Martí Sarrate, explained the rejection of direct sales to 02B: "No-one does it because Lufthansa's website cuts out the dialogue with the client, preventing follow-up".
Meanwhile, during the presentation of quarterly results, Lufthansa stated that the decline in sales had been compensated for with the surcharge, rendering the outcome essentially insignificant.