Hybrid cloud moving businesses forward – away from restrictive legacy systems

Based in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific is an international airline offering passenger and cargo services to 200 destinations in 52 countries and territories worldwide.

Digital capabilities are a critical function of the company’s business strategy for growth, with the heart of this initiative emphasising a responsive and adaptable customer experience.

Cathay Pacific’s legacy infrastructure and development process posed a challenge, making it difficult for the airline to maintain a high level of performance from its internal systems and customer-facing applications.

Its existing systems were inflexible and time consuming to modify, forcing the company to handle an increasing level of technical debt dedicated to system maintenance and “keeping the lights on.”

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Speaking at Red Hat Summit 2018, Kerry Peirse, general manager of Infrastructure and Operations at Cathay Pacific, explained the necessity for businesses to embrace and adopt a hybrid cloud infrastructure to combat the increasing challenges facing businesses.

Cloud journey

The airline had a traditional on-premise, standard and fragile infrastructure. This was costly to maintain and grow, slowed delivery of value to customers and inhibited innovation.

The company didn’t want to get wound up in cloud hype, committed to one vendor and one solution, but wanted to be cloud agnostic, with on-premise data centres and public clouds that acted as extensions of that.

As a result of these demands, Cathay Pacific chose Red Hat to help them replaces it’s legacy infrastructure with a cloud-native stack built on Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform.

This model reduced the number of single points of failure, which have plagued airlines and other businesses with costly outages, and is crucially, scalable.

“We needed a broker of services,” said Peirse, “not one size fits all, but not one of everything – something that worked in harmony with public cloud.”

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“Globally, the airline industry is one of the most competitive and customer focused industries, making the customer experience extremely important as a marketable differentiator,” said Matt Hicks, senior vice president, Engineering, Red Hat. “By digitally transforming their infrastructure with Red Hat’s leading cloud-native technologies, Cathay Pacific can not only deliver enhanced value to their customers much faster, but it has also restructured its IT capabilities to better position itself to meet future business demands.”

Culture is key

It doesn’t matter how good technical side is, “we needed to integrate the right working culture based on accountability, agility and collaboration.”

The organisation’s cloud journey strategy focused on empowering current staff from the bottom up – an open source philosophy.

Peirse explained that Cathay started small then implemented the cloud solutions to the wider business.

With its new IT architecture, Cathay Pacific is now bringing new services to market more expediently, with a more scalable infrastructure to meet evolving application requirements.

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Throughput for application deployment has been increased by a factor of 10, from 20 to 200 changes a day, for both production and non-production environments, with little-to-no end user downtime around these updates.

Additionally, the new cloud environment has led to a reduced infrastructure footprint in terms of hardware, maintenance, and operations cost. With improved efficiency and better resource utilisation, Cathay Pacific has lowered the total cost of ownership for its production environments.

Indeed, the benefits from this partnership from a working perspective were almost instant, allowing the airline’s staff to focus on “delivering customer value and not on firefighting”, said Peirse.

The customer service improved, and we “deliver value faster, with 100% availability of customer facing systems.”

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The “solutions have enabled us to deliver value to our customers much faster, with improved performance and stability. The new architecture provides our IT teams more time to do what matters to us most – innovate and create more value for our customers.”

The hybrid aloud

“Everything is changing,” said Peirse. “We will continue to develop hybrid cloud, and leverage technology, while integrating and adopting emerging technologies.”

In Cathay Pacific’s hybrid cloud transformation, technology was the key, but most important was the way the company approached the transition: from bottom up – empowering those people to develop.


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...