Appfabric: the gateway to the cloud, an easyjet story.
A year ago, easyjet would not have predicted the level of cloud adoption it has seen across its core IT assets. At Architect Insight last year, Andy Caddy, Head of Enterprise Architecture gave an account of their IT cloud strategy explaining that easyjet was a £2.5 billion business whose revenue nearly alls comes through easyjet.com. IT is obviously essential but with only 59 FTEs and a budget of just 0.75% of revenue, it is clear they’re bucking the trend on IT costs as the diagram suggests and that any expenditure has to be fully justified!
They do this it seems, by ensuring a ‘culture of differentiation’ and through a large use of partners having used managed services for many years. If an asset is non-differentiating it’s “pushed out of the door” where someone who specialises can deliver the service back to the organisation more cost effectively. The focus has to be on those systems that differentiate easyjet; that drive competitive advantage.
Given this model of operation, cloud in all its forms had a natural appeal to easyjet and through a simple classification of their systems, into three tiers:
- easyjet specific
- Airline Specific
- Commodity Computing
Through this classification they could quickly identify candidate services that could be potentially sourced externally.
A year ago, Easyjet would have said that it could easily see the commodity tier of email etc going to cloud and would expect to be in a position a year on where some of the airline specific services were either being moved out or under review. But most definitely the platinum services would remain in house for some time to come.
However, as Burt Craven of easyjet said the other week addressing the Cloud Circle Cloud Forum attendees things took an unexpected turn when they explored cloud platforms in more detail and evaluated the opportunity of leveraging cloud opportunities.
In fact a year on, cloud adoption of core services at easyjet now look more like the picture here according to Bert. With several of the Platinum services leveraging cloud with easyjet in the process of rolling out a new Departure Control System in the cloud with further plans to change the way they expose their core sales channel, easyJet.com itself.
So how has this been possible?
What has been the change of position only one year on, where easyjet is able to consider using cloud for their mission critical value generating systems?
The answer it seems is in taking advantage of their architecture. It is clear that easyjet has a service oriented perspective on managing and delivering IT, and it is undoubted that this has helped them to take advantage of managed services in the first instance and then to transition to cloud models with relative ease. However, it was in realising that they could leverage this investment to make use of cloud through ‘extension’ rather than by replacement that has been the fundamental key for their early adoption of cloud.
A hybrid model
This is perhaps best illustrated by reviewing their high-level architecture as it evolved from the classic on-premise service model to their new cloud service model. The key becomes apparent that they are not ‘moving’ systems to the cloud, but they are extending them to take advantage of the cloud. In this way they are immediately able to consider cloud when considering new features and innovations so creating a mixed or hybrid architectural model. In this way, the many adoption barriers to cloud such as data privacy, SLAs etc were relatively easy to overcome and therefore were removed as obstacles to adoption.
|On-premise Service Architecture||Predicted 2010 Service Architecture||Actual 2010 Service Architecture|
It is all to easy to think of cloud as a one-way migration, movement or re-hosting of services. Service on-premise, moves to cloud host and job done. But as we know, this approach rarely bares fruit. Add to this the barriers of considering cloud then it is difficult to argue use of cloud services especially as one moves up the value stack of services. However, by taking a hybrid approach, adoption can become almost immediate, providing all the benefits of cloud without any of the issues.
On the surface, this all appears very logical and as a pattern makes a great deal of sense to consider in ones own environment. However, it still doesn’t answer the question of how was this possible? The integration requirements would surely far outweigh the benefits?
This is where easyjet had the “ah ha moment”. They realised a feature of the Azure Platform that is often overlooked, a feature they found to be fundamental and a key differentiator in considering this type of model.
As Bert said, they’d viewed the cloud as many of us do as being classified into three types “Software as a Service”, “Platform as a Service” and “Infrastructure as a Service” but in truth something was missing from the model, and that there was something unique in Azure that made all the difference. This was the component known as Azure AppFabric which fundamentally provides capability to glue services on-premise with those in the cloud.
Simply put AppFabric is a cloud-hosted platform where you can securely expose the endpoints of on-premise services and augment them with an increasingly rich set of integration and security features. This he called “Integration as a Service”.
There is no doubt in Bert’s mind that AppFabric has been a game changer for easyJet’s cloud strategy. “Our strategy has changed because we are now asking different questions.” he said. They no longer ask if this is a new cloud service or a new on-premises service? Just how can this new service have some cloud components or endpoints?
Appfabric: The Ace in the Pack
Bert concluded his talk stating the following reasons why Appfabric is the “Ace in the pack” and a key differentiator for enterprise cloud adoption.
- Small Step - Easy to swallow
- Perceived as lower risk
- Big value – leveraging existing assets
- Rich functionality
- Accelerated acceptance of cloud
- A Gateway technology
For information on AIC2010