Cloud computing: Why this airline just went 'all in' on AWS

Machine learning is key to a new Amazon cloud migration project, which will mean Ryanair closing most of its data centers.

Low-cost airline Ryanair plans to close the vast majority of its data centers over the next three years, as it moves its infrastructure to the cloud with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The European airline, which carries over 130 million customers every year on more than 2,000 daily flights, already runs several elements of its core business on AWS, including hotel-booking site Ryanair Rooms and Ryanair.com. But it's now going 'all in', according to the cloud-computing giant.

The airline is building a company-wide data lake on Amazon S3, using Amazon Kinesis to gain insights from customer and business data.

See: Special report: The cloud v. data center decision (free PDF)

Ryanair is standardizing on AWS services, including AWS databases, analytics, machine learning, and deep-learning services.

It is working with the AWS machine-learning solutions lab to create an application that enables the company to automatically detect surges in demand for flight segments and anticipate schedule changes.

AWS said by migrating from Microsoft SQL Server to Amazon Aurora, Ryanair -- which sends out 22 million emails daily to customers about travel bookings or sales -- will be able to run one of the largest email-marketing campaigns in Europe, with higher performance and at a fraction of the cost.

Ryanair chief technology officer John Hurley said: "Machine learning is hugely important to our growth," adding that the company is exploring AWS machine-learning services including Amazon SageMaker to personalize the MyRyanair portal for every traveler.

Hurley said the airline is also trialing Amazon Lex -- Amazon's deep-learning chatbot service, which powers its Alexa virtual assistant -- so that customers can be dealt with by the chatbot or a human, depending on the nature of the request.

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