Qantas flying high with cloud-based innovation: AWS

AWS' Australia and New Zealand managing director peddles Qantas as one of the cloud giant's most innovative customers in the region.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

A couple of years ago, Qantas turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help it solve a big data problem. Australia's largest airline needed help with flight planning and attempting to run a new flight leg from Sydney to Dallas, Texas.

AWS Australia and New Zealand managing director Paul Migliorini told ZDNet that the problem Qantas was facing was its legacy systems could not handle the compute power required to run the analysis around determining if this ambitious flight was possible.

"They had a challenge, a computationally intensive problem because they had to run scenarios around things like weather conditions and fuel to see if the plane could fly safely from Sydney to Dallas," Migliorini explained. "It would take four months to run the algorithm so effectively they couldn't do it because they didn't have the computing capacity."

Migliorini said it was a classic cloud use case. Qantas was pushing its data to AWS to bring that computational timeframe down to four hours, with the algorithms able to calculate up to 15,000 different routes.

In solving its big data problem, Qantas realised the power of innovation through the cloud.

"What that did in Qantas -- which is really interesting -- is it changed the mindset around what was possible in terms of innovation, where previously people were conditioned to think you couldn't even conceive of it and to actually pull the resources together to solve that problem," Migliorini said.

"What we're seeing now in Qantas is huge numbers of threads of innovation popping up across the organisation and they're adopting cloud in a very mature sense. They've reconfigured their operating model to do it at scale so we're seeing a whole lot of agility come into that organisation that's driving innovation around operations and fuel efficiency, as well as innovation around Qantas.com, and how they transact.

"It's a really fabulous story that's just going to accelerate over time."

Qantas began the transition of its online booking site to AWS early last year, with Qantas CTO cum CISO Chris Taylor saying previously he was "absolutely confident" that once the full deployment was completed, Qantas.com would not fail.

Additionally, Qantas has also managed to speed up its booking processing times from batch to batch to real-time, via AWS. As a result, that has increased data processing time by 100 times, and reduced the amount of code required to do the same workload by 90 percent, and the cost to run the service by 80 percent.

According to Qantas, moving into the cloud will save the company AU$30 million over five years.

"Qantas is doing a lot of incredible work," Migliorini added. "Whether you're an enterprise with legacy or a startup ... to fully realise the potential of your organisation, you need to focus your resources on the things that are driving value for you."

In Australia, AWS' customers include almost all of the top 10 publicly traded companies, such as the big four banks, Telstra, and mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP. AWS is also used by Australian startup success story Atlassian, and the New Zealand cloud accounting experts Xero.

"What we're seeing more and more now is that there are a lot of organisations that see cloud as a vehicle to reduce cost," Migliorini said.

"But what's interesting with less early adopters, is they start out by thinking that cloud can reduce cost, but what happens quite quickly is they pivot towards the agility to innovate. They get the [AWS] platform in and they start to remediate aspects of their legacy organisation and they're reducing cost but they're also finding that they're reducing friction.

"Large corporates are thinking differently around how they differentiate through their development capabilities, this idea that software is going to create the point of differentiation -- it's happening everywhere."

Disclosure: Asha Barbaschow travelled to AWS Re:Invent as a guest of AWS.

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