Celebrating one year of running fully on open systems

Denis Lacroix

SVP Core Shared Services, Amadeus

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Slightly more than a year ago, towards the end of 2018, Amadeus shutdown its last mainframe; this milestone came on the heels of an even bigger step completed in June 2017, when we retired our entire TPF mainframes complex.

Both milestones amount to perhaps the most challenging technical endeavours our teams have ever tackled: we are the first large scale travel technology provider running exclusively on open systems, essentially a giant network of Linux machines.

The switch was like changing an aircraft engine mid-flight, demanding precision engineering and mission critical skills

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of this milestone, we wanted to look back at the Herculean efforts it took to achieve this mission, and to honor the people who made it happen.

In order to recognize what this all means, it's worth revisiting what a mainframe actually is. At their core, mainframes are high-performance computers recognized for their large size, reliability, vast amount of storage, and incredible data processing power.

Mainframes are used by organizations around the world, and they've been a backbone of computing since the 1960s. However they come with some downsides. Over time, we found that the mainframe became slow and rigid to take on the challenges of the digital age. It can take engineers three to four months just to train on them, and new graduates have rarely been motivated to learn such out-dated technology.

Open systems on the other hand, are much faster to learn, and are designed to be easily inspected, modified and enhanced. For new grads, they are also much more appealing and inspiring to work on. That’s why open systems have reshaped the IT and business landscape, fostering a collaborative spirit across the global developer community. This has resulted in software, systems and technologies that are not only more innovative, but also secure and cost-effective.

Early on, Amadeus' engineering leaders recognized that if we were committed to innovation and driving the travel industry forward, we had to get off mainframes and onto open systems as soon as possible. We had to reach for the cloud, if you will.

And so we did. As far back as the early 2000s, we started developing open source systems to enable greater flexibility, agility and scalability.

This project was unparalleled in scale. At its peak the move involved more than 400 engineers across the globe working full-time. In total, their collective efforts would add up to 2,000 effort-years.

After a huge technical marathon, by the end of 2018, we successfully removed all operations from the mainframe to open source. 

How do Open Systems benefit our customers?

Running 100 percent on open systems enables Amadeus to boost innovation for customers and develop new products and features much more rapidly - without waiting for bespoke mainframe coding to take place.

By switching away from a mainframe environment, we can attract the best talent available, and open systems enable greater collaboration as teams share the same infrastructures. As a result Amadeus now collaborates with some of the world’s leading technology businesses such as Red Hat, Couchbase and, MongoDB.. All of this translates into better and faster service for our customers.

Open Systems are also enabling Amadeus’ vision for cloud-based architecture that drives more speed, resilience and efficiency, particularly in moments of peak demand. This spearheaded another major technology milestone – the migration of one of the first core travel industry applications, Master Pricer, onto the public cloud.

The cloud helps us provide sub-second response times and quick reactions to sudden peaks in travel demand caused by events like Black Friday.

Accelerated by the cloud and open source systems, Amadeus is breaking new ground in artificial intelligencedata analytics and NDC, to help drive the travel industry forward.

Open systems are also helping us to empower startups and independent developers to gain an edge. Most recently, we launched a new set of AI Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) as part of the Amadeus for Developers programme. These APIs allow developers to build solutions that can predict travel intent, traveller behaviour, and flight delays, amongst others – without needing any prior background in AI or data.

That means travel innovators can create exciting AI-based apps with brand new features and disruptive business models that can transform the travel experience and any developer can start testing the APIs in less than three minutes. This level of collaboration wouldn't have been possible without our move onto open systems.

But we're still pushing the boundaries to see what else we can achieve. Amadeus is advancing with its cloud strategy in an agile, DevOps approach, towards a mix of private-public cloud architecture in multiple regions.  The end goal is to offer tailored solutions to drive more speed, agility and responsiveness.

All of these efforts are defined by what's best for our customers and ultimately, travellers. This shift is part of a continued drive to invest in the technology infrastructure that best powers the travel sector with better journeys and experiences for travelers.

Of course none of this would be possible without the extraordinary team of engineers who power Amadeus from India, to Germany, France, the United States and many more. They are true visionaries and pioneers, and I look forward to breaking new ground with them well into the future.


Cloud Technology, Artificial Intelligence, API, Open Source, Digital transformation