American Airlines Heads for a New Cloud with IBM

World’s largest airline to migrate AA.com, its customer-facing mobile application, airport kiosks and critical enterprise workloads to IBM Cloud.

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American Airlines, which knows as much about clouds as anyone, will soon be riding IBM’s into the IT friendly skies.

The old-school (formed in 1930) and world's largest passenger carrier said June 28 that it will use IBM Cloud—Big Blue is now moving away from the BlueMix Cloud branding—as the foundation for an IT changeover designed to make internal processes faster, more efficient, and more adaptable.

Mainly this is all in the works so that the airline’s main site, AA.com, will better scale to handle traffic during high-volume periods. Virtually all airline websites have experienced peak periods, usually around holidays, that either slow down or completely crash on travelers eager to obtain good easts and cheap tickets.

American, which has been doing business with IBM for 60 years, signed a strategic cloud partnership with IBM in November 2016; financial terms were not disclosed at the time. The first result is that the airline will migrate to the IBM Cloud some of its critical applications, including the main website, its customer-facing mobile app and its global network of check-in kiosks. Other workloads and tools, such as the company’s Cargo customer website, also will be moved to the IBM Cloud.

IBM Was IT Provider During US Airways Merger

IBM had been the main IT provider four years ago in the $11 billion American-US Airways merger, which gave it a leg up in the initiative announced June 28. American also evaluated Amazon and Microsoft Azure in the process, IBM told eWEEK.

The airline will be able to utilize the global footprint of IBM Cloud, which consists of more than 50 data centers in 17 countries, in addition to a wide range of application development capabilities.

Another key reason for the switch to IBM Cloud, IBM executive Patrick Grubbs told eWEEK, is that the airline was determined to build an open-source/open-standards system with Cloud Foundry, a longtime partner of IBM’s that is owned and operated by Pivotal.

“We wanted to make sure that the cloud provider would be using Cloud Foundry and open-source technologies so we don’t get locked in by proprietary solutions," Grubbs said. “We also wanted a partner that would offer us the agility to innovate at the organizational and process levels and have deep industry expertise with security at the core.”

As part of the solution, American and IBM will work together to migrate these applications to the IBM Cloud. In parallel, the two companies also have teamed to rewrite the apps to the IBM Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS) and establish a cloud-native architecture.

Will Be Using Micro-Services, DevOps Development Practices

As part of this process, American will work with IBM Global Services to use IBM’s Garage Methodology of creating applications through a micro-services architecture, design thinking, agile methodology, DevOps and lean development, the company said.

IBM Cloud will help enable developers to build and change application functionalities for the airline’s customers. These customer-facing systems will be on the IBM Public Cloud, while American will maintain backend connectivity to other on-premise legacy and third-party systems, for true Hybrid Cloud functionality.

American Airlines and its subsidiary, American Eagle, offer an average of 6,700 flights per day to about 350 destinations in more than 50 countries. American has hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...