Migrating to AWS Without Losing (Too Much) Sleep

As my fellow CIOs are well aware, the rapid changes to our digital economy can seem daunting.

Despite the challenges of our digital world, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the world’s largest hotel franchisor, executed a significant digital transformation requiring change from our North American hotel owners that ultimately enabled them to provide better service to their guests. We succeeded without losing loyalty from our owners or guests, and with the right partnerships, support and strategy in place – you can too.

New research shows that only 22 percent of technologists are optimistic that their organization is ready for the rapid pace of technological advancement and 67 percent of IT professionals worry that technology innovation is outpacing society’s ability to harness it and adapt to change.

In light of these statistics, it’s easy to feel like these obstacles could create real problems for your customers and your business.

But it doesn’t have to.

For those of you in travel and hospitality, you understand the criticality of seamless digital experiences, especially on mobile. Consumers can book their flight, order room service and schedule guided tours – and owners can change rates, respond to guest requests, and see what competitors are doing – all from the touch of their phone.

At Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, we are on a mission to democratize travel for guests and the people who serve them with a portfolio of iconic hotel brands strategically designed to offer a wide range of compelling experiences and price points for guests.

We know our hotel owners are the platform for our growth, and together we serve the everyday traveler; as the stewards of our brands, owners are vital to delivering the experiences our guests want. That’s why we believe in providing our owners with the best technology resources. We knew we needed to evolve our digital platforms to meet our owners’ changing needs, enabling them to give the best travel experiences possible to their guests.

Supporting that business mission, here are three keys to a successful digital transformation.

Evaluate your company’s strategic direction

The first step in our digital transformation was to re-evaluate our existing capabilities and direction. After reviewing all of our options and conducting plenty of due diligence around scale, security and performance we decided to migrate many applications in our existing datacenter to AWS so we could innovate faster.

While we knew leveraging the speed and flexibility of AWS was the best way for our owners to receive the reliability and accessibility they need to manage digital information about their properties (from photos, to descriptions, to rates), we knew we had to mitigate any negative impacts a migration of this size and complexity could have.

We needed the right partner to protect our brand and accelerate the process.

Choose the right partner

Wyndham prides itself in partnering with like-minded companies that are customer-centric, nimble and experts in their fields.

We found AppDynamics and discovered our teams were drawn to an AWS-based approach at the same time, and we saw the potential of cross-enterprise monitoring. By partnering with AppDynamics, we were able to migrate 8,400 hotels across 18 brands with confidence by rapidly and securely adopting AWS’ cloud-native architectures, maintaining ongoing performance throughout the migration, ensuring equal or better customer experience in our new hybrid environments and driving business objectives while maximizing value.

The powerful level of visibility and real-time diagnosis provided by AppDynamics helped us deliver high quality service to our owners before, during and after the move to AWS.

Put the customer experience first

Not only was AppDynamics critical to the success of our cloud migration, to support our larger digital footprint, they enabled us to segment customer experience by category, track user sessions to understand how much time users spend at each step, filter and analyze by geography, device type and receive proactive alerts and analysis before the customer was ever impacted.

These additional insights gave us a holistic view of our applications and how our users interact with our apps, down to the design and feature level. This enabled us to focus on other critical improvements, accelerating user acceptance testing (UAT) during the migration process while maintaining application performance throughout.

Since our migration to AWS with the support of AppDynamics, we’ve seen an increase of 75 percent in mobile bookings. Together, AppDynamics and AWS are hugely strategic to our company’s continued innovation.

The digital economy today presents the opportunity to become an agent of transformation for your business.

With the right partners, culture and leadership in place, you too can drive the innovation necessary to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change, while maintaining and growing customer loyalty and your business at the same time…allowing everyone to migrate peacefully and without losing (too much) sleep.

The Digital Enterprise – Problems and Solutions

According to a recent article featured in Wall Street and Technology, Financial Services (FS) companies have a problem. The article explains that FS companies built more datacenter capacity than they needed when profits were up and demand was rising. Now that profits are lower and demand has not risen as expected the data centers are partially empty and very costly to operate.

FS companies are starting to outsource their IT infrastructure and this brings a new problem to light…

“It will take a decade to complete the move to a digital enterprise, especially in financial services, because of the complexity of software and existing IT architecture. “Legacy data and applications are hard to move” to a third party, Bishop says, adding that a single application may touch and interact with numerous other applications. Removing one system from a datacenter may disrupt the entire ecosystem.”

Serious Problems

The article calls out a significant problem that FS companies are facing now and will be for the next decade but doesn’t mention a solution.

The problem is that you can’t just pick up an application and move it without impacting other applications. Based upon my experience working with FS applications I see multiple related problems:

  1. Disruption of other applications
  2. Baselining performance and availability before the move
  3. Ensuring performance and availability after the move

All of these problems increase risk and the chance that users will be impacted.

Solutions

1. Disruption of other applications – The solution to this problem is easy in theory and traditionally difficult in practice. The theory is that you need to understand all of the external interactions with application you want to move.

One solution is to use ADDM (Application Discovery and Dependency Mapping) tools that scan your infrastructure looking for application components and the various communications to and from them. This method works okay (I have used it in the past) but typically requires a lot of manual data manipulation after the fact to improve the accuracy of the discovered information.

ADDM1

ADDM product view of application dependencies.

Another solution is to use an APM (Application Performance Management) tool to gather the information from within the running application. The right APM tool will automatically see all application instances (even in a dynamically scaled environment) as well as all of the communications into and out of the monitored application.

Distributed Application View

APM visualization of an application and it’s components with remote service calls.

Remote Services 1

APM tool list of remote application calls with response times, throughput and errors.

 

A combination of these two types of tools would provide the ultimate in accurate and easy to consume information (APM strength) along with flexibility to cover all of the one off custom application processes that might not be supported by an APM tool (ADDM strength).

2. Baselining performance and availability before the move – It’s critically important to understand the performance characteristics of your application before you move. This will provide the baseline required for comparison sake after you make the move. The last thing you want to do is degrade application performance and user satisfaction by moving an application. The solution here is leveraging the APM tool referenced in solution #1. This is a core strength of APM and should be leveraged from multiple perspectives:

  1. Overall application throughput, response times, and availability
  2. Individual business transaction throughput and response times
  3. External dependency throughput and response times
  4. Application error rate and type
Application overview and baseline

Application overview with baseline information.

transactions and baselines

Business transaction overview and baseline information.

3. Ensuring performance and availability after the move – Now that your application has moved to an outsourcer it’s more important than ever to understand performance and availability. Invariably your application performance will degrade and the finger pointing between you and your outsourcer will begin. That is, unless you are using an APM tool to monitor your application. The whole point of APM tools is to end finger pointing and to reduce mean time to restore service (MTRS) as much as possible. By using APM after the application move you will provide the highest level of service to your customers as possible.

Compare Releases

Comparison of two application releases. Granular comparison to understand before and after states. – Key Performance Indicators

Compare releases 2

Comparison of two application releases. Granular comparison to understand before and after states. – Load, Response Time, Errors

If you’re considering or in the process of transitioning to a digital enterprise you should seriously consider using APM to solve a multitude of problems. You can click here to sign up for a free trial of AppDynamics and get started today.