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Home » Digital Transformation » The high-flying as a service IT model that’s flexible and secure

Padraic Doyle

VP Technology, daa

Martin Clohessy

Head of IT Infrastructure, daa

A global airports group has migrated its operations to a cloud-like service run from its own data centre. This means it manages its own security while only paying for the IT it uses.

When daa — the global airports and travel retail group — decided to update its IT system, it faced two choices. It could either invest in more infrastructure at significant expense. Or it could switch to paying for its IT as a service (ITaaS), an increasingly popular model driven by the cloud revolution

The group, which is headquartered at Dublin Airport, had been running its operations on Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) hardware, servers and storage that were approaching end-of-life. “We began exploring our options and were offered an upgrade to a pay-as-you-go model from Hewlett Packard Enterprise called HPE GreenLake,” says Martin Clohessy, Head of IT Infrastructure, daa. “This gave us the chance to replace our ageing technology and get better performance and more capacity.” 

The big advantages of pay-as-you-go IT 

It was also value for money, which was a major consideration, admits Padraic Doyle, VP Technology, daa. The pandemic had vastly reduced passenger numbers; so with business revenues down, financial scrutiny had increased.

The irony was that fewer passengers hadn’t resulted in a significant reduction of daa’s IT consumption. “We still needed to keep our IT operation running,” says Doyle. “But with pay-as-you-go we didn’t have to worry about replacing obsolete infrastructure or making business cases for capital expenditure to invest in servers and storage. With HPE GreenLake, all those problems were taken away from us.” 

After HPE engineers installed the new system in just a matter of days, the group’s in-house IT team completed a migration operation. HPE GreenLake now runs daa’s core operational services, including passenger handling, security systems and business intelligence. It also runs daa’s national retail operation and part of its international retail operation. 

Once you become totally dependent on public cloud services, you’re at the mercy of your network providers.

Asset upcycling for greater sustainability gains 

Because some of daa’s existing tech was converted into the new system — while obsolete legacy assets were upcycled and resold by HPE Financial Services to provide additional funds for the digital transformation — it was also a greener option. “That was a bonus for us because we have very aggressive sustainability objectives,” says Doyle. “Being sustainable is key to our success going forward. We have a number of initiatives to help reduce our carbon footprint in particular.” 

Some of daa’s data and legacy applications are not suitable for the public cloud. But because the new system is housed in the group’s own data centres, daa receives all the advantages of the cloud — flexible, managed technology, and only paying for the services it uses — but with the security and assurance of on-premises IT. “We maintain physical access to the system which is also behind our firewalls,” says Clohessy. “There’s a level of comfort in knowing that it’s under our control.”

Adding capacity as and when it is needed 

It’s a more flexible and agile model too, because more capacity can be added as necessary by HPE at the push of a button. “Previously, when we needed more capacity, we’d have to build physical infrastructure as required,” says Clohessy. “That might take us eight to 12 weeks and could entail a significant capital outlay.” 

Plus, by using its own data centre, daa gets to leverage the value of a physical infrastructure investment it has already made, while not wholly relying on a third party. “If there was a major external network failure, we could still run much of our IT,” says Doyle. “Whereas once you become totally dependent on public cloud services, you’re at the mercy of your network providers.”

Which is not to say that daa is anti-cloud; some of their systems run in the public cloud today, but they’re not ready to push key services there. “But, for now, IT as a service is helping us move to more flexible service provisioning models, while managing our risk levels and keeping us in our historical comfort zone,” says Doyle. 

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