About Click Travel
Click Travel has been bringing a fresh approach to business travel since 1999. It aims to reduce the cost and complexity of travel management for businesses through travel.cloud, its self-service web application. The tool aggregates product and pricing information from hundreds of travel websites, allowing customers to book all aspects of their business-related travel, including hotels, flights, and train tickets. The firm mainly operates online, with 96 percent of its bookings completed through travel.cloud.
“We provide business-to-business travel services, but we think the corporate experience should match the consumer experience,” says Head of Product and Engineering Matthew Steer. Developed on Amazon Web Services (AWS) more than seven years ago, the firm’s travel.cloud product has been integral to this vision, driving Click Travel’s growth and securing its place in the Sunday Times Tech Track 100 four years in a row.
To capitalize on the developments in cloud computing since 2009, Click Travel decided to build the second generation of its platform on AWS. “We wanted to use more AWS technologies to achieve a better cloud computing model,” says Golnaz Sepehrband, software engineer and technical lead at Click Travel. “We were hosting our applications on AWS, and that was fantastic, but because we were running a single monolithic application, there were limits to what we could achieve. Any changes we needed to make were time consuming, and test cycles were getting longer.” Click Travel wanted to move to a microservices architecture to drive automation and continuous delivery, as well as to liberate its 32-person engineering team from infrastructure maintenance tasks and give them more time to focus on product development. Steer continues, “We saw an opportunity to turn our application into a wider platform that would help us interact with our suppliers more effectively and therefore provide a better service to customers.”
Why Amazon Web Services
“Because we’d worked with AWS from the start, it was our first choice to continue developing our services in the cloud,” says Sepehrband. “We needed a reliable, resilient, and highly available architecture, and we knew AWS would provide it.”
Click Travel’s first-generation infrastructure consists of a single application that uses large Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances with Elastic Load Balancing distributing loads, and a database back end provided by Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS).
The shift to microservices has made technologies such as AWS Lambda, Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS), and Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) central to Click Travel’s event-driven architecture. Sepehrband says, “Many of our environments don’t need to run 24/7, so we’re making use of AWS Lambda for these.” Steer continues, “Getting content from suppliers, like airlines and hotel chains, and presenting it to customers online is a big part of what we do. Using AWS Lambda, we can build plug-and-play connections to suppliers interacting with their own APIs and web services.”
Each microservice is provisioned in AWS CloudFormation, and AWS CodeDeploy helps ensure zero downtime during deployments through rolling updates. Most of Click Travel’s 20 microservices use Amazon DynamoDB for storage, alongside AWS CloudSearch for rich querying. “It’s a combination that we’ve found works really well, so we replicate that setup with each new microservice,” says Steer. The company also uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and is increasingly employing Amazon Redshift for analysis and data storage. Amazon Route 53 routes traffic to all its services.
Click Travel works across Availability Zones in the EU (Ireland) Region to ensure high availability and uses Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) as a secure private network for its resources.
From its inception, Click Travel has used AWS to bring its online model of travel management to business customers. “We’ve built our infrastructure from scratch with AWS, and we did this without having to invest a six-figure sum in the technology,” says Steer. “Using AWS enabled our business to get off the ground and has underpinned our 40 percent year-over-year growth.”
Having an infrastructure that could scale with the company has been invaluable to the firm. “Our first-generation product involved running a monolithic application on the cloud, whereas our second-generation product is built in the cloud,” says Founder and Executive Chairman Simon McLean. “This is a key distinction. In our opinion, it’s how application development is evolving, and both AWS and Click Travel are at the front end of that evolution.”
Sepehrband continues, “By using AWS we have the flexibility to change the way we work. Moving to a modular architecture fits our needs today. As loads increase, we just scale out rather than make the size of the instance larger. It is a more cost-effective way of working too.”
Because Click Travel caters to businesses rather than consumers, the main demands on its infrastructure occur during the week between 9:00 am 5:00 pm. “About 90 percent of the traffic to our application occurs during normal working hours,” says Sepehrband. “With our legacy infrastructure, compute resources are doing nothing at all outside of that time. When we move fully to our redesigned architecture, we can run on a single small instance during low usage periods, making the most of the fact that we don’t have high demand 24/7. This will save us more than 50 percent on our already low spend on Amazon EC2 instances.”
In addition, the team now has more resources to focus on developing the second-generation travel.cloud platform. “Working with AWS, we have 32 people dedicated to delivering new features and services for our clients, and zero people spending time on system admin,” says Steer. “These engineers don’t have to worry about database administration or other IT infrastructure tasks.” This is also helping the firm recruit the right type of people to its ranks. “When a company is focused on technology and doing exciting things in the cloud, it attracts the best staff,” says Sepehrband. “Because we use AWS, it’s easy to recruit enthusiastic people who share our passion for pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with today’s technology.”
“We’re fairly unique in the business travel management arena because we develop our own technology,” says Steer. “By using AWS, we can focus on providing a seamless online experience for business travelers, and give organizations control and visibility of employees’ travel arrangements and costs. Also, we see great opportunities to work more effectively with our partners. Using AWS Lambda to connect to our suppliers is a great example of that.”
“Using AWS enabled our business to get off the ground and has underpinned our 40% year-over-year growth.”
Matthew Steer, Head of Product and Engineering