Volotea is one of the fastest growing independent airlines in Europe, and has increased its fleet, routes, and number of available seats year over year. Volotea has already transported more than 30 million passengers across Europe, and has bases in 16 European capitals.

The maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) application is a critical system for every airline. It’s used to manage the maintenance, repair, service, and inspection of aircraft. The main goal of an MRO application is to ensure the safety and airworthiness of the aircraft. Traditionally, those systems have been based on monolithic, packaged applications. However, these are difficult to scale and do not offer the benefit of elasticity to adapt to changing demand. Volotea migrated to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to modernize their MRO without refactoring the code. In this blog post, we’ll show you an architecture solution that can be applied to modernize an MRO (or similarly packaged monolithic application) without refactoring, and discuss some considerations.

The challenges with an on-premises MRO solution

Volotea’s MRO software previously ran in an on-premises data center. The system was based on Windows, an outdated database engine, and a virtual desktop system based on Citrix. Costs were fixed, yet MRO usage is typically seasonal. All the interfaces with other systems were based on an outdated communications protocol. This presented security concerns, especially considering that ransomware attacks are an increasing threat.

The main challenge for Volotea was adapting the MRO system to changing business requirements. Seasonal workloads and high impact projects, like changing fleets from Boeing to Airbus, require flexibility. The company also needed to adapt to the changing protocols necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as airlines are one of the most impacted industries in Europe.

Volotea needed to modernize the operating system (OS) and database, simplify the end user application access, and increase the overall platform security, including integration with other applications.

Modernizing the MRO without refactoring

Following Volotea’s cloud strategy, the MRO system was migrated to AWS to reduce technology costs and gain higher operational performance, availability, security, and flexibility. The migration was not simply based on a lift-and-shift approach, but used an existing AWS reference architecture for the MRO system. This reference architecture incorporates AWS managed services to modernize the application without incurring refactoring costs.

Figure 1. Volotea MRO deployment in a multi-account architecture

Figure 1. Volotea MRO deployment in a multi-account architecture

As shown in the high-level architecture in Figure 1:

  1. Volotea migrated their servers to Amazon EC2 instances based on Linux, to minimize the OS costs. The database management system is now using an open source engine.
  2. The user access technology was migrated to Amazon AppStream 2.0. This is a managed service with increased security, elasticity, and flexibility compared to traditional virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions. Volotea aligned the cost with the real usage and decreased the TCO by configuring Auto Scaling fleets.
  3. AWS Transfer Family was used to centralize the information exchanged with third-party applications, while increasing the security of the communication channel. This managed service enabled the migration of the SFTP, FTPS, and FTP interfaces without the need to manage servers.
  4. To modernize the access of the MRO administrators, AWS Systems Manager Session Manager was used. This provided an ideal browser-based shell access without requiring bastion hosts or opening SSH ports in the Amazon EC2 instances.
  5. The AWS services were linked to Volotea’s user directory using AWS Single Sign-On. This allowed users to authenticate with their corporate credentials, decreasing maintenance costs, and increasing the security.

The application was deployed in Volotea’s AWS Landing Zone, which included the following services:

To make the systems management homogeneous, AWS Systems Manager and AWS Backup offered a single management point for the backup policies, system inventory, and patching.

Incorporating high availability to the MRO

Once this initial modernization is finished, Volotea will use the AWS reference architecture for high availability (HA) to increase resiliency. They’ll configure Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling with application failover to another Availability Zone and the DB native replication mechanisms. This will use Elastic IP addresses to remap the endpoints in a failover scenario. This architecture can be easily implemented in AWS to incorporate HA to applications that do not natively support horizontal scaling.

Conclusion

Volotea successfully modernized its MRO software, which has given them greater flexibility, elasticity, and the increased security of AWS services. They intend to continue with their digital transformation journey. Volotea is increasing its capacity to innovate faster to deliver new digital services more efficiently and with reduced IT costs. The AWS services and strategies discussed in this blog post can be applied to other similarly packaged applications to implement a first level of modernization with little effort and low migration risk.

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