Challenge

KCOM has been working with Rail Delivery Group (RDG) for over ten years and since launching the first enterprise production service using Amazon Web Services (AWS), RDG has increasingly used AWS to host many of its mission critical applications vital in improving the services and support that RDG gives its customers. As the RDG partnership continued to develop, the challenge was to increase the use of AWS, provide a platform for future projects and deliver further cost savings to RDG.

Solution and Results

The first of KCOM’s competitive tender wins was in back in 2013 when the collaboration between KCOM/AWS/RDG began. KCOM re-architected the incumbent technology that hosted the National Rail Enquiries (NRE) platform. By moving the infrastructure to AWS, KCOM provided a managed service for all applications and a single service desk for NRE’s multiple suppliers. The move to AWS contributed to a 25% reduction in infrastructure costs for RDG while giving rail customers a faster, smoother and more reliable ticketing experience. National Rail Apps scored over 80% satisfaction between 2014 and 2015, according to a survey of rail customers in the UK.

The RDG partnership was furthered when KCOM created the Live Sales Solution to support RDG’s ‘Click and Collect’ Ticket on Departure service. This vastly improved system was developed to improve user experience and handle the increasing number of advance ticket purchases. The system can handle over a billion tickets per year accessed via thousands of ticket machines located in 2,500 rail stations. Utilising AWS as a hosting partner enabled RDG to realise a 50% saving on operational costs.

KCOM also won a project to design, build, deploy and support the Transaction Management System (TMS) for the South East Flexible Ticketing (SEFT) initiative to provide an easy to use smartcard ticketing experience. The TMS handles ticket fulfilment, interface with web retailers and provide a modern and responsive web user interface (HTML5) using AWS for Cloud infrastructure.

Most recently KCOM won two more significant projects as part of the Rail Modernisation Programme; the design, build, hosting and ongoing support of mission critical systems on the AWS Cloud.

  • DCAS (Data Capture, Apportionment and Settlement) – this project is the replacement of the Lennon system that distributes over £9 billion of annual ticket revenues with apportionment based on 2 million business rules. Key performance indicators are around the timeliness and absolute accuracy of settlement calculations. Sales data is collected from 8,500 ticket-issuing systems from retailers alone, and ensuring the accuracy of exceptionally high volumes of messages based on this data is paramount.
  • RARS (Replacement Availability and Reservation System) – replacement of NRS (National Reservations System), a system which handles over 1 billion enquiries per month, holds details of journeys, fares, trains, carriages, seats etc. and allows passengers to book seats and for those seat reservations to be managed across all train operating companies.

Technical overview

The solution takes the various inputs and combines them either automatically on the arrival of an application version in AWS Simple Storage Service - AWS S3, which is a highly available and fault tolerant object store, or on a manual trigger to create and validate an AWS Machine Image.  UAT deployments are then created, automatically deploying components such as Roles and Policies within AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) and generating AWS Virtual Private Cloud resources such as VPC Security Group rules, AWS Auto Scaling Group and AWS Elastic Balancing configuration.

AWS Elastic Compute Cloud Instances are also integrated to AWS Route53 ensuring that ‘cluster membership’ is signalled in Tags, configuration and DNS.  A Blue/Green deployment methodology is used to ensure that new deployments can be fully tested in-situ before being put live.  Jenkins is used in conjunction with AWS Lambda S3 triggers to orchestrate each step in the process.