Eurostar is the only high-speed train that directly links the UK to France and Belgium via the Channel Tunnel. It provides links to over 100 destinations across Europe via Paris, Brussels and Lille. Since beginning operations in 1994, Eurostar has carried over 150 million passengers, taking thousands of people under the channel every day.
KCOM’s hosting and support solutions for Eurostar began with its mobile booking application. The relationship grew to encompass Eurostar’s ‘overbookings’ application, which enables them to maximise the capacity of their trains, and the Exit Check system, which was introduced following new Government legislation.
For the overbookings application, KCOM’s AWS managed service is based around hosting the production environment whilst development activity is carried out within Eurostar’s environments by the software developer. Whilst the infrastructure is comparatively straight forward, the application release process relied upon a lengthy period of application downtime for deployment and testing (often in the region of three to four hours) due to the nature of a single environment. As part of the continual service improvement process, KCOM investigated a new approach that would simplify the release process and in turn minimise system downtime and reduce risk.
In order to do this, KCOM recommended the implementation of a blue/green deployment process utilising a secondary infrastructure stack within the AWS environment. Deployment of this secondary stack was carried out following an Infrastructure-as-Code model whilst an image of the existing production instance was created. Processes were defined for the new release approach which saw deployment and subsequent testing carried out on the active stack.
Once signed off, the instances were switched with those in the production environment. In order to ensure consistent baselines for the inactive environment, those instances were then brought up to the latest specification and tested ahead of the next deployment requirement.
The impact of the update was immediate and striking: a reduction in downtime during deployments from three to four hours to less than five minutes. As part of this improvement, it is now also possible to test new deployments in a more controlled way, reducing risk and enabling a more controlled implementation.
In addition, benefits were also found during the monthly patching process. Similar to the application release model, patching required system downtime and rigorous post-implementation testing with high levels of risk involved. The use of a tried and tested blue/green application deployment model has allowed the same to be followed for patching, once more reducing downtime and minimising risk.
KCOM continually assesses areas such as workload, cost and security to identify where further improvements can be made. In addition to the managed service offering providing extended hours support to the environment, changes can now be carried out with increased confidence and minimal impact to Eurostar and its customers.