"CASE STUDY HOME WRITTEN BY ANJAN MITRA First Class Services"
CASE STUDY WRITTEN BY ANJAN MITRA HOME First-Class Services for the Travel Industry Managing the quality of Web services systems Enterprise Solutions A gentWare’s Web services–based found themselves doing manual search- extra-enterprise system. Nevertheless, solutions enable travel agents to es through multiple Web sites to find the they needed to proactively manage locate the best travel options with best fares for their cost-conscious cus- potential and unpredictable IT problems, greater efficiency. By ensuring that these tomers – hardly a recipe for efficiency. from supplier system downtime to spikes loosely coupled systems are meeting AgentWare solved the problem by in demand generated by high response to business requirements, AmberPoint Ser- enabling travel agents to use a single Web special offers. Whenever it added func- vice Level Manager is helping AgentWare interface to access fare and schedule infor- tionality, it also needed to manage these continually improve its services. mation from airlines, hotels, and car rental changes across several different suppliers. companies. Not surprisingly, travel agen- AgentWare considered building its Low airfares for customers. High- cies have welcomed AgentWare’s offering own management functionality, but chose Content Management quality customer service from travel with open arms. Over a 14-month period, instead to implement Service Level Man- agencies. Once, these objectives seemed AgentWare’s market penetration within ager because it offered a prebuilt, industri- mutually exclusive. But AgentWare’s Web U.S. travel agencies has skyrocketed. al-strength system. “Having the Amber- services–based solutions are helping Point system between us and our sub- travel agencies bridge the gap. Agent- Web Services Only scribers suits our business and architec- Ware gives travel agencies the ability to Because it needed a fast and flexible tural model by providing real-time appli- quickly and easily obtain real-time, IT architecture that could easily accom- cation-level monitoring,” says David Gru- panoramic views of fare and schedule modate this rapid growth, AgentWare ber, CTO at AgentWare. information from a single Web interface. built its solutions using only Web ser- To proactively monitor and manage its vices. AgentWare provides access to these Differentiated AgentWare subscription-based solution, AgentWare services on a subscription basis – cus- Services uses AmberPoint’s Service Level Manager, tomers purchase packages of itinerary AgentWare offers three products, all which is designed specifically to bring and fare requests just as they would buy based on SOAP-compliant Web services, comprehensive service-level manage- packages of cell phone minutes. Because to assist travel agents and corporations Data Management ment to Web services systems. As a result, AgentWare can spread its infrastructure that book their own travel: Travel Console, AgentWare has been able to exceed cus- costs over its entire customer base, it is WebPoint, and Data Services. Travel Con- tomer service expectations, mitigate prob- able to reduce costs to customers. sole, which provides travel agents with a lems before they can impact business, and single Web interface for creating searches develop new revenue opportunities. The Challenges of for flights and fares, goes to outside AUTHOR BIO Subscription Services sources of travel information and returns Anjan Mitra is a senior Turbulence in the Travel Selling subscription-based services consolidated flight and fare information product manager at Amber- Industry meant AgentWare often had to guarantee to the travel agent in real time. WebPoint Point, Inc. He has 12 years Not long ago, travel agents obtained all its offerings through the service-level integrates this Web fare search and itiner- of experience in the soft- the flight and fare information they need- agreements (SLAs) with which it con- ary information directly into Galileo ware industry and has ed through Global Distribution Systems tracts itself to a combination of uptime, Focalpoint, a widely used product that worked on a broad range (GDSs), such as Sabre, Galileo, WorldSpan, response times, and numbers of concur- allows travel agencies to access schedule of products covering and Amadeus. However, as new, low-cost rent and aggregate transactions. Agent- and fare information, book reservations, application servers, carriers emerged, such as JetBlue Airways Ware also needed to keep track of cus- and issue tickets for airlines, hotel chains, collaborative development and AirTran, it became imperative for tomer subscriptions and provision ser- car rental companies, cruise lines, and XML Labs platforms, and e-commerce agencies to include these airlines in their vices accordingly. Effectively managing tour operators worldwide. applications. He has done searches as well. its Web services infrastructure was essen- AgentWare Data Services enable large product management in Unfortunately, these airlines do not tial to meeting customer expectations. agencies, travel technology companies, various capacities at fully participate in the GDSs, requiring AgentWare gathers data in real time and Web sites to integrate the core Netscape, AOL, and instead that travel agents go to their from external sources, limiting the con- engine that drives AgentWare’s Travel CollabNet. individual Web sites. Travel agencies trol the company has over much of its Console and WebPoint products into 12 FEBRUARY 2004 www . XML-JOURNAL . com CASE STUDY their existing travel-related systems. AmberPoint to feed their billing system. tomer calls and says, ‘We sent you a Data Services furnishes both Java- and AmberPoint’s reporting capabilities message 30 minutes ago and we’re not Microsoft .NET-based gateways to GDS allow AgentWare to provide customers sure we sent it right,’ AmberPoint Ser- systems, as well as accounting, report- with useful business information as well. vice Level Manager helps us easily pin- ing, point-of-sale, back-office, customer For example, AgentWare can use Service point the customer, the corresponding relationship management, and corpo- Level Manager to furnish select customers SLA, and the Web service that was affect- rate travel management systems. with custom reports about their airline ed. By providing us with detailed impact bookings. Whereas previously individuals analysis, logs, timely alerts, and online Decoupling the Management within a particular company might have views, the product helps us rapidly iden- Layer purchased airline tickets on an ad hoc tify and actively address existing, or Because AgentWare must manage so basis, the AgentWare reporting service even potential, problems.” many Web services that it does not con- allows travel agents to determine the These capabilities have dramatically trol, its management solution could not extent to which the entire company uses improved the effectiveness of AgentWare’s require any change to the managed appli- each airline’s services. With this informa- troubleshooting efforts. Says Gruber, cations or to the XML messages. Service tion, the company might choose to nego- “AmberPoint has reduced the time it takes Level Manager is built as a Web services tiate volume discounts with the airline. to troubleshoot by 25%.” intermediary that intercepts Web services Customer service representatives traffic to provide the necessary manage- can configure a personalized portal view Correlating System and ment capabilities, when needed. By to display information about specific Application Data abstracting the management from the services, alerts, agreements, reports, AgentWare’s data center uses Service Web services, AmberPoint allows the customers, and business dashboards. Level Manager to correlate system infor- application management system to be These views can incorporate custom mation, such as network traffic, TCP/IP decoupled from the Web services. This dashboards with charts, numbers, bandwidth utilization, and CPU utiliza- makes it easy for AgentWare to manage graphs, and so on, that can be targeted tion, with what’s going on in the applica- pre-existing and external Web services, as to very specific monitoring require- tion at a business level. By providing a AmberPoint’s approach does not require ments. These dashboards can be created context for system-level network traffic, additional coding to those Web services. and incorporated in the Service Level Service Level Manager helps the Agent- Manager portal without any program- Ware data center better manage its net- New Revenue Opportunities ming, allowing each end user to interact work, as well as proactively plan for Today, AgentWare leverages Service with the UI in a manner that is most future growth. For example, AgentWare Level Manager’s application-level monitor- suited to his or her responsibilities. can now determine whether usage ing to meet – and exceed – its customers’ AmberPoint provides the ability to spikes are due to increased business or service requirements. AgentWare has also rapidly assign and remove services network problems that are causing the streamlined its operations by using Amber- based on subscriptions for new and system to send duplicate messages Point to provision new services, speed existing AgentWare customers. Addi- about the same root problem. development, and track usage trends to tionally, AmberPoint integrates with a proactively head off system problems. system AgentWare had previously Proactive Capacity Planning Perhaps the most surprising out- implemented to authenticate each Data center managers use AmberPoint come of AgentWare’s use of AmberPoint client. If the requester is not a valid cus- to proactively address potential problems is that it can leverage detailed informa- tomer then the request is blocked or in delivering service levels before they tion on how customers are using its ser- returned with an appropriate message. occur. For example, AmberPoint might vices to develop new revenue-generat- indicate that AgentWare’s network is ing services. For example, says Gruber, Faster Troubleshooting receiving an extraordinary number of “If we see a lot of activity with JetBlue or AgentWare has streamlined its devel- extra requests for JetBlue or AirTran dur- AirTran, product development might opment and testing processes as well. ing a certain time frame. With this infor- say, ‘We need to expand our activity with Prior to using Service Level Manager, mation AgentWare might choose to JetBlue or AirTran by developing a serv- AgentWare stored all data about XML increase the capacity of the network link ice that enables travel agents to check traffic in either a database or a log file. to these airlines before problems occur. their commissions with those airlines.’” But it had no easy way to identify or Service Level Manager capabilities locate the particular message or content such as e-mail alerts, which automatical- Better Customer Service that developers thought might be caus- ly contact operations managers when the By providing targeted, valued-added ing a problem on the network. Develop- application is encountering problems, services for customers, AgentWare ers had to export data from the database also help AgentWare to maintain system enjoys greater repeat business. For and manually comb through the log files. uptime and performance to better com- example, because it tracks the subscrip- Service Level Manager’s informative ply with its service level agreements. tion for each customer, AgentWare can alerting and reporting capabilities make “The bottom line,” says Gruber, “is proactively offer renewals or additional it easy for developers to find the infor- that the AmberPoint Service Level Man- services to customers who are mation they need in order to trou- ager provides technology that allows us approaching the usage limits specified bleshoot their systems more quickly and to provide innovative new business ser- in their contracts. It helps customers to easily. For example, says Gruber, “When vices to our customers, better manage avoid service interruptions by alerting we sign up new customers, we can give our service, and operate more efficiently them when they are about to bump up them an AgentWare test environment and effectively.” against these limits. AgentWare also with AmberPoint running between their uses the information provided by systems and our services. When the cus- AMITRA@AMBERPOINT.COM www . XML-JOURNAL . com FEBRUARY 2004 13