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CASE STUDY HOME WRITTEN BY ANJAN MITRA First Class Services by somewhereinthemiddle

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									                                               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

								
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