Reducing the running cost of Heathrow's Passenger data hub by 64%

Posted by The Piksel Team on Oct 27, 2020 9:10:13 AM

In this case study, we walk you through Heathrow Airport's story, from their Flight Hub's legacy beginnings to its migration to the cloud.

Heathrow's challenge

Heathrow's Flight Information Hub, which had been providing real-time passenger information since 2015, was approaching the end of its life. It was increasingly difficult to enhance and modernise this on-premise monolith. Hosting costs were increasing due to the need to statically provision capacity for peak demand.

The system provided data feeds via a SOAP API to several critical systems. These included Heathrow Express, the Heathrow Airport website, mobile application, call centre and intranet. 

Heathrow needed a modern, effective replacement to this critical system that:

  • Reduced hosting costs
  • Improved functionality and
  • Increased solution flexibility and scalability

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Our solution

Heathrow approached The Voyage Team (a Piksel Group company) to replace the Flight Information Hub. The Voyage Team have been working with Heathrow as a trusted partner since 2005.

The Voyage Team proposed that they build the new system on Microsoft Azure. They recommended a design based on:

  • Native cloud functionality
  • Multi-region deployment, running in an active-active state for resilience
  • Proactive monitoring, using real time alerts and dashboards
  • Synthetic traffic, for active monitoring and validation of application real-time behaviour
  • Serverless code deployment, to support rapid scaling under load and eliminate underutilised infrastructure provisioning
  • Azure COSMOS DB, for resilience, scalability and global data replication using an eventual consistency model
  • Self-Recovery, to detect data inconsistencies and initiate automatic recovery
  • Provision of RESTful APIs via Azure API Management
  • A fully documented self-service developer interface
  • Integration and processing of data from multiple sources
  • The merging of three different flight data sources, to get the passengers’ viewpoint

Once the design had been approved, The Voyage Team delivered the solution using the Disciplined Agile Delivery methodology. This involved working with Heathrow architects, 3rd parties and data subscribers. The solution was delivered via the Secure Development Lifecycle and use modern, best practice security mechanisms throughout.

In line with Heathrow’s ‘Build and Run’ principle, Piksel’s DevOps team now provides ongoing solution evolution and support.

The ongoing benefits

The Voyage Team launched the new platform in May 2020. They also migrated all subscribers and decommissioned all legacy systems by July 2020.

The new service, the Passenger Information Hub, has delivered considerable benefits:

  • Reducing hosting costs by 85%
  • Reducing Managed Service costs by 35%
  • Overall reduction of Opex costs of 64%
  • Proven scalability to meet the demands of passenger and operational subscribers
  • Eased integration for new subscribers
  • A foundation for future use-cases, including custom data feeds for sponsored terminals and off-campus information boards
  • Moves Heathrow to the status of a trusted data sharer

Reflecting on the launch of the Passenger Information Hub, Dave Draffin, Heathrow Cloud Architect, said:

“This was an easy one as Piksel have acted with a competent, proactive approach exhibiting a ‘can do’ attitude throughout the engagement. It’s always a pleasure to do business with a professional engineering team.”

To find out more about how Piksel Group can work with you to modernise your legacy apps please contact

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Topics: Case Study, Cloud, Azure

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