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Delta Airlines takes flight with Amazon Web Services

If you look out the window to your left, you'll see we've outsourced our infrastructure

Delta Airlines celebrated Amazon Prime Day this week by charting a course for AWS, naming the cloud giant as its preferred cloud provider.

The multi-year agreement will see Delta, one of the largest domestic airlines in the US, modernize and migrate its workloads to AWS, with an emphasis on mining its wells of data to drive new insights into the airline’s day-to-day operations.

“We’re not just transforming our IT backbone — we’re rallying our entire customer organization to use leading technology to improve our customer’s travel experience in meaningful ways,” Delta CIO Rahul Samant said in a canned statement.

What Samant doesn't say, and what would be most telling, is what that IT backbone entails. The airline focused on routine, customer-facing applications in its statement and didn't hint at how far-reaching that "backbone" replacement is.

The migration sweeps a number of application areas, including moving the customer service center to Amazon Connect — the cloud provider’s managed contact center service — to improve experience for customers making reservations or seeking assistance over the phone. For those that can’t bear the idea of waiting on hold, the service also enables Delta customer support staff to respond to customers via an online chat, according to the companies.

Under the agreement, Amazon will provide training to Delta’s staff via the AWS Designated Virtual Trainer program, which the airline says will accelerate its migration to the cloud and facilitate the development of modern client-facing and internal applications. The company plans to extend this training to each of its global hubs.

While Delta offered little detail as to how AWS will play into those goals outside of its call center, a similar deal penned by American Airlines with rival cloud provider Microsoft Azure earlier this year offers some clues.

American touted the deal as a way to cut costs, boost efficiency, and support its eco-sustainability goals. And like Delta, American has its eyes set on using data and analytics to improve operations. America claims the move to Azure would speed up baggage tracking, enabling preemptive rerouting based on weather conditions, and allow larger changes to be simulated via digital twins.

An early application of these data-driven insights launched this spring at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, American’s flagship hub. Here, the airline deployed an “intelligent” gating program, built on Azure, to eliminate the need for manual gate planning. The program analyzes multiple data points for every landing and departure and automatically assigns aircraft to the nearest gate.

The Register reached out to Delta Airlines for more information as to how it plans to take advantage of Amazon’s sprawling cloud portfolio; we’ll let you know if we learn anything new. ®

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