Lufthansa Technik flies on open source hybrid cloud

Lufthansa Technik, a provider of aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services for commercial airlines as well as head of state and VIP jets, has moved to a hybrid cloud infrastructure based on Red Hat’s enterprise-grade open source technologies running on Microsoft’s Azure public cloud.

Lufthansa Technik deployed a platform named AVIATAR aimed at avoiding service interruptions and helping airlines to better organize and schedule maintenance events while avoiding service interruptions.

AVIATAR seeks to be an open and collaborative platform for partners, clients and developers that offers a variety of digital products and services by gathering multiple apps in one place.  Lufthansa Technik aimed to used the platform to develop and deploy new applications more quickly while tightening integration between internal infrastructure and third party applications

Open source decision

The Lufthansa Technik team needed a flexible, scalable environment capable of running multiple applications using a shared repository of industry data, such as aircraft sensor data, as well as operational data, such as flight plans and delay information.

Lufthansa Technik decided to adopt open source technology and shift to a hybrid cloud approach to support the creation and operation of AVIATAR. “There are lots of similarities between the open approach of AVIATAR and the open source model. We want to be the open market player, not the proprietary one. We want to help the industry. That goal is very similar to what the open source movement wants to achieve,” said Johannes Hansen, senior director of application development/UX for AVIATAR at Lufthansa Technik.

The team also sought to gradually move from on-premise to cloud infrastructure. “Keeping our customers’ data stored separately from the Lufthansa infrastructure is key to remaining open and neutral,” said Tobias Mohr, head of technology and infrastructure for AVIATAR at Lufthansa Technik.

The AVIATAR team collaborated with Microsoft and Red Hat to create its new hybrid cloud environment. The initial version of the platform was launched 100 days after collaboration with data scientists, airplane engineers and now runs a growing number of applications and predictive algorithms aimed at helping airlines prevent disruptions to their operations.

The platform was created using Red Hat’s Linux container and automation technologies paired with agile DevOps processes.

Collaboration

For Lufthansa Technik’s DevOps teams, one of the key benefits of adopting a new hybrid cloud infrastructure is the collaboration on new AVIATAR features and applications, using capabilities from automation to self-service provisioning.

Red Hat Ansible Tower lets DevOps team members provision environments and resources automatically using reusable code and infrastructure components—without extensive infrastructure process expertise.

For example, data scientists can now spin up massive compute clusters as needed, which helps AVIATAR DevOps teams rapidly create test environments to gain feedback. “If we had infrastructure that was set up manually and wanted to change something, we had to wait for the person who implemented it. Instead, we have infrastructure as code, reproducible at any time. Infrastructure teams can just launch Ansible Playbooks for configuration and focus on work that’s really important or interesting,” said Thorsten Pohl, architect and product owner for AVIATAR.

Results

AVIATAR has helped improve collaboration with industry organizations, open source technology communities, and other external parties. “The aviation industry is rather proprietary. AVIATAR offers an open and neutral technology platform that invites other industry players to bring in their ideas,” said Mohr. “Behind open source technology there’s always a big community evolving the product very fast compared to proprietary technology.”

“We can collaborate with third-party developers who are very specialized in other areas of aviation— for example, operations, fuel efficiency, or catering,” said Hansen. “Customers can choose between different solutions running on AVIATAR and, if they have favorite providers, work with them to easily integrate and run on AVIATAR.”

These improvements mean the AVIATAR team can more effectively collaborate to build services that meet its end users’ demands for better maintenance predictions and other insights.

Lufthansa Technik also anticipates significant reductions in maintenance and repair costs for participating airlines that could equate to millions of euros per airline.

“Our Red Hat stack on Microsoft Azure has enabled us become faster and create a hybrid cloud infrastructure that meets our needs,” said Johannes Hansen, senior director application development & user experience, Digital Fleet Solutions, Lufthansa Technik. “With Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform on Microsoft Azure, for example, we can start implementing a new application immediately, without waiting for any infrastructure, allowing us to produce results in just a few days and have a minimum viable product after just several weeks.”