Moving an environment with $600 million in physical assets into a cloud-based platform infrastructure is like swapping out the engines, the navigation system, and all the interiors of a 747 at 40,000 feet over the Atlantic.

So says Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom.

Expedia is one of the largest global e-commerce tech companies in the world with over 22,000 employees, nearly $90 billion in gross travel sales, said Okerstrom.

However, beneath the hood, the company operates very much like a technology business meaning there are huge wins to be had from managing all that technology more effectively.

Okerstrom was speaking at the AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas.

“Expedia is about travel, but underneath the veneer it’s actually all about technology. We operate an incredible portfolio of the world’s leading travel brands. And underneath those brands is an incredibly powerful platform.”

Indeed it is the largest, most global, diversified travel platform in the world, he said

Each month 600 million people visit its websites around the world. It also has over 1.6 million corporate travellers using its platform.

“We take over 55 million phone calls every year in 40 different languages. That’s a lot of people going to a lot of places,  and our job is to connect those people with the vastly diverse array of travel service providers that are also on our platform.”

While he describes the impact of the shift in glowing terms, he is happy to acknowledge that the company did not arrive there overnight.

“We were not born in the platform. We started in 1996 as a small division within Microsoft and we’ve since come through a series of reinventions. In 2009, we started a massive new platforming effort to essentially rewrite every line of code. And we only recently retired our 10 millionth line of C++ code.”

Okerstrom told the conference delegates, “the next part of the journey of reinvention involved reinvesting into the platform and Expedia starting point was the 45,000 servers, 35 petabytes of data, and over $600 million in physical assets at our data centres.”

Over the next two to three years, the company will have moved 80 per cent of its mission-critical apps in AWS.

“And we’re making some serious financial commitments. We’ve spent over $100 million this year. Next year more, like $150 million.”

Three requirements are driving the change; resiliency, optimisation, and performance, he said.

“Let’s talk about resiliency first. Very recently, earlier this year, we had a taste of the future. Our flagship site, Expedia.com, which takes over 100 million hits a day, was experiencing some challenges. Within hours, we rolled the whole front end over to the AWS. No issues and no customer latency. So the future for disaster recovery, for us, is about always on with AWS.”

Optimisation was developer empowerment, he said. “Our engineers have end-to-end autonomy, end-to-end accountability, they’re building, they’re deploying, they’re optimising. Give an engineer immediate feedback and a goal, and they’ll do amazing things. Our engineers have already saved us millions this year, just by writing more efficient code.”

Finally, on performance, he referenced the half a billion dollars the business spends on programmatic advertising each year and which they are now processing real-time.

“Whether it’s the fact that our engineers are now deploying code 2000 times per day over 4000 cloud data apps, we’ve essentially been able to take the innovation curve and actually stand it on its tail.”

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