In-Flight Internet with NGINX at Gogo

Serving Up Internet Connectivity and Entertainment In‑Flight on Thousands of Aircraft

 

 

Situation

Gogo is the top provider of in‑flight connectivity and entertainment solutions for some of the largest airlines in the world. Gogo customers include Aeromexico, Air Canada, AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Japan Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, and Virgin America. With teams based in Itasca, Illinois, Broomfield, Colorado and London, UK, Gogo serves customers 24/7 in more than 8,500 aircraft.

In mid‑2013, Gogo completed a review of its payment portals – the pages customers visit when they want to purchase Internet access – and determined that due to tremendous growth in their business the existing backend system had grown to a point where it was overly complex and difficult to manage. For one thing, there were separate portals for different locations where a customer made a purchase – in an airport, while in flight, and so on.

This setup was causing three distinct problems:

  1. Any change made to transaction‑related systems needed to be deployed to each portal, one at a time. The rework was wasting IT resources.
  2. Transaction logic was becoming unnecessarily complex.
  3. Customers were receiving inconsistent experiences based on business logic rather than a unified presentation layer.

Solution

Gogo’s VP of Data Centers and Infrastructure, Vinay Kudithipudi, teamed up with lead engineer Ramesh Patel to identify and implement a solution that would help them consolidate the various portals into a unified purchase path (UPP).

While Gogo’s application architecture followed a typical three‑tier model (database, application, and web tiers), the design of the frontend portal layer was overly complex and needed consolidation. Gogo want a single portal able to intelligently route traffic at scale, allowing the company to introduce new features and capabilities quickly. Kudithipudi and Patel identified the need for an HTTP load balancer to route traffic and one that closely integrated with Gogo’s applications. Traditional industry approaches – such as hardware‑based load balancers – could cost orders of magnitude more than NGINX Plus, and typically need internal experts to manage them.

“We needed a load balancer capable of SSL termination and Layer 7 routing,” says Kudithipudi. “While there are hardware‑based solutions that can do that, they are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, more expensive than NGINX Plus.”

Gogo Case Study Image 2 for 1As Kudithipudi and Patel were evaluating their options, NGINX, Inc. announced the availability of its flagship commercial product, NGINX Plus. Gogo was already using the open source NGINX software in other areas – but the new enterprise capabilities (particularly application load balancing) made it a perfect fit for their requirements. It was still important to carefully vet the technology, as more than 90% of in‑flight Internet revenue would eventually be delivered by this solution.

Vinay says they looked at NGINX Plus as “our focus was Layer 7 load balancing and SSL termination – few products can do all of that well. We found that NGINX Plus was the best and the easiest.”

Upon closer examination, the team found that NGINX Plus had a unique mix of features that could adjust to their needs.

After a thorough review of NGINX Plus and a few conversations with the services and support team, GoGo began testing and implementation.

Results

Reduced Time to Market

Implementation was the earliest indicator of success to come on the project. In fact, the team was able to go from beta to production in under two days.

“Industry‑standard solutions would have taken, if not several months, at least a whole month”, Kudithipudi affirms. “NGINX Plus had us up and running in a couple days. In fact, we spent more time doing testing our app and working on our change process than we needed to spend deploying NGINX Plus.”

While quick time‑to‑market with the new UPP was a tremendous achievement, there were several metrics by which Kudithipudi and Patel were measuring success.

If we had to do this with your typical solutions, we’d need a load balancer capable of SSL termination and Layer 7 routing. While there are hardware‑based solutions that can do that, they are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars more expensive than NGINX Plus.
– Vinay Kudithipudi, VP of Data Centers and Infrastructure at Gogo

Reduced Complexity

The added efficiency of NGINX Plus and a unified purchase portal reduced infrastructure requirements from 27 servers with 4 CPUs and 8  GB of RAM on the legacy system to one server with 4 GB of RAM running effortlessly in an active‑passive pair of NGINX Plus instances for high availability.

There was also an unanticipated benefit – the flexibility and speed of NGINX has helped Gogo consolidate and simplify at the application tier as well.

While cost savings were not an explicit goal of the project, Gogo has achieved cost savings over their legacy system even when measured simply in terms of infrastructure burden. Infrastructure support costs were reduced 30% based on the reduced number of servers needed.

High Availability and Stability

Since Gogo moved from Apache to NGINX Plus, they have achieved nearly 100% uptime and have experienced no issues with NGINX Plus to date.

Today over 90% of revenue passes through NGINX Plus. Gogo’s IT organization can focus its attention on innovation and driving the business forward without worrying about downtime and the risk of lost revenue.

Updated Gogo Image

Confidence Through Support

Kudithipudi also called out NGINX’s Support and Professional Services teams for exceptional service. “If you’re deploying NGINX Plus in an enterprise and most of your skills are in Apache or some other web server, then I would highly recommend the Professional Services. They’re worth their weight in gold.”

Gogo purchased a package that gave them access to NGINX experts on an as‑needed basis throughout the project. Professional Services provided hands‑on support, training, access to NGINX core engineers, and code to achieve a two‑day push from beta to production, dramatically reducing time to market.

Based on the success of the purchase portal consolidation project, Gogo is reviewing all applications to determine areas where NGINX Plus can be leveraged for similar results.

“With NGINX Plus, our team can spend more time innovating rather than firefighting,” says Kudithipudi.

About Gogo

Gogo is the global leader of in‑flight connectivity and wireless in‑flight digital entertainment solutions. Using Gogo’s exclusive products and services, passengers with WiFi enabled devices can get online on more than 2,000 Gogo‑equipped commercial aircraft. In‑flight connectivity partners include Aeromexico, Air Canada, AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Japan Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, and Virgin America. In‑flight entertainment partners include Aeromexico, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Japan Airlines, Scoot, and US Airways. In addition to its commercial airline business, Gogo has outfitted more than 6,500 business aircraft with its communications services. For more information, visit www.gogoair.com.

Gogo is a registered trademark of Gogo LLC. All other marks are those of respective owners.