Sabre Holdings is a global travel technology company serving the world’s largest industry—travel and tourism. The company provides software to travel agencies, corporations, travelers, airlines, hotels, car, rail, cruise, and tour operator companies through four businesses: Sabre Travel Network, Sabre Airline Solutions, Sabre Hospitality Solutions, and Travelocity.
More than 1 billion people worldwide use Sabre’s innovative technology to plan, book, and get to their destination at a time and price that is right for them. As the company captures an extremely high volume of transactional data in its reservations, booking, and ticketing systems—among others—it depends on a comprehensive, enterprisewide data warehouse to store, manage, and analyze this information. Sabre also offers a broad range of business intelligence products—that utilize the data warehouse—to provide its customers with the true business intelligence they need to improve their operations, performance, and customer service.
Sabre is focused on innovation and uses leading-edge and flexible technologies—like Oracle Data Integrator and Oracle GoldenGate—for migrations to new systems and with its data warehouse and business intelligence solutions, all which contribute to the company’s success in providing its travel industry customers with the best possible service and information to drive their businesses.
Sabre invested in developing data warehousing and business intelligence solutions to meet customer needs that provide timely marketplace and customer insights. These solutions have provided value-added offerings beyond Sabre’s traditional products, enabling the company to retain and grow its customer base while enabling its customers to improve their service offerings.
Sabre launched its data warehouse in early 2003, with four source systems for input. Sabre was using highly customized shell scripting in UNIX to load data into the warehouse and as the number of data sources continued to grow, this process was labor intensive and did not provide reusability for future products.
As the number of data sources and customers grew, managing data integration timelines and reporting schedules for internal and external customers became more challenging. Sabre decided it needed a consolidated platform to quickly bring many new data sources into the warehouse—without requiring the technical know-how for each unique data source format. After evaluating several options, Sabre selected Oracle Data Integrator to meet this need.
When Sabre first implemented Oracle Data Integrator, there were approximately 7 data sources being integrated into the warehouse. Today, the number of data sources stands at 53, which includes core transactional sets like travel booking and ticketing data, as well as controlled data, like airport latitude/longitude, carrier operational data, customer check-in information, and traveler profile data. The frequency of loading inbound source systems into the data warehouse ranges from trickle feeds to batch files, which vary from every 15 minutes to daily, weekly and monthly. Sabre also uses Oracle Data Integrator for outbound scheduling of data extracts to customers.
“When we first started using Oracle Data Integrator, we had 3 applications, which has grown to 172 applications with more than 3,000 applications executions each day,” said Jessica Thorud, director, Sabre Holdings. “Our job executions vary in frequency, from every three minutes to monthly, and when you multiply that number by the number of applications and customers, our schedule is saturated. That’s all managed by ODI now, which has allowed Sabre to increase productivity and efficiency in development and time to market for enhancements and new solutions.”
Today, Sabre processes approximately 200 million transactions each day through Oracle Data Integrator and approximately 48 million daily transactions through Oracle GoldenGate. The company’s data warehouse environment holds 25 terabytes of data.
Sabre offers a diverse range of data and business intelligence products, from dashboards enabling airlines to measure performance against key performance indicators (KPIs), to a series of prepackaged reports designed for business users, to structured data extracts for customers wanting to run and create their own data warehouses.
Use of Oracle Data Integrator’s scheduling capability improved reliability in customer data extract deliveries through automation and monitoring of the scheduled executions. Sabre also uses Oracle GoldenGate to replicate eight sources directly from source systems on a real-time basis. The only latency in this process is network latency—less than one-300th of a second.
“The unique thing about Sabre is that we use Oracle technologies to offer hosted products to our customers as well as using them internally, to help Sabre run our businesses more effectively and understand trends and dynamics within the travel industry,” Thorud said.
While the number of data sources was increasing, Sabre was also expanding its development centers globally, first from Southlake, Texas to Krakow, Poland, and then adding a center in Bangalore, India. As the development teams expanded globally, Sabre needed to standardize the development process for integrating data. When Sabre started using Oracle Data Integrator, it built standardization into the ODI, providing the framework to better control the development process, worldwide. In addition, Sabre used the product’s framework to plug data quality checks into new projects efficiently.
“Oracle Data Integrator helped us build the framework and then provide that framework to development teams across multiple development centers to help build products,” said Amjad Saeed, development and operations manager, Sabre Holdings. “With this framework, we have been able to introduce new development resources, who have been able to quickly become productive without requiring in-depth knowledge of the source system technologies.”
With Oracle Data Integrator, operational efficiency has significantly improved, as Sabre operations personnel are able to view code in a graphical fashion and optimize it very quickly. Since it started using Oracle Data Integrator, Sabre has added 12 developers in three countries to its team, which has successfully developed and delivered the introduction of more than 50 new data sources into the data warehouse since 2003, supporting multiple business intelligence and customer-data applications.
“Oracle enabled us to become a 24/7 shop—when our US developers leave, someone in Poland or India can pick up code development. This flexibility allowed us to reduce development effort and improve time to market for new products,” Saeed said. “With Oracle Data Integrator, we have improved efficiency in development and seen a 30% to 40% reduction in the time required to bring in a new data source into the data warehouse.”
Oracle Data Integrator and Oracle GoldenGate are key data integration platforms within Sabre’s data warehouse environment that have enabled Sabre to deliver innovative new data and business intelligence products to customers.
“In the development of dashboards with our customers, we often find that analysts say, ‘You just saved me my entire morning’s work, because in the past I would have to go to into various systems to get this information, and now it’s all pulled into an interface that I can actually use immediately to understand current performance of my airline,’” said Jeff Barnhart, product manager, Sabre Holdings “Carriers, travel agencies, and even Sabre are all faced with that same problem—how to deal with huge data volumes and make sense of them. We provide a real value with our intelligence products.”
Oracle Data Integrator also makes it easy to translate business rules—that help developers make sense of the data—into code. The solution helps Sabre’s developers with its drag-and-drop capability and the built-in transformation functions. The faster rules-to-code time also helps Sabre reduce development effort and, in turn, decrease time to market.
Sabre has also been able to reuse code to streamline the addition of new customers to existing products more efficiently.
“Our previous technology required a lot of effort when we wanted to implement code for a customer that we already had in production with another customer. We had to make multiple changes, which took time and were subject to human error,” Barnhart said. “With Oracle Data Integrator, we can clone the same code, change the variables for the new customer, and off we go. It’s only a two-hour process now for some of our products.”
Sabre has also used Oracle GoldenGate to facilitate migrations from databases—in most cases, different versions of Oracle Database, MySQL, and HP NonStop Kernel (NSK) systems—to Oracle Database 11g with Real Application Clusters. In migrating to Oracle across many systems, Sabre improved on its delivery timelines and streamlined system management. In the case of critical systems, Sabre needs zero downtime during these migrations, and Oracle GoldenGate provides that assurance.
A recent migration project—moving Sabre’s airline ticketing system from the NSK platform to Oracle Database—had additional complexity. Sabre also needed to redesign the database schema during the migration for future growth, and to meet new customer requirements. Sabre turned to Oracle Data Integrator again, using the tool for data transformation once data was migrated to the Oracle Database.
“Having the ability to do the data transformation in Oracle Database, rather than in one of proprietary, middle-tier extract, transform, and load (ETL) engines, is key,” said Dariusz Owczarek, Sabre’s lead database administrator. “It has enabled us to complete the process in the database where we have the most experience, where we have resources that can really improve or tune those transformations and not disrupt existing systems during migration.”
Sabre, working closely with HP, designed a phased-migration approach. The team has already migrated 90% of its customer data for this specific project—with zero downtime or performance impact—and has already activated 30% of customers in production. When the migration is complete, Sabre will have migrated more than 3 terabytes of data, including 200 million ticketing documents across more than 100 airline carriers. Through the initiative, Sabre has reduced complexity, minimized data duplication, and improved processes to identify potential data quality issues. Sabre also estimates the development and delivery time will be reduced by 40% through completing the replatform and refactor in one step and eliminating redundant testing efforts.
Traditionally, replatform (going from NSK to Oracle), data-migration (moving data from source to target) and database refactoring (improving data quality/normalization) is a three-step process, where each step requires separate verification and validation. Sabre’s ticketing solution has combined all three phases into one continuous phase in such a way that it only needs to complete the verification and validation once, and it can perform the migration as a unit of customer (airlines) versus a unit of data by allowing both the old system and new system to operate seamlessly.
“With Oracle, we now know it’s possible to migrate data from the current database right to the redesigned schema in the new database. That’s huge in regards to time savings,” Owczarek said. “We can use this architecture for future migrations. It will allow us to explore new solutions and redesign existing applications and databases, which may not have been possible with previous migration approaches. This approach has reduced our development effort and accelerated time to market for customer product enhancements.”
Sabre selected Oracle Data Integrator in 2006 and Oracle GoldenGate in 2007 to support its growing data warehouse and business intelligence solutions. These Oracle middleware products were selected as flexible tools that could be rapidly deployed in a global development environment that uses diverse technology solutions. Sabre also needed a tool to load data into the warehouse and schedule outbound data extracts to external customers and other Sabre applications.
“When we evaluated systems on the market, what we liked about Oracle Data Integrator was the scheduling ease. Our executions were growing each day, and it was becoming a challenge for our teams to keep up with the pace. Oracle Data Integrator provided the foundation for growth of both data sources and customers and allowed us to keep pace with the customer demand,” Thorud said.
When Sabre started to look for a tool to support the database schema redesign in its ticketing system migration, it needed something that could get the job done fast.
“We knew that hiring new people and/or developing custom programs would not be the best bet. We wanted to find a tool to do it for us. Oracle Data Integrator and Oracle GoldenGate helped not only with the migration, but also with the transformation,” Owczarek said.
Sabre, working with HP, implemented Oracle Data Integrator in 2006 as part of its data warehouse initiative. Hardware and software installation was completed within one week, well under the time estimated for the effort. Sabre trained its development team on Oracle Data Integrator—including onsite training from Oracle for nine developers—starting with overall security and administration all the way to code development.
After completion of training, Sabre targeted an aggressive three-month timeline to migrate 98% of existing applications into Oracle Data Integrator and completed the migration well within that timeframe.
Sabre implemented Oracle GoldenGate in 2007 to support the addition of a new data source into the data warehouse which required integration with a NSK platform. Oracle Golden Gate was selected, based on the ease of integration with the source NSK system, and was implemented and in production within four months. GoldenGate has been adopted and expanded for other business applications within Sabre since the initial implementation.
For the ticketing system data migration project, Sabre and HP divided the initiative into four phases: new data-model design and data mappings specification, Oracle GoldenGate and Oracle Data Integrator proof of concept, data-transformation interfaces development and implementation, and data-migration deployment and validation. Sabre conducted a separate database infrastructure build-out in parallel, including installing a high availability Oracle Database 11g with Real Application Clusters infrastructure that has Oracle GoldenGate bidirectional failover replication.
HP Enterprise Services is an experienced Oracle technology implementation partner, collaborating with Sabre to design and build solutions that enable Sabre to bring high-performance, high-availability, and innovative solutions to the travel and transportation market. HP provides consulting, architecture, and infrastructure delivery, including server and mainframe hosting, network engineering and operations, maintenance, and a variety of other full lifecycle services.
“HP works to define and implement the technology strategy for Sabre’s mission-critical systems, which are some of the highest transaction rate systems in the world,” said, Seamus Egan, vice president Oracle Alliance, HP. “We are pleased to partner with Sabre to deliver best-in-class enterprise solutions to the travel and tourism industry, based on Oracle’s excellent data transformation tools”
Owczarek added, “On our migration project, HP gave us a high level of comfort by providing dedicated resources. When we started using Oracle Data Integrator, HP worked with us on volume-performance testing for six months, and then turned the program over to its excellent support team. HP executes the migration schedule, piece by piece, completely covering our certification and production environment.”