back to article Trainline.com dumps Oracle and Microsoft, gulps AWS Kool-Aid

Mark Holt, CTO at TheTrainline.com, is an unashamed AWS believer. He is dumping all of its legacy tech in a complete migration to the cloud, with the US cloud firm now being its sole supplier. "Now we have an Oracle Exadata Database Machine that we are about to throw in the river,” he says. That move has had tangible results …

  1. OliP

    Heard him speak at AWS.Summit london last week.

    They are about to open source a tool called Environment Manager.

    engineering.thetrainlie.com

    Fascinating talk!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      missing an N engineering.thetrainline.com

      1. Flywheel Silver badge

        Nope. That was (probably) a Freudian slip..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          trainlie.com goes to Southern ....

          1. Peter Methven

            Unlike their trains that don't go anywhere most of the time!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They are about to open source a tool called Environment Manager.

      Nice to see that some of my work from 2005 survived the turmoil of theTrainline rehashing it's IT...

  2. tiggity Silver badge

    Basicss first would be good

    How about getting the basics sorted - try fixing the dismal algorithms that suggest lunatic routes when you do extensive cross country travel.

    e.g. Traveling from North Midlands to Sussex, their route suggestion when I reach KX/St. Pancras is a trip across London to Victoria & then get train to Sussex, whereas I take the sensible approach of walking down the stairs at St. P to get a train to Sussex, avoiding a tedious / pointless journey across London to Victoria.

    I even contacted them about this issue & got a reply that it was not good for customer convenience but they could not fix it!

    Maybe I should contact them again if they are suddenly claiming to be able to innovate.& improve.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Basicss first would be good

      some words from

      http://www.seat61.com/

      independent ticket retailers usually add a booking fee... There are various independent retailers including www.trainline.com, www.raileasy.com, www.loco2.com, www.mytrainticket.co.uk, www.redspottedhanky.com, www.takethetrain.co.uk & www.quno.com. There's no need to check them all as they all sell exactly the same tickets at exactly the same prices from exactly the same National Rail fares database used by the train operators' websites. However, all these third-party retailers except www.loco2.com charge a small booking fee on top of the ticket price. For example www.trainline.com charges a 25p to £1.50 booking fee plus a 2% credit card fee, www.raileasy.com charges around £1 for debit cards or £2.61 for credit cards. If you buy from a train company website such as www.virgintrains.co.uk you don't pay any booking fee or credit or debit card fee. Same prices, same tickets, in fact the Virgin Trains website is powered by Trainline's own system, just with Virgin branding instead of Trainline branding and without Trainline's own booking fee & credit card fee!

      1. m0rt

        Re: Basicss first would be good

        Yeah, but think of the added value!

        Just not for the consumer...

      2. Kevin

        Re: Basicss first would be good

        I wanted to post the same thing as Steve Davies 3 - I never understood the 'value' of TheTrainLine. I just book the same tickets through East Coast (now Virgin) but without the booking fee! Still, something has to pay those AWS fees...

      3. Ian Thomas

        Re: Basicss first would be good

        I agree that you shouldn't book directly on any of the independent sites, but this article is about the technology company, so from that point of view "The train line" also include the virgin booking website (and others).

    2. AceRimmer

      Re: Basicss first would be good

      Ah the good old Thameslink. Used it many times myself

      There are advantages of going to Victoria though:

      1. Its usually quicker

      2. If there are any problems with trains then you are more likely to get an alternative train quicker at Victoria.

      The trainline will be restricted to whatever the national ticketing system decides. However, (you probably know this already) unless your ticket restricts you to a specific train or a specific operator then you can travel on any permitted route - which in your case will include taking the train from St Pancras

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Basicss first would be good

        Agree trains from Victoria a bit quicker than Thameslinks - but you have to get to Victoria from St.Pancras, which takes time, and when laden with luggage is more hassle than the option that involves just taking a train from same building you are already in (& is useful for travellers going from A to B who are not necessarily familiar with London as far simpler).

        The irony is that if you go to a train station and get tickets over the counter (my preferred option as I commute by train so in stations frequently), then the route they suggest (when your train from the North goes into St.P anyway) is the Thameslink one, so they either have different route algorithms on their system to the routes provided to trainline et al, or being human maybe they factor in the customer convenience factor of reducing number of changes

  3. Flywheel Silver badge
    Megaphone

    faster product time-to-market of 5,000 per cent

    They'll need that to cope with all those constantly rising fares and f*cked-up routes :-(

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: faster product time-to-market of 5,000 per cent

      aha, the latest on HS2?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: faster product time-to-market of 5,000 per cent

      And "three tickets per second at peak times". Wow. Possibly need to buy *two* raspberry pis for redundancy?

      To be fair, I expect the ratio of completed sales to searches is pretty low. Last time I used trainline there was a hefty booking fee added right at the end (£3.50?) so I abandoned the purchase and went to a different site.

      1. JamieNZ

        Re: faster product time-to-market of 5,000 per cent

        3 transactions per second at peak is obviously a typo. There is (very roughly) 100 million seconds in a year, so if they did an average of 3 transactions per second all year, to reach their £1.6b of sales every ticket would cost on average £16 which sounds about right but these are all averages, and we all know demand will be very spikey, so there is probably at least a couple of zeros missing from that TPS rate.

        And that's if 'transactions' refers to financial transactions. It could be the number of database transactions.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once again short-sighted financial considerations outweigh concerns over reliability.

    As I'm involved in providing IT services for the rail ticketing business, I have more than a passing interest, and to the best of my knowledge, trainline.com has had no downtime in the past twelve months, in comparison, AWS has been down three times, so far this year.

    1. Velv
      Headmaster

      Who's concerns over reliability?

      Perhaps they've done the maths?

      Perhaps the lost revenue if AWS is down for a set % of the time it is still cheaper than running their own in-house IT?

      You'll have to ask Kohlberg Kravis Roberts what they actually expect.

      Building continuous availability systems is expensive, and just because trainline had no downtime in the past 12 months doesn't mean they actually built an high availability system - they might have been lucky and had less failure than the system was designed to expect.

      1. paulf
        Holmes

        @ Velv "You'll have to ask Kohlberg Kravis Roberts what they actually expect."

        There's no need to ask - as a Private Equity house they expect only one thing: $$$$

        Providing the overall cost of the cloudy system is lower than the overall cost of the equivalent in house system (even after taking into account the higher in house cost against the costs to the business of cloudy downtime) then I can't see them giving even a first hoot, never mind two, about customer inconvenience or hassle to the IT dept cloudyness can cause, while they enjoy their tax efficient holiday retreats in the Cayman islands.

  5. Mad Mike

    Throwing out an ExaData

    What!! But Oracle have been telling everyone ExaData is the answer to all questions. What are they doing? Throwing out an Exadata!!

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Throwing out an ExaData

      LOL

      We took 95 per cent of the IOPS off the database to run on a regular Amazon EC2 server.

      Replaced Exadata with an EC2 !

      More of this please.

  6. Mark C 2

    Rip Off

    Why even use their site, use any of the UK train operator's web sites and save the £1.50 that the Trainline charges. You can book any journey on the Virgin site, not just for Virgin trains and I think the same applies to the other train operator sites.

    1. Velv
      Pirate

      Re: Rip Off

      So good point, why use the trainline website when you could use the train company website, like Virgin.

      Except Virgin use their site. Or rather, Virgin use their engine. As do many other train companies. So trainline's main business is as an engine provider to the train companies, not the public, and any users of the trainline website is just bonus fleecing.

  7. roblightbody

    Fascinating article. I think he's right, mostly. Insourcing IT with developers and people who intrinsically care what they're doing, with the flexibility of cloud hosting.

    I wonder what he thinks about the fall in the pound affecting what he's paying AWS, though... wonder if he factored that into his budgets this year...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Which River Are you going to be using?

    Love people that like a challenge! But then again there is reasonable challenge and there is this... Instead of focusing on delivering a decent service, they want to check out the limits AWS downtime... Somebody made a deal "if you are down we get compensated accordingly cause we are down" (outsourcing)... If they were down because of their fault, they couldn't compensate themselves...

    Let's get somebody to blame and throw away reasons we could be blamed!

  9. nijam

    > ... when AWS could, at some point in the future, decide on a unilateral price hike

    Because that has never happened with Oracle or Microsoft.

  10. Dabooka

    Don't care what they do

    Purely on a personal basis, I'd rather wlka than give those over-priced incompetents a penny of my hard earned.

    Transpennine for me, couldn't care what ges on behind the scenes!

  11. quxinot Silver badge

    I have to speak now as a loyal member of a colonial concern that shot at the Brits until they went away:

    Does anyone else consider trains to travel as cloud is to computing?

    You don't own what you're travelling in.

    You don't control where it goes.

    You're going to pay rather more than is necessary.

    You're not going to arrive quite where you wanted to be.

    And you're going to be left with nothing but a used receipt once you arrive and realize....

    HEY WAIT I FORGOT MY BAG!

    1. paulf
      Facepalm

      You don't have to bother with the actual driving and can do something more interesting.

      You get a proportion of your ticket price refunded if your train is late. The Highways Agency runs a similar scheme for motorists who get stuck in congestion.... oh, wait!

      You don't have to find somewhere at your destination to park the train; inevitably 30 minutes walk from where you wanted to go as the nearest car park is full by the time all the congestion ahead of you has found a parking space.

      Anyway, potato/tomato. Different transport modes have different pros/cons.

      Putting fuel in my car doesn't imply ownership of my car any more than buying a train ticket implies me having any ownership over the rolling stock.

  12. ColinJ

    can't believe they had all your IT OUTSOURCED to Cap Gemini - What did the company do before as their whole business is development and operation of a web site?

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