National Rail Enquiries
A simplified operating environment to support greater platform flexibility
National Rail Enquiries (NRE) is one of the most recognisable web-based tools in our day to day lives, but just a few years ago, they were facing a significant challenge to keep up with the intense demand for their services.
On average, National Rail Enquiries processes over 600,000 journey plans per hour!
As NRE has evolved, it had been built across multiple applications managed by a variety of vendors resulting in an overly complex technological environment. Management of multiple suppliers, and reconciling the various service reports, monthly reviews and support tickets was problematic and time-consuming. An ageing hardware system compounded the issue, as existing equipment was unable to scale to meet the peaks and troughs in demand – requiring NRE to remove site functionality at peak times to reduce the demands on their hardware.
“We weren’t making full use of the physical hardware that we had, because if there was a disruption on the rail network, then suddenly additional capacity was required. We had no flexibility to add in, so it had to be there from the start” - Jason Webb, Head of Online for National Rail Enquiries.
NRE needed to replace their legacy systems with a new solution capable of meeting the considerable fluctuations in demand that occur during unexpected events such as extreme weather or industrial action. Additionally, they needed a single view, to remove the complexity of day-to-day management.
Nasstar’s work was immediately put to the test, as we went live during a time of peak activity for NRE, with 60% more platform traffic than their previous busiest day. Despite testing circumstances, the new solution succeeded and continues to offer a reliable service to travellers across the UK.
Nasstar’s solution has allowed for improvements in costs, simplicity, and overall productivity. It has also helped National Rail Enquiries to make a 25% reduction in infrastructure costs.
Through a formal tender process, NRE began their search for an improved solution. While specifically looking for an AWS partner, there was also a consensus that the successful supplier would need to specialise in integration and be comfortable managing other supplier relationships.
Nasstar* were officially selected, beginning an initial 18-month project with an additional 5 years of ongoing support. Nasstar worked with NRE to design and deliver a revised infrastructure, while also providing project management for the full transition.
By utilising AWS, National Rail Enquiries benefit from a consumption-based Opex model. This includes AWS Auto Scaling which optimises NRE’s utilisation and cost efficiencies, so they only pay for the resources they need. When demand drops, Auto Scaling automatically removes any excess resource capacity, so NRE avoids overspending. This has been critical for NRE enabling them to pay less outside of commuter rush hours.
Nasstar now provides a Managed Service for all applications and a single service desk for NRE’s multiple suppliers.