By Hilton Sturisky, CIO, Spirit Airlines
Just over a year ago, I was named Chief Information Officer of Spirit Airlines, the first ultra-low cost airline in the Americas. People thought I was crazy; in a crazy way, I agreed. But it was a crazy worth exploring. My research told me that Spirit’s CEO, Ben Baldanza, publicly claimed that he is crazy about low fares and free smiles—and that added to the marvel of Spirit. Here I am now, a year later, and Spirit is everything it promised to be: a challenging, rewarding environment; a collaborative innovative, intelligent culture in which I get to build and lead an impressive, diversified and dispersed team; a platform to deploy advanced, leadingedge technology in support of strategy and operations. In my relatively short time with the fastest growing and most profitable airline in the United States, this has been immensely rewarding.
Our purpose as a company, saving our customers money in air travel, is the core of our existence. We do that by:
• A consistent, laser focus on controlling costs; which allows us to provide our customers the lowest air fares in the industry.
• Smart investments in technology for the present and the future.
• An innate ownership for safety in all we do–we have the youngest, fittest fleet with the newest equipment, innovative technology, and robust maintenance and safety programs.
• Innovative, leading edge technology platforms, and devices for customers and internal team members.
• Recognizing that we’re getting better all the time.
Spirit embraces the competence of our teams and we’re working hard to build on capabilities with pride and conviction in all we do. I lead a team that has historically struggled, and is now experiencing a surge of growth and investments across our technology stack to stabilize and support our rapidly evolving business processes.
We are investing in all facets of IT to support our 30 percent annual growth; building an ecosystem we can leverage for the next 3–5 years and beyond. This ecosystem will provide transactional and operational flexibility to effectively manage the airline and accommodate security, reliability, compliance, and reporting requirements in all we do-while maintaining an efficient and predictable cost structure.
Strategic projects that we are currently executing include:
• Moving to a private cloud model, leveraging hyper-converged and heavily virtualized infrastructure as our core production technology footprint. Delivering simplification and savings by consolidating all required functionality into a single infrastructure stack. It’s the foundational step in leading us to an SDDC (Software Defined Data Center) with public and hybrid cloud capabilities.
• Relocating our production data center to a new carrier neutral, Tier-IV data center in South Florida, located closer to our corporate office which will reduce latency issues for our core business critical applications.
• Rebuilding our customer facing website, and laying the groundwork for mobility with responsive design, in order to accommodate the significant transactional growth associated with online booking and itinerary management.
• Migrating to a hybrid intelligent WAN design. Enabling intelligent path control, application optimization, and transport neutral capabilities.
• Investing in our people. Recruiting professionals who have experience in managing large IT organizations and infrastructure. Thought leaders and architects, who have the experience of building out technology and solutions to address the hyper-growth we are experiencing.
• Opening up new booking channels by building API’s to our core reservation system with full content for availability, pricing, booking, ticketing, and post-ticketing services. Keeping comparison shopping intact while allowing for more transparency throughout the booking process. The cloud can yield tangible benefits in terms of operational efficient, ability to improve IT infrastructure manageability and flexibility, option to offer on demand capacity and scalability, etc. However, there are challenges associated with cloud deployments:
• Difficulty to cut across siloed IT environments to provide uniform and scalable pool of infrastructure resources
• The ROI is not always easy to prove
• Complexity of deployments and lack of mature IT processes represent tangible inhibitors
• Integration with our existing IT environment may be challenging
I have enjoyed this journey and look forward to Spirit’s continued transformation. Together, Spirit IT will meet the technological needs of our customers and team members so that they may enjoy innovative solutions which allow for offering Spirit’s low fares without compromising on safety, service, experience, and comfort.