They say a week is a long time in politics, but it’s arguably more so in the world of technology where things move at a increasingly fast pace.
Two years ago, the Apple Watch was no more than a concept and driverless cars weren’t much more than an experiment by Google, not the potentially lucrative market that all the automobile manufacturers are eyeing now.
Back in the summer of 2014, accommodation booking website Hotels.com was shifting towards a mobile-based, personalised service for its customers using big data and analytics. But in 2016, as CTO Thierry Bedos explains, the company is looking to go much deeper with its big data strategy.
“Since then we’ve continued making progress on building our platform. We’ve been consciously migrating off of SQL servers for all the use cases which aren’t really required on a regular basis. So we’ve chosen Cassandra as the platform of choice,” Bedos, who ranked 38th in Computing’s IT Leaders 100 list 2015, says.The project involved migrating a lot of data stores, so Hotels.com – part of the larger Expedia group – turned to DataStax, a big data software company specialising in Apache Cassandra, to help manage the transformation.
“They provided a really good solution”, Bedos tells Computing.
“We’ve moved a number of applications into Cassandra. It’s been very helpful to move to this stack, because as we start to move to the cloud, then it becomes a lot easier to scale.”
Bedos goes on to describe how the DataStax deployment fits in with Hotels.com’s overall big data transformation strategy.
“There are all of our online use cases, so for that we’ve been using DataStax. Not only for just basic storage, but we’ve also combined with other tools in use cases which allow us to really expand the online datasets and not degrade the online response time,” he says.
However, it’s Hadoop distributor Hortonworks that is used when it comes to interrogating offline data, across the whole of the Expedia group, not just Hotels.com.
“We’re using a large cluster that is used across the back end, there’s a lot of datasets that are common to all the different brands, so we’re working with one platform on Hortonworks for that,” says Bedos. “DataStax and Hortonworks work very well hand in hand.”
All these datasets – including customer preferences – are combined and then analysed to provide the best recommendations for customers when booking accommodation.
“If you go to the booking page and look at your hotel, then we’ll use information on hotels stayed at by people with similar interests and behaviours by using the power of big data to make recommendations,” Bedos explains.
That aspect of personalisation is integral to providing a reliable, quick and targeted service to Hotels.com customers, Bedos adds.
“On a site like ours, there are hundreds of thousands of properties, but it’s not the number of properties which is important, but how relevant can we be as quickly as possible? We owe it to our customers to help them make this choice about properties,” he says.
“So it’s absolutely about personalisation and trying to make a tailored experience and that’s what I’m interested in.”
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