2020 Enterprise Innovator: Hyatt

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2020 Enterprise Innovator: Hyatt

By Michal Christine Escobar - 06/17/2020
Don Nichols, Director Property Systems, Hyatt

Nearly 20 years ago, Hyatt began using Oracle’s OPERA property management system. Because of the critical nature of OPERA in Hyatt’s operation, the hotel brand continuously seeks to maximize its performance, stability and security while also reducing resources to support it. 

Beginning in 2016, Hyatt began a multi-step process that would significantly improve the company’s use of OPERA. The company’s first step was to build a hosted OPERA solution and to begin migrating hotels to it. By 2019, the company had created what it believes to be the industry’s only implementation of OPERA hosted in Microsoft Azure. Hyatt now has Opera hosted in Azure in the USA, China, Singapore, U.A.E., and Tokyo, supporting Hyatt’s new hotel growth in these regions. Also in 2019, Hyatt began the process of migrating individual hotels from on-premise Opera installations into Azure and data center locations. Currently 581 hotels in the Americas, 23 in the Asia Pacific, 23 in the EAME and 40 in SW Asia are leveraging this technology.

This transition has resulted in numerous benefits and innovations. For instance, Hyatt’s hosting solution has a unique approach to load balancing that minimizes any individual failure in the infrastructure. This drastically reduces the potential impact of unplanned outages and allows Hyatt to move user traffic without disrupting users. Also, Hyatt has been able to make the installations look nearly identical in all locations. Whether team members are using a test, training or production instance of Opera, in any of Hyatt’s data centers or Azure instances, the experience should be exactly the same. Leveraging its automation and unique load balancing, Hyatt can perform rolling reboots which apply Windows patches to Hyatt’s hosted Opera servers without any user impact or downtime — and without the involvement of hotel IT managers.

Before these initiatives, Hyatt potentially experienced eight to 12 hours of downtime to perform upgrades with its previous hosting provider. Now, Hyatt can do most upgrades with little or no downtime. Because Hyatt can migrate user connections between application servers without impacting users, it can maintain selected servers without having to “kick everyone out” of the application first. And because Hyatt hosts Opera, it is able to offer world-class cybersecurity tools and practices installed on and around its hosted Opera servers. As cybersecurity risks are identified or regulatory requirements change, applying changes to Hyatt’s hosted Opera environment is much faster, easier and more cost effective than rolling them out to its on-property installations. Monthly windows patching can now happen as a matter of course in the hosted Opera environment, where it used to require a dedicated project team to roll them out to all on-property installations.

Since all Opera hosting environments were built with automation, “it’s now easier for us to delete a virtual machine and recreate it using templates and automation than it is to apply an application upgrade to an existing server,” says Don Nichols, Director Property Systems. “Our automation significantly simplifies maintenance, from both a time and resource perspective. We can have a person with no previous PMS experience, and only one week of training, delete virtual machines in production, and recreate them, fully upgraded, with zero downtime.”

Check Our our other 2020 Hotel Visionary Award Winners!

We also awarded Edwardian Hotels London, RLH Corporation and Motel 6 with a 2020 Hotel Visionary Award! Check out their stories here.

But adding the automation capability wasn’t easy.

“Building the automation required specialized knowledge — both broad and deep. The team needed to know DevOps tools and our PMS platform’s installation and configuration, but expertise in both PMS systems and DevOps tools is a rare combination. Therefore, we needed to bring together many specialized skill sets to develop the automation,” Nichols adds.

Due to the many integrations between Opera and Hyatt’s other applications, being on consistent Opera versions across the enterprise helps the company provide consistent features and benefits to guests, colleagues and customers around the world. It used to take a project team several months to upgrade Opera at each of Hyatt’s hotels. Now it can get new features to all hosted hotels in just a couple of weeks.

“At Hyatt, our purpose — we care for people so they can be their best — informs everything we do and this innovation further enables care for our colleagues and our guests,” Nichols notes. “Hosting our PMS system — and the improved uptime and performance as a result — allows our front desk agents to focus on the guest experience and less on the technology.”