Bed bank operator HotelBeds is using an open source application programming interface (API) manager to deal with increasing traffic while also reducing costs.
As a distributor of accommodation inventories and ancillary travel-related products, HotelBeds works with more than 60,000 travel buyers in 140 markets globally, serving a client base of more than 180,000 hotels.
The incumbent API management supplier charged per request as part of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) cost model, an issue compounded by the doubling of API traffic following HotelBeds’s acquisition of bed bank firms Tourico Holidays and GTA in 2017.
The company, having to deal with 14 billion API calls per day at a rate of 60,000 requests per second, needed an API management solution that could reduce the overall cost of both its API production and general services, as well as handle the migration of legacy traffic on to its own infrastructure.
After screening 13 potential API managers throughout 2018, HotelBeds started working with API management platform Tyk in March 2019.
According to Carlos Bautista San Miguel, head of product management at HotelBed, a core advantage Tyk offered over other vendors was its licensing model, as it meant costs were no longer based on the number of API calls or users, but on the number of deployments instead.
“In total, the Tyk solution provided significant cost savings for Hotelbeds for the first year into production, while delivering a superior service, with quicker time to go live for new APIs and the ability to migrate any kind of traffic,” Bautista said.
Tyk’s scalability and integration capabilities were a further benefit, as they allowed HotelBeds to federate its API configurations – essentially creating interoperability and information sharing between de-centrally organised lines of business – and distribute its traffic across multiple cloud regions, significantly reducing latency.
“The existing system [HotelBeds] had was okay, it was fit for purpose, but it was quite expensive for what they needed it for. At the same time, it didn’t perform quite as well as they’d like in terms of speed and efficiency,” Martin Buhr, CEO and co-founder of Tyk, told Computer Weekly.
“HotelBeds, being the largest bed database in the world… have very low latency thresholds that they can accept for returning results to providers. They have multiple providers throughout the world too – some of them really old school, using very old systems, while some of them are much more modern – so it’s a really wide ecosystem they’re protecting [and managing], because they’re an API of APIs essentially.”
The level of customisation and in-depth analytics available through Tyk were also a perk for HotelBeds, as they allowed the firm to develop a range of custom plugins that could work natively on the management platform, as well as connect a number of disparate data silos throughout the business.
“All of the APIs published were completely covered, along with the authentication mechanisms. As the Tyk solution is fully integrated into our systems, we now have absolute stability and no more management headaches. It is also easy for us to introduce features within the traffic, meaning the system is scalable and capable of working across the multiple different regions we operate in,” said Bautista.
“The flexibility and responsiveness that Tyk’s analytics delivered went down well. The Hotelbeds team was used to having to wait for as long as 30 minutes to get analytics data from their previous provider.
“With such a high volume of traffic, the impact of such delays can be huge. Tyk’s real-time analytics were immensely valuable in enabling Hotelbeds to react to issues such as DDoS [distributed denial of service] attacks, API scraping, API key misusing and more, thus maintaining its quality of service.”
According to Buhr, HotelBeds use of Tyk’s customisable “internal developer portal” meant teams could collaborate much more effectively in a way that eliminated the sharing of security credentials through shadow IT channels, such as unofficial Slack groups.
“Teams register their capabilities and all the services they have, and they have advertised plans that can be consumed by other developers within the organisation but in a hands-off way,” he said.
“They say, ‘I need access to this API, this is why I need it, please approve me’, they go through an approval process and then get securely given their API credentials, which they can then use and everybody knows what’s going on [because] it’s all audited.
“All of a sudden you have this much better collaborative environment between teams with interfaces that are known and published, as opposed to some of these backhand access credentials that usually float around by email.”
Both Bautista and Buhr agreed that the open source approach offered more stability in the long run than using proprietary software.
“The fact that Tyk was open source meant that even if something happened to Tyk, the code and the community would still be accessible to the Hotelbeds team. This created both stability and a perennial approach,” said Bautista.
With Tyk being open source, HotelBeds was able to contribute to and independently maintain some of the code itself, allowing it to keep up to date with Tyk’s main line release cycle without having to take on a massive management contract with the company.
Buhr added that a major benefit of going open source is the trust it gives the customer. “They want to be able to say, ‘I’m going to adopt your software and I want to know that you’re going to be around in 10 years’ time’, and a startup can’t promise that but an open source startup can say, ‘90% of our code is already in the public domain so, even if we do go under, the software lives on’.”
He also said that open source can help level the playing field for smaller firms, as being part of an open ecosystem offers firms a way into enterprise-level quality without having to go through lengthy buying and engagement processes.
Tyk was selected in January 2020 to be part of entrepreneurial network Tech Nation’s fifth Upscale programme, which is designed to create a peer-to-peer network of companies to support one another as they scaleup.