Insights into Hermes NG Tech: Looking outside the warehouse
Hermes’ digital transformation started in earnest in the beginning of 2018. Hermes 5, the current GHA software application is strongly focussed on cargo operations within the GHA premises, and its ongoing modernisation has taken it to the Cloud, providing a shift from the current licence-based proposal to a PUPM or transactional (pay per AWB/tonnes) OPEX model.
Whilst this provides fantastic flexibility and control for our customers, we have started moving our gaze towards the serverless world, and a new range of apps are destined for the wider cargo world such as agents, authorities, transporters, third parties, other ground handling agent (GHA) systems etc.
The opportunities are ripe, the technologies are here, but the pitfalls are many.
How can we protect Hermes’ core proposition and provide external digital apps but with minimal friction and hassle for our customers?
Separation of concerns
Hermes 5, the core GHA operating software provides exceptional functionality for its users, but the focus must remain inside the warehouse.
We followed several architectural principles, from de-coupling to separation of concerns in order to allow the Hermes platform to receive varied content and events from the outside world as well as inputting of non-Hermes data.
Despite the soundness of these principles, they are incumbent on the business goals:
- Next to zero friction and disruption for existing Hermes systems
- Pay as you go and easy access
Developing apps capable of evolving and running independently whilst limiting the impact on our core product Hermes 5, required the acceptance of something most organisations still struggle to recognise.
Data cannot be true, immediate and partitioned in a single place and at a single moment (Brewer’s theorem or CAP theorem for the aficionados).
It is okay to replicate it, it is okay to accept eventual consistency and it always makes business sense to scale and grow piecemeal.
So now, code can deal only with the data it is given, and only the data that it needs.
The interfaces by which Hermes acquires its data are then testable, manageable, measurable, and secured for a given purpose only.
Leveraging serverless Cloud
HLT opted for two solutions to minimise workload and disruption:
- Getting rid of concerns by using Azure serverless technologies; Azure services bus, Eventgrid, Functions, Cosmos DB etc. This means no more operating systems, no more network routing, no more patching, no more backups and security is taken care of (B2C), leaving us with only the apps and what they bring to our customers.
- Complete loose coupling from the Hermes Core GHA application (Hermes 5), through secure integration (Azure Service Bus) and patterns (Command Query Responsibility Segregation or Micro-services).
Not only will our new and existing customers be able to adopt and thrive with our new Cloud applications (Hermes NG), enriched by the events and data provided by the Hermes 5 application, but non-Hermes users will also be able to join the Hermes NG ecosystem as Hermes NG apps create further benefits by using data from other sources such as internal message and application programming interfaces (API).
It is likely that future NG Apps may be stand-alone, and function without a GHA application.
HERMES NG APPS
HLT has a multitude of Cloud applications in the pipeline, all multi device, user-centric and with great value add for our customers.
HLT’s development plan has been kicked-started with the successful trialling of E-Checkin and Track&Trace and 2019 will see additional apps such as Ramp Management being developed, trailed and deployed.
- E-Checkin: Provides our customer with online services that their clients need to check shipments for drop-off/pickups and in addition request Vehicle Control Tickets pre-arrival or at arrival electronically. A supplemental option will be released later this year providing online slot booking and management functionality.
- Track&Trace: Allows full status and real-time notifications to customers handling AWBs, and in future, Track&Trace will allow the AWBs to be completed by other APIs such as FlightAware.
Future versions of Track&Trace will also permit authorities (Customs/police) to interact with shipment statuses.