Fast Track to Success With Virgin Trains USA: Q&A With Visual Integrator Consulting

May 9, 2019 Danalynne Menegus

It’s full steam ahead for Virgin Trains USA (formerly Brightline), winner of the Boomi Blue Challenge. The contest called on customers to share their “blue sky” success stories about using the Dell Boomi integration platform to drive digital transformation — and the story from Virgin Trains USA was a standout.

Virgin Trains USA worked with Boomi partner Visual Integrator Consulting (VIC) to create a seamless multichannel reservation and booking experience, from the mobile phone to the electronic kiosk to the ticket booth and aboard the trains — from start to finish, in just three months.

VIC is a boutique professional services firm 100 percent focused on the integration middleware market. We sat down with Jordan Braunstein, VIC's co-founder and chief architect, to find out how his team helped put Virgin Trains USA on the fast track to success.  

What were Virgin Trains USA’s reasons for approaching VIC?

Jordan Braunstein: Virgin Trains USA's main business requirements were for us to build a net new reservation management system, which would be exposed to end users through mobile applications, kiosks and online websites. Users needed to have the ability to seamlessly manage their accounts, make bookings and manage bookings across all those channels.

Before implementing Boomi, Virgin Trains USA had a monolithic, point-to-point web application for bookings. It wasn't resilient. The performance was poor, the user experience was poor and the ratings were poor.  Anytime Virgin Trains USA's IT team needed to make a business rule change, it would take weeks, if not months. There was no flexibility to expose APIs, so they weren't able to easily roll out new functionality or connect with other systems. 

What made you recommend the Boomi integration platform?

Jordan Braunstein: One of Virgin Trains USA's key criteria was being able to rapidly turn functional business requirements into a solution. And Boomi's low-code approach means that even the smallest IT department can deliver value quickly.

Boomi has a strong reputation for helping customers with more traditional, system-to-system integration. But Virgin Trains USA is a fairly new company, without a lot of inherited legacy systems or technical debt. This gave us a wonderful opportunity to build a complete microservices architecture from the ground up, and use Boomi in ways that a lot of people may not have realized it could be used.

We worked very closely with the Boomi team on proofs of concept for complete, scalable digital implementations — building applications, building new web systems, mobile apps, IoT-like devices. And Boomi passed with flying colors. We felt very confident that it was the perfect fit for Virgin Trains USA. We brought it to the table, and Virgin Trains USA agreed.

You referenced building a microservices architecture. Can you explain that a bit more?

Jordan Braunstein: Microservices allow you to build encapsulated objects that can be reused for many different purposes. They are small, lightweight, and more agile and reusable than traditional web services. They’re also easier to change without having a ripple effect across your architecture.

These services can be designed, engineered and built on the Boomi platform, which essentially is the foundation for all your solutions. This approach provides the flexibility and reusability needed to drive extraordinary business results.

What did building this architecture for Virgin Trains USA entail?

Jordan Braunstein: We used Boomi to build a complete digital platform for mobile applications, IoT, in-the-field devices and of course traditional system-to-system integration as well.

Virgin Trains USA had a front-end development team working in parallel on the user interface. We needed a way to remove complexity, so they could build the entire experience for the end user, and then simply connect it to the back end via an API.

All the APIs exposed to the mobile applications, kiosks and web were built on Boomi. The services layer, microservices, business rules, data transformations and systems integration — all that was built on Boomi. The data itself resides in a couple of different systems at Virgin Trains USA to make that mobile experience truly seamless.

We also built a lot of architecture, including automated monitoring and analytics. We can see how Boomi is performing, but also see business-level analytics — such as the number of tickets purchased during a certain timeframe.  We can build real-time business intelligence on top of this as well, and all of that is being engineered and designed in Boomi, too.

What systems did Virgin Trains USA need to integrate?

Jordan Braunstein: The primary back-end system we worked with is a reservation system called Navitaire. Navitaire is heavily used within the travel industry, but had never before been used for integration. We had to do a lot of rapid prototyping, exposing microservices, and building APIs and mobile applications on top. With Boomi, we were able to make that happen, and quickly get results.

In what ways was your development for Virgin Trains USA different from traditional integration?

Jordan Braunstein: When you’re doing a lot of traditional system-to-system integration, you can get away with higher transaction latency. You don't have someone sitting there with a mobile device, waiting for the confirmation screen. For Virgin Trains USA, it was critical to have that real-time response across all channels. We had to make sure performance levels were consistently high, even with a lot of concurrent users.

So we had to build a very resilient, performance-oriented architecture and system. Every call through Boomi, round trip, has to be 250 milliseconds or less. At first, we were nervous, but Boomi delivered. We ran multiple tests, and even with 500 concurrent users were able to meet our goal.

Did you use any special framework for this rapid development?

Jordan Braunstein: We started by building a DevOps structure that allowed us to build and test very rapidly. Our first step was determining how to engineer tests and identify defects as quickly as possible to fix them as quickly as possible. We used the Boomi platform to integrate this environment with testing tools, such as Postman and Jira, so we could report any bugs and also keep our requirements up to date.

We also integrated with Slack for collaboration in the DevOps environment, allowing us to quickly report testing and results to the entire development team. And again, all of that was fully integrated with the Boomi platform, too.

How much of a factor was security in building this architecture?

Jordan Braunstein: All the integrations between the environments, all the services and all the APIs are fully secure. Working in a very distributed microservices environment, a lot of data is being transferred across public clouds, so we always had to make sure the transmission and the data were secure.

For more information on how Boomi can help you accelerate your organization's business outcomes, contact a Boomi integration expert today! 

About the Author

Danalynne Wheeler Menegus is a contributing writer for Dell Boomi. She has an extensive background in B2B technology marketing and communications, with companies including Dell, Enstratius, Sybase/SAP and IONA Technologies.

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