CASE STUDY

Secure Migration of Sema4’s Genetic Analysis Pipeline to AWS

Executive Summary

Sema4 is a patient-centered health intelligence company dedicated to advancing healthcare through data-driven insights. A key part of Sema4’s business is providing state-of-the-art genomic testing to hundreds of thousands of patients a year. Sequencing data requires rigorous computational analysis to identify mutations of interest to a clinician. Sema4 ran an analysis pipeline for its flagship genetic analysis application via a high-performance compute grid. Sema4 found that the on-premise grid did not provide sufficient operational resilience or scale to support its growing business. Sema4 turned to Risk Focus to facilitate the secure migration of its application, analytics workloads, and associated data to AWS.

As a result of running our genetic analysis pipeline on a secure AWS environment, we can now scale to meet the needs of our business and ensure high availability of this mission-critical application with significant operational cost savings.
Dr. Anatol Blass
VP, Scientific Computing and Information Technology
Sema4

About Sema4

Sema4® is a patient-centered health intelligence company dedicated to advancing healthcare through data-driven insights. Centrellis™, its unique advanced analytics platform is enabling the company to generate a more complete understanding of disease and wellness and extract individualized insights into human health, starting with reproductive health and oncology.

Sema4 is an interdisciplinary team of scientists, data engineers, and clinicians committed to pioneering the future of healthcare. With more than 1,000 peer-reviewed publications in the last five years and a large clinical genomics laboratory, it provides science-driven solutions to the most pressing medical needs.

The Challenge

  • Sema4’s entire genomic analysis pipeline had to be migrated to AWS without disruption of service. Patient samples are shipped into the laboratory where they are sequenced, and corresponding raw data is delivered into the analytics pipeline to identify mutations and run quality control checks. To ensure timely reporting of laboratory results, no downtime is possible.
  • The analytics pipeline was designed to run on a legacy HPC grid using IBM’s Spectrum LSF. The pipeline would have to be re-engineered to run using AWS Batch.
  • A large fleet of servers would be required to run the analytics pipeline for the thousands of samples that Sema4 processes each week. Compute costs would have to be carefully managed.
  • The data produced by genomic sequencers is large. A data lake of sequenced genomic data would have to be created to allow for the long-term storage of both intermediate and final results.

Why AWS

Sema4 chose AWS because of its rigorous security standards, high availability, and capacity to scale quickly. Furthermore, the AWS Cloud offered significant cost savings compared to the company running its own data center.

Why Sema4 Chose Risk Focus

With its AWS DevOps competency, Risk Focus had the expertise of an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner that perfectly aligned to how Sema4 wanted to re-engineer and migrate its genomic analysis pipeline. Dr. Anatol Blass, Sema4’s Vice President of Scientific Computing and Information Technology, shared: “We needed to move quickly to keep up with the growing demands of our business and engaged Risk Focus because of its successful track record with migrating mission-critical systems to AWS.”

The Solution

Risk Focus re-platformed Sema4’s analytics pipeline onto a secure AWS environment that offered several functional improvements. The infrastructure footprint was expanded to support a high volume of laboratory-run genomic tests. Spot and on-demand resources were used to optimize cost. The solution further improved resilience by providing failover and load balancing. At peak workloads, the application uses several thousand cores. Disaster recovery and archiving requirements were met with S3 and cross-region replication. As part of the engagement, Risk Focus conducted a Well-Architected Review of the application and implemented patch and resource-management tools that have become part of Sema4’s standard pattern for Windows infrastructure deployed in AWS.

Results and Benefits

Risk Focus successfully helped migrate Sema4’s genomic analysis pipeline to AWS without disrupting the company’s daily workload of sequencing. Moving to AWS allowed Sema4 to spin up as many instances as required and generate analytical results in a standard timeframe of 12 hours after the sequenced data was available. This reduced the incidence of delays in providing clinical laboratory results to healthcare providers and patients. Dr. Blass stated: “As a result of running our genetic analysis pipeline on a secure AWS environment, we can now scale to meet the needs of our business and ensure high availability of this mission-critical application with significant operational cost savings.”

Scalability and cost efficiency were improved by enabling the use of spot and on-demand resources that would allow the provisioning of more servers at peak use and scaling down afterword to save costs. Resilience was improved by providing transparent failover for each critical component, and business continuity was assured by deploying to multiple Availability Zones and by performing periodic cross-region copies of all backups. Operational excellence was improved through CloudWatch dashboards and automated log analysis to provide operational visibility into the execution of multi-hour batches. These AWS-native tools make it possible to identify errors and retrigger analysis. Finally, the infrastructure deployment was automated via CloudFormation, ensuring that both test and production environments are built consistently. Deploying Infrastructure as Code reduces the risks of failed deployments in production and increases the development velocity.

Learn More

Risk Focus is a consultancy solving capital-markets business problems with technology and insight. We combine business domain knowledge, technology expertise, and a disciplined process to ensure the success of the most challenging projects in the industry. Many of the largest exchanges and investment banks operate on systems built by Risk Focus teams. Our practices include Custom Application Development, Regulatory Reporting & Compliance, DevOps & Cloud, Streaming Architectures, and IT Strategy. We’re a Premier Confluent Systems Integrator and an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner with Financial Services, Migration, and DevOps Competencies. Clients count on us to provide outcomes that advance their objectives on time and on budget.

Secure Migration of Sema4’s Genetic Analysis Pipeline to AWS

CASE STUDY

SnapRetail Achieves Cost-Efficiency and Better Support with AWS

Executive Summary

SnapRetail, a provider of online marketing services to small and medium-sized businesses (SMB), was burdened by aging on-premise infrastructure. Several years of accumulated technical debt created an inconsistent user experience for customers as well as operational burdens and potential security risks for the company. SnapRetail engaged Risk Focus to address these concerns. Risk Focus developed a new infrastructure design and migration plan to AWS that significantly reduced SnapRetail’s costs while providing it with a modern, maintainable infrastructure.

We engaged Risk Focus to help us address problems with our aging infrastructure. Using AWS, they have helped us to see our infrastructure in an entirely new way. We are saving costs, we have been spared security concerns, and we are able to remain focused on serving our customers.
Sean McDonald
VP, President and CEO
SnapRetail

About SnapRetail

SnapRetail is an online technology company that offers a SaaS web platform to help small and midsized businesses improve their digital marketing impact. The applications are offered within two branded experiences (snapretail.com and snap-rx.com), providing a full suite of digital marketing tools to retail businesses and independent pharmacies.

Using the SnapRetail Marketing Planning Calendar, users can create and schedule unified digital marketing campaigns using:

  • Email messaging
  • Social media posts
  • Snap-hosted websites

The Challenge

  • SnapRetail’s on-premise infrastructure accumulated technical debt for several years, leading to performance issues and potential security gaps. 
  • The company amassed large amounts of data over its 10-year history, which required it to continuously add storage, creating an operational and budgetary burden.
  • The infrastructure design included some tactical implementation choices to meet the needs of a very different customer base from what exists today. Therefore, a migration needed to include re-engineering to simplify the design, utilize new technologies, and remove unnecessary components.

Why AWS

As SnapRetail entered its second decade of business, the company needed to eliminate the risks associated with its legacy and expensive infrastructure. SnapRetail selected AWS because of its cost-effective solutions that scale for seasonal spikes in application usage. As a marketing solution for SMB, the demand for SnapRetail’s product increases strongly during the holiday season. With the AWS Cloud, SnapRetail is confident that it will only pay for what it needs and that it will never find itself in an unsupported state in the future.

Why SnapRetail Chose Risk Focus

Sean McDonald, CEO of SnapRetail, realized that an aging colo-based infrastructure created risks to SnapRetail’s business. He approached Risk Focus to provide alternatives. He said: “Our infrastructure was weighing us down. We needed the DevOps expertise of an AWS Partner like Risk Focus to implement a cloud-based infrastructure.” After performing a business case analysis comparing the cost of SnapRetail’s infrastructure versus the same capabilities in AWS, Risk Focus made a compelling case to migrate to AWS. The AWS Advanced Consulting Partner brought the expertise of an AWS DevOps Competency and was well suited to the task.

The Solution

Risk Focus worked with SnapRetail to understand the company’s specific business requirements, the needs of its customers, and the intricacies of the retail business, which comes with seasonal marketing demands.

As a result, Risk Focus designed and built a secure AWS environment that includes:

  • Scaling infrastructure to satisfy peak, seasonal-usage traffic
  • A robust security model that follows AWS best practices On-demand lower environments for future development and testing
  • A new build-and-deploy process using AWS CodeBuild
  • A more cost-effective way of storing seldom-used assets leveraging S3 and Glacier Additionally, Risk Focus built a more efficient way for SnapRetail to manage hundreds of security certificates for its customers relying on a Snap-hosted website.

To ensure that all work is repeatable, Risk Focus used Infrastructure as Code methodology so that all infrastructure is defined using CloudFormation templates and parameterized to facilitate easily reproducible and consistent instantiation of future artifacts.

Results and Benefits

By partnering with Risk Focus, SnapRetail was able to break free from an outdated infrastructure that was slowing down operations and eating into the company budget. Now it remains focused on providing more value and a feature-rich experience to its customers. As McDonald shares, “We engaged Risk Focus to help us address problems with our aging infrastructure. Using AWS, they have helped us to see our infrastructure in an entirely new way. We are saving costs, we are spared security concerns, and we are able to better serve our customers.” In addition, Risk Focus helped SnapRetail establish DevOps best practices to ensure the optimal utilization of its cloud environment as it moves forward. The organization now has a robust and efficient build-and-deploy process in a multi-environment capacity, allowing it to quickly launch new features in the ever-changing world of digital marketing.

Learn More

Risk Focus is a consultancy solving capital-markets business problems with technology and insight. We combine business domain knowledge, technology expertise, and a disciplined process to ensure the success of the most challenging projects in the industry. Many of the largest exchanges and investment banks operate on systems built by Risk Focus teams. Our practices include Custom Application Development, Regulatory Reporting & Compliance, DevOps & Cloud, Streaming Architectures, and IT Strategy. We’re a Premier Confluent Systems Integrator and an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner with Financial Services, Migration, and DevOps Competencies. Clients count on us to provide outcomes that advance their objectives on time and on budget.

SNAPRETAIL ACHIEVES COST-EFFICIENCY AND BETTER SUPPORT WITH AWS

CASE STUDY

APIX™ Creates Open Banking Delivery Channel for Top 3 US Bank

Executive Summary

The client, a top 3 US bank, is harnessing API-connectivity to transform the way that corporate treasuries do business. With Risk Focus’s APIX™ platform, it has created a powerful delivery channel for its Open Banking APIs to communicate with its Fortune 2000 customers. The bank now directly distributes account and balance information to its customers’ treasury departments through the convenience of Microsoft Excel, all without having to write and support custom plugins.

One of our client’s big challenges was to find a way to drive adoption of their Open Banking APIs with the treasury departments of their most valuable clients. They wanted their end-clients, who used Excel as their preferred workspace, to have the same experience as FinTechs do when leveraging their APIs. APIX™ allows our client to focus on the distribution of their core API offerings instead of on developing customized plugins while still providing a rich application experience.
Srikant Ganesan
Head of Financial Services
Risk Focus

About The Client

The client is a top 3 US bank with a global footprint in more than 100 countries.

The Challenge

The client’s corporate treasury services department continually looks for ways to create differentiated, added-value offerings for its customers. It quickly realized that Microsoft’s widely used Excel software could be a powerful delivery channel in addition to its other supported offerings, such as web, mobile, and CRM. However, the client did not want to maintain a development team dedicated to continuously rolling out new Add-Ins as APIs continue to evolve and change. In addition, the client already had established protocols for accessing APIs both at the user and API levels and entitlements related to dataset attributes. In leveraging the power of Excel to distribute the APIs, they wanted to ensure seamless integration between Excel and their API authorization protocols.

The Solution

Risk Focus worked closely with the client to help develop rich Excel templates that would extend the client’s service offering to its customers’ desktops. The user experience (UX) of the templates seamlessly extends the client’s brand and services to Excel, turning it into a true delivery channel rather than an ad-hoc offering. Risk Focus also provided the ability to pre-configure the templates with authorization parameters, thereby reducing the effort required by the client’s customers to use the templates.

Results and Benefits

With APIX™, the client was able to rollout rich functionality to its customers’ workstations in exactly the format they found it most useful: Excel. Because there is a single Add-In to maintain and it has already been proven to deploy easily across a wide variety of locked-down desktops from Windows 7 through Windows 10, the bank was able to move quickly from ideation to adoption at scale.

Learn More

Risk Focus is a consultancy solving capital-markets business problems with technology and insight. We combine business domain knowledge, technology expertise, and a disciplined process to ensure the success of the most challenging projects in the industry. Many of the largest exchanges and investment banks operate on systems built by Risk Focus teams. Our practices include Custom Application Development, Regulatory Reporting & Compliance, DevOps & Cloud, Streaming Architectures, and IT Strategy. We’re a Premier Confluent Systems Integrator and an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner with Financial Services, Migration, and DevOps Competencies. Clients count on us to provide outcomes that advance their objectives on time and on budget.

APIX™ Creates Open Banking Delivery Channel for Top 3 US Bank

CASE STUDY

Risk Focus Facilitates a Leading Institutional Asset Manager’s Digital Transformation

Executive Summary

A leading institutional asset manager faced a generational technology refresh due to aging systems that caused performance and reliability problems. The client struggled to introduce new functionality because of the undocumented complexity of its systems; releases were frequently rolled back due to a lack of production-like environments that would allow for proper load testing. The asset manager engaged Risk Focus to develop an architecture that would improve throughput, increase reliability, and allow for frequent iterative releases with predictable success.

About The Client

The client is a global institutional asset manager with offices on five continents and upwards of $500 million under management. The firm offers investors a broad range of core, sector-specific, and customized portfolios across every sector of the market.

The Challenge

Decades of organic systems growth caused an accumulation of technical debt. The client’s systems were tightly coupled and had single points of failure. Localized changes no longer yielded a meaningful return, necessitating the firm’s investment in a major Digital Transformation initiative. As is the case when refactoring business critical systems: the changes needed to happen without resulting in a business interruption.

Why the Client Chose Risk Focus

The client engaged Risk Focus because of the firm’s deep domain knowledge, advanced technical skill, and iterative methodology. Additionally, the firm’s AWS Migration, DevOps, and Financial Services Competencies were credentials for its track record of delivering on Digital Transformation projects in the same industry as the client.

The Solution

Risk Focus worked with the client’s technology leadership across multiple siloed applications to document the information flows as well as to identify the client’s major pain points. Risk Focus reoriented the design thinking away from a “shared state” and towards a shared-flow architecture. Risk Focus then worked with stakeholders to pick a starting point: an application that would have the biggest impact on the business in the shortest delivery time. From there, Risk Focus developed a roadmap for the client’s entire Digital Transformation.

In order to ensure efficient infrastructure utilization and the availability of environments-as-a-service (EaaS), Risk Focus put forward a plan to migrate the development and some production systems to AWS.

Lastly, to de-risk the chosen trajectory, Risk Focus designed and implemented a set of proof-of-value implementations demonstrating the scalability and reliability of the suggested architecture.

Results and Benefits

Risk Focus enabled the client to embark on a full Digital Transformation with an organization-wide consensus on the initiative’s trajectory. The client has a roadmap with frequent iterative deliverables, architecture choices have been validated with proofs of concept, and application boundaries have been defined. In moving away from data centers, the firm will gain infrastructure elasticity, multi-region reliability, and a micros-services architecture based on high-performance analytics for event streams coming from the markets.

In addition, Risk Focus’s AWS Migration Competency enabled it to work with the AWS account team to secure substantial funding for the project, including offsetting client fees by approximately 45%.

Learn More

Risk Focus is a consultancy solving capital-markets business problems with technology and insight. We combine business domain knowledge, technology expertise, and a disciplined process to ensure the success of the most challenging projects in the industry. Many of the largest exchanges and investment banks operate on systems built by Risk Focus teams. Our practices include Custom Application Development, Regulatory Reporting & Compliance, DevOps & Cloud, Streaming Architectures, and IT Strategy. We’re a Premier Confluent Systems Integrator and an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner with Financial Services, Migration, and DevOps Competencies. Clients count on us to provide outcomes that advance their objectives on time and on budget.

RISK FOCUS FACILITATES A LEADING INSTITUTIONAL ASSET MANAGER’S DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

CASE STUDY

Instinet’s Secure Migration to AWS: The “Landing Zone” Initiative

Executive Summary

The speed, scale, and complexity of the global capital markets business continue to accelerate. As a global agency-model brokerage that delivers tech-enabled services spanning the trading life cycle, Instinet needed to improve technology operational efficiency and capacity in order to stay in front of its clients’ needs. Instinet made a strategic decision to innovate quickly and to decisively expand capacity, functionality, “fluidity,” and nimbleness. They engaged Risk Focus to enable and facilitate a secure migration to AWS, beginning with building out an AWS Landing Zone.

Thanks to the guidance and diligence of the Risk Focus team we have been able to take our first steps towards realizing our cloud vision.
Jamie Astin
Head of Engineering and DevOps
Instinet

About Instinet

Instinet provides technologically advanced, agency-model brokerage services to institutional clients worldwide and is the wholly owned execution services arm of Nomura Group. They help institutional investors create, protect and capture alpha, reduce complexity, and lower overall trading costs to ultimately improve investment performance.

Instinet seeks to add value across the investment life cycle, providing:

  • Market Insights
  • Trading Services
  • Liquidity Venues
  • Workflow Solutions

The Challenge

  • Instinet’s traditional on-premise infrastructure and data architecture struggled to scale to the volume of business that it currently sees and forecasts in the future, creating potential risks for the customer experience and forestalling innovation and the introduction of new services.
  • Instinet had amassed huge volumes of data over its history, creating an operational and capital-expenditure burden. Continuously scaling up to the volume of data and processing requirements involved throwing more hardware at the problem to deal with spikes in peak demands. As a result, its ability to fully integrate this big data was being constrained.
  • As a major financial player and a subsidiary of global Nomura Group, Instinet has understandably rigorous and demanding security requirements for its organization and infrastructure.

Why AWS

When Instinet decided to analyze external cloud providers, the firm focused on identifying a resource that would not only keep it compliant with a host of evolving global regulatory requirements but also deliver the ongoing low-latency integration, scalability, and information security that it and its clients need. AWS created the Financial Services Competency in order to specifically address the unique workflows, resiliency, security, and services that a firm like Instinet needs. AWS’s depth and breadth in the industry and its ability to customize to Instinet’s workflows made a compelling case for the efficiencies gained by moving certain components off premises and establishing a flexible and stable, cloud-enabled relationship with them.

Why Instinet Chose Risk Focus

Instinet engaged Risk Focus to facilitate its cloud migration because of Risk Focus’s extensive experience working with AWS and its expertise within the financial services industry. Risk Focus’s reputation for successfully delivering mission-critical projects to capital markets businesses made it an excellent match for Instinet.

The Solution

Risk Focus worked with Instinet to understand the specific security requirements, the unique needs of the organization, and the intricacies of their global network to design and build a secure, cross-organization AWS environment that included:

  • Multi-Account Architecture
  • Identity and Access Management
  • Governance
  • Data Security
  • Network Design
  • Logging

Additionally, Risk Focus built a pipeline for Instinet to facilitate the deployment of new accounts, new policies, and new environments by leveraging the best practices of DevOps and automation. All of the infrastructure and user requirements are defined using CloudFormation templates and parameterized to facilitate easily reproducible and consistent instantiation of future artifacts. Based on the AWS Landing Zone, Risk Focus implemented extensive custom policies to meet Instinet’s security and compliance requirements.

Results and Benefits

By partnering with Risk Focus, Instinet was able to create a secure AWS environment with necessary guardrails to facilitate the successful migration of key elements of its business to AWS. In addition, Risk Focus helped the organization augment DevOps best practices to ensure the optimal utilization of its cloud environment as it moves forward. Instinet now has an account “vending machine” to create, within minutes, new environments for isolating groups and activities, each with a base of required security policies that can be customized for special needs.

Utilizing the cloud in this way has accelerated the Instinet development team’s ability to focus on innovating and deploying new products that leverage their vast amount of historic data. The Landing Zone built by Risk Focus is the foundation for a Data Lake being constructed in AWS that will enable Instinet to seamlessly integrate its historic data into the trading life cycle. With AWS, Instinet can scale as needed for a variety of AI/ML applications, providing the firm with the capacity for real-time deep learning and the heuristic optimization of its clients’ order-management and analytics processes.

Learn More

Risk Focus is a consultancy solving capital-markets business problems with technology and insight. We combine business domain knowledge, technology expertise, and a disciplined process to ensure the success of the most challenging projects in the industry. Many of the largest exchanges and investment banks operate on systems built by Risk Focus teams. Our practices include Custom Application Development, Regulatory Reporting & Compliance, DevOps & Cloud, Streaming Architectures, and IT Strategy. We’re a Premier Confluent Systems Integrator and an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner with Financial Services, Migration, and DevOps Competencies. Clients count on us to provide outcomes that advance their objectives on time and on budget.

INSTINET’S SECURE MIGRATION TO AWS: THE “LANDING ZONE” INITIATIVE

CASE STUDY

EZOPS Reduces Delivery Time for POC Environments to 1 Day

Executive Summary

Risk Focus conducted a Well-Architected Review for EZOPS and determined its could reduce its service-level agreement (SLA) to build proof-of-concept (POC) environments by adopting best practices to create Infrastructure as Code. The end result was to reduce the SLA from the DevOps team to deliver POC environments from about 4 business days to 1 and to fully automate the process, thereby ensuring no manual errors.

About EZOPS

EZOPS Inc. is a U.S.-based FinTech firm providing full front-to-back data control software that drives efficiency and dramatically reduces operational costs and resource requirements for financial services institutions.

With the power of its novel machine learning tools capable of automating virtually any manual process, EZOPS has harnessed artificial intelligence to vastly enhance data flow and reduce operational bottlenecks, enabling clients to enjoy major cost and time savings while achieving straight through processing (STP) automation goals.

The Challenge

A fast growing AI startup, EZOPS found that the time to build and verify secure “sandbox” environments to work with clients was taking too long to create and validate. The company sought options to improve the turnaround time and to keep up with demand.

Why AWS

EZOPS chose AWS for the project so it could leverage the elastic nature of the cloud by spinning up sandboxes on demand. They liked AWS because it provided the ability to create secure, encrypted environments for each client that could be completely destroyed at the end of the POC, ensuring the full protection of all client data. From a cost perspective, EZOPS saved considerably over the previous “hosted” infrastructure it had used, because the company could limit running it to when it needed the environments and then destroy it at the end of the POC with no ongoing costs.

Why EZOPS Chose Risk Focus

EZOPS chose Risk Focus to do a Well-Architected Review based on recommendations from mutual clients and because Risk Focus is an AWS Advanced Partner with AWS DevOps and Financial Services Competencies.

The Solution

To address the recommendations of the Well-Architected Review while keeping costs to a minimum, EZOPS asked Risk Focus to provide a solution that could be delivered within a budget of 10 days’ effort. The solution focused on the Amazon Machine Image (AMI) construction and core AWS build, since these are the most fragile and time-consuming part of any deployment. EZOPS elected to defer automation of the account setup and VPN setup in order to focus on the most time-consuming and complex steps.

Risk Focus migrated the manual process of building an environment to Infrastructure as Code, automating 72 manual steps by creating a 2-step process to install a AWS CodeBuild job into the AWS account and to then run CodeBuild to build the infrastructure with HashiCorp Terraform. The solution had 2 parts:

Part 1 – Automation of the AMI build and database setup. This was solved by introducing the open-source software HashiCorp Packer to build the AMI and leverage Terraform to generate database passwords dynamically when CodeBuild runs Terraform. The database setup was handled by leveraging the user data script in EC2 to initialize the database after the EC2 is created.

Part 2 – Convert the manual process to create 27 AWS entities (VPC, EC2, RDS, etc.) to Infrastructure as Code. This was delivered by creating a CodeBuild project installed using the Terraform command line. The CodeBuild project is then run with configurable parameters to complete the infrastructure build with the push of a button.

Results and Benefits

Risk Focus delivered the project in less than 2 weeks. EZOPS can now create an environment in less than 1 hour that used to take about 4 days, and it can now scale the reproducible process to staff in multiple locations. In addition, every deployment is fully auditable, because all provisioning is stored as code.

Learn More

Risk Focus is a consultancy solving capital-markets business problems with technology and insight. We combine business domain knowledge, technology expertise, and a disciplined process to ensure the success of the most challenging projects in the industry. Many of the largest exchanges and investment banks operate on systems built by Risk Focus teams. Our practices include Custom Application Development, Regulatory Reporting & Compliance, DevOps & Cloud, Streaming Architectures, and IT Strategy. We’re a Premier Confluent Systems Integrator and an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner with Financial Services, Migration, and DevOps Competencies. Clients count on us to provide outcomes that advance their objectives on time and on budget.

EZOPS REDUCES DELIVERY TIME FOR POC ENVIRONMENTS TO 1 DAY

CASE STUDY

Re-engineering CFRA Equity Publishing Platform Reduces Costs by 90%

Executive Summary

CFRA Research partnered with Risk Focus after it inherited three expensive databases and a datacenter via a business acquisition. Risk Focus re-engineered CFRA’s entire system on AWS and migrated its databases to Amazon Aurora. By implementing a true DevOps approach to application development, Risk Focus delivered a full re-architecture that increased resilience and significantly reduced CFRA’s cost structure while improving agility and security.

Risk Focus understood our business needs and had the right technical and domain expertise to design and execute a modern, scalable architecture that allowed us to innovate rapidly.
Eram Schlegel
CTO
CFRA Research

About CFRA Research

CFRA Research is one of the best-known financial research companies, providing independent and actionable research and analytics to improve its clients’ investment and business decisions. It offers global coverage of individual stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds to its retail and institutional clients. It creates research and analytics tools used by assets managers for forensics, wealth management, and other financial institutions. In 2016, CFRA acquired S&P Globals’ Equity and Fund Research business, including its core technology product delivery systems.

The Challenge

  • CFRA wanted to re-engineer their systems to consolidate infrastructure and improve processes but needed a catalyst. The tipping point came when the company needed to integrate new data sources into its research and estimated the costs of doing so on top of their existing infrastructure.
  • The current system architecture used AWS as a replacement for a traditional data center, which meant CFRA wasn’t taking advantage of the tools, security features, or scaling abilities that come with cloud services. In addition, the architecture didn’t offer APIs that clients could integrate into their own third-party dashboards and applications. Lastly, the development process made getting new products to production expensive, tedious, and slow.
  • Like most revenue-generating systems, CFRA could not shut down its system or jeopardize its current customer experience in order to make changes.

The Solution

Risk Focus worked with CFRA to help rationalize the company’s entire architecture and software stack leveraging AWS-native services, including AWS Glue for the ETL service, AWS Lambda for most processing tasks, and AWS API Gateway and Amazon Cognito for both internal and client-facing APIs. Combined with the migration of Oracle workloads to Amazon Aurora, CFRA was able to reduce its data and software costs by over 90% on average.

Risk Focus worked as a true partner to our organization and helped us to build out our teams, processes, and IT infrastructure. By migrating on-premise workloads to Amazon Aurora, Risk Focus helped us consolidate our footprint dramatically, improve our scaling, and lower our costs. We’re far more efficient with AWS.
Eram Schlegel
CTO
CFRA Research

Results and Benefits

By partnering with Risk Focus and moving its Oracle workloads to Amazon Aurora, CFRA was able to go live within a very compressed timeframe, with a new architecture and software stack that reduced its licensing and infrastructure costs while connecting seamlessly with other AWS products, enhance the value for customers.

Save the opportunity cost of running on-premises infrastructure.

According to Schlegel, “Anything that’s managed for us gives us immediate cost savings on several levels, including the opportunity cost of serving customers. If we’re spending time doing maintenance instead of innovating, that’s going to cost us in the long run. And from the perspective of performing infrastructure or database updates, anytime that we’re down when customers need us costs us money.”

Gain functionality through built-in features and the AWS ecosystem.

Helping CFRA migrate to AWS wasn’t just about saving on infrastructure costs. It opened CFRA to the entire AWS ecosystem of services and features, including AWS Glue, AWS Lambda, and AWS Elastic Beanstalk, which Risk Focus leveraged to increase the scalability of the firms’ services and to add enhanced functionality. For example, moving to Amazon Aurora provided built-in redundancy that is crucial to CFRA’s business. “We need enough redundancy to make sure things don’t go bad, but that can be a very expensive proposition because it requires people managing infrastructure,” said Schlegel. “With the fully managed services of Amazon Aurora, redundancy was just a matter of turning it on. Now our people can focus on creating revenue-generating products instead of keeping on the lights.”

Reconfigure the software-delivery process to embrace DevOps.

The new architecture, designed and implemented by Risk Focus, also included new tolling and processes that support a fast, automated, predictable software-delivery lifecycle. CFRA can now grow its analysis-and-distribution platform with increased agility and improved predictability. Production release times have accelerated from quarterly to daily. “Amazon Aurora can be serverless, which means we are not paying for it when developers are not using it,” explained Schlegel. “These systems typically cost tens of thousands of dollars a month, which becomes untenable with multiple developers. Now we have true, on-demand environments that are identical to our production environments whenever we need them—without breaking the bank. It allows us to run multiple, parallel production processes.”

Technologies

Amazon Aurora is a MySQL and PostgreSQL-compatible relational database built for the cloud. It combines the performance and availability of traditional enterprise databases with the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of open-source databases. Amazon Aurora is up to five times faster than standard MySQL databases and three times faster than standard PostgreSQL databases. It provides the security availability and reliability of commercial databases at 1/10th the cost.

Learn More

Risk Focus is a consultancy solving capital-markets business problems with technology and insight. We combine business domain knowledge, technology expertise, and a disciplined process to ensure the success of the most challenging projects in the industry. Many of the largest exchanges and investment banks operate on systems built by Risk Focus teams. Our practices include Custom Application Development, Regulatory Reporting & Compliance, DevOps & Cloud, Streaming Architectures, and IT Strategy. We’re a Premier Confluent Systems Integrator and an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner with Financial Services, Migration, and DevOps Competencies. Clients count on us to provide outcomes that advance their objectives on time and on budget.

RE-ENGINEERING CFRA EQUITY PUBLISHING PLATFORM REDUCES COSTS BY 90%

CASE STUDY

Flagship Application Migration to AWS Leveraging Cloud-Native Technology and DevOps Best Practices

Executive Summary

The flagship application of a market-leading fund administrator had grown unwieldy due to multiple generations of development. The client engaged Risk Focus to migrate the application to AWS in order to increase business agility, reduce costs, and harness DevOps best practices.

About the Client

The client is a market-leading fund administrator with global presences and over $1 Trillion in AUM.

Risk Focus delivered excellent technical staff with deep knowledge of and insight into the operations and applications of Amazon Web Services, and strong governance and oversight of projects with effective use of AGILE methodologies. The Risk Focus team was able to quickly understand the complexity of our on-prem environment and apply their experience with other customers to guide our solution. Most importantly, the Risk Focus team created a strong partnership with my team to deliver the project.
Managing Director
Head of Development and Application Support

The Challenge

  • The Client’s flagship application had grown unwieldy due to a deeply layered architecture, the result of multiple generations of development. 
  • The analytics pipeline was designed to run on a legacy HPC grid using IBM’s Spectrum LSF. The pipeline would have to be re-engineered to run using AWS Batch. 
  • The Client was also looking to exit their data centers and wanted to use this as a catalyst to re-architect the applications and implement DevOps best practices. 
  • After initially failing with two other PS firms, this leading Financial Services provider engaged Risk Focus to take-over and complete the migration of their flagship product to AWS.

The Solution

Risk Focus helped the client by:

  • Introducing good development and release processes, increasing velocity and reliability
  • Introducing build and release automation, increasing reliability and repeatability
  • Introducing on-demand environments, decreasing cost  
  • Rearchitecting the flagship app, increasing flexibility

Release frequently requires automation, as there is no time for long, error-prone manual processes. Risk Focus specializes in identifying and opening bottlenecks with a combination of technology introduction and process coaching. Prior to their migration, many of the processes for the client were time-intensive, manual, and error-prone. This led to severe contention in areas such as test environments for QA processes, where new application releases were bottlenecked by the availability of these environments. Additionally, though the implementation was technical, the base application of the firm supports back office processes for hedge funds. Strong domain knowledge derived from building similar trading and risk systems at some of the largest banks and exchanges in the world guided Risk Focus in designs of architecture and recovery processes.

For this client, Risk Focus:

  • Introduced CI/CD pipelines for both applications and the infrastructure components such as networking and VPC on which applications depended.
  • Worked with the client to design and implement customer onboarding automation using DynamoDB and Lambda.
  • Used CloudFormation templates and CodePipeline to create On-Demand environments for QA processes, automating the process of creating and destroying test environments as needed.

The solution relied on CodePipeline, CodeBuild, and CodeDeploy, with code stored in CodeCommit to create the pipelines.

Migrating to the cloud is most effective when combined with application refactor. One of the key victories of the client’s migration to AWS was an update to the architecture of their application.

Risk Focus assisted the client with:

  • Migrating their core application from a monolithic Java application in WebSphere backed by an Oracle store to a micro-services framework.
  • Designing a complete multi-region DR solution, effectively lowering their exposure to unforeseen regional events.

The services are run in Docker containers on ECS in AWS, with a managed-services backend running on a set of Postgres RDS databases.

Results and Benefits

Risk Focus has substantially increased the client’s efficiency by introducing automation in numerous areas.

  • The newly introduced pipelines allowed the client to migrate from an arduous build process on a developer’s laptop to continuous integration, complete with an automated test framework built into the deployment pipeline. 
  • Automating onboarding has replaced a manual, error-prone system that took weeks with an automated system in which heavy lifting is complete in minutes. 
  • Automating QA has not only allowed the client to remove the bottleneck in creating test environments, it has also allowed for more efficient resource management and significant cost savings. When combined with automated tests, the weeks-long testing cycle was reduced to days. Risk Focus continues to work with the client to shrink that cycle from days to hours, as the legacy manual validation are increasingly captured in automation.

In the end, the client achieved their key goals. Their application is onboarding customers, their team is moving forward at a greater velocity, and their lead time to release new features is shrinking dramatically. The client continues to move forward aggressively in their adoption of AWS. Risk Focus remains engaged with this client, continuing to provide guidance and focused technical deliverables.

Learn More

Risk Focus is a consultancy solving capital-markets business problems with technology and insight. We combine business domain knowledge, technology expertise, and a disciplined process to ensure the success of the most challenging projects in the industry. Many of the largest exchanges and investment banks operate on systems built by Risk Focus teams. Our practices include Custom Application Development, Regulatory Reporting & Compliance, DevOps & Cloud, Streaming Architectures, and IT Strategy. We’re a Premier Confluent Systems Integrator and an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner with Financial Services, Migration, and DevOps Competencies. Clients count on us to provide outcomes that advance their objectives on time and on budget.

FLAGSHIP APPLICATION MIGRATION TO AWS LEVERAGING CLOUD-NATIVE TECHNOLOGY AND DEVOPS BEST-PRACTICES

CASE STUDY

Application Refactoring & DevOps Implementation for Industry-Leading Regulatory Reporting Solution

Due to business developments, we needed to quickly evacuate our data center. Risk Focus moved us quickly into the cloud and re-engineered our development and deployment processes, allowing us to become more agile and increase delivery velocity. Moreover, they helped us deliver our first SaaS offering and onboard our first clients quickly and seamlessly. The key differentiator that Risk Focus brought to the table is the unique combination of deep domain knowledge coupled with technical expertise and delivery excellence.
Brian Lynch
CEO, RegTek.Solutions
A Bloomberg company

About RegTek.Solutions

RegTek.Solutions, now part of Bloomberg, is one of the premier software providers in the Regulatory Reporting space with 15 of the 20 largest global banks as customers. RegTek.Solutions provides modular software solutions built around actionable regulatory intelligence.

The Challenge

  • RegTek’s software was developed and tested inside its own datacenter, with VMs running on a small set of Hyper-V racks. The software was delivered exclusively to run inside its clients’ data centers as binary artifacts, but RegTek was also asked by clients to offer some of its products as a SaaS offering.
  • Create a fully-automated CI/CD pipeline outside of its datacenter that would allow it to provision environments on demand, build the binary artifacts, and run large-scale testing on its suite of products.
  • Create the ability for RegTek to produce different deployable binary artifacts, both traditional WARs as well as Docker Containers.
  • Create a secure automated ability for it to offer some of its products as a SaaS offering to prospective clients.
  • Onboard its first batch of clients onto the newly-built SaaS offering.

The Solution

The project consisted of three parts:

  • Constructing CI/CD Pipelines
  • SaaS Architecture Design
  • Client Onboarding

We proposed that RegTek move to AWS, and because its software needs to retain the ability to run in any datacenter, we ensured that the software is cloud portable and not tightly bound to the AWS cloud native offerings. Additionally, because of the sensitivity of the data being reported, all SaaS clients had requested complete isolation from one another.

AWS was used to:

  • Create single-tenant VPCs with Oracle RDS instances provisioned for each client, which were created by using CloudFormation templates.
  • Deploy some of the RegTek products as SaaS offerings into separate AWS accounts under an Organization leveraging Consolidated Billing.
  • Send logs to CloudWatch. All access to the deployed resources is monitored by CloudTrail.
  • Achieve resiliency by relying on ELB, Multi-AZ deployments and Auto-scaling groups.

The domain knowledge of Risk Focus was especially useful in Client Onboarding, which RegTek had subcontracted fully to Risk Focus.

This involved:

  • Placing Business Analysts at the client sites to identify the necessary feeds and design their delivery process.
  • Performing required data mappings and enrichment to ensure that the raw trading feeds that were delivered by the client could be submitted to the SDR (Swaps Data Repository) of the DTCC. Additional 3rd party technology used for this solution included: Jenkins Ansible OneLogin for Authentication and Authorization of client users DataDog for monitoring

Results and Benefits

Risk Focus’s work has helped RegTek.Solutions operate a highly successful business that features both client data center installations and a SaaS reporting solution.

In particular:

  • The elasticity provided by AWS allows RegTek develop and test much faster by provisioning and tearing environments down in an automated way.
  • It also allows their clients to keep growing their Financial Services business, while staying compliant and avoiding the hefty fines levied on businesses that do not report in an accurate and timely manner. This allows RegTek.Solutions to provide a higher value service to their clients.

Learn More

Risk Focus is a consultancy solving capital-markets business problems with technology and insight. We combine business domain knowledge, technology expertise, and a disciplined process to ensure the success of the most challenging projects in the industry. Many of the largest exchanges and investment banks operate on systems built by Risk Focus teams. Our practices include Custom Application Development, Regulatory Reporting & Compliance, DevOps & Cloud, Streaming Architectures, and IT Strategy. We’re a Premier Confluent Systems Integrator and an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner with Financial Services, Migration, and DevOps Competencies. Clients count on us to provide outcomes that advance their objectives on time and on budget.

APPLICATION REFACTORING & DEVOPS IMPLEMENTATION FOR INDUSTRY LEADING REGULATORY REPORTING SOLUTION

CASE STUDY

Deutsche Börse: Leveraging AWS for Rapid Infrastructure Evolution

About Deutsche Börse Group

The Deutsche Börse is the German stock exchange providing a marketplace for the trading of shares and other securities. It is also a transaction services provider and gives companies and investors access to global capital markets.

Given the extreme time pressure that we were under to deliver a mission-critical platform, together with Risk Focus we decided to use AWS for Development, QA, and UAT, which proved to be the right move, allowing us to hit the ground running. The Risk Focus team created a strong partnership with my team to deliver the project.
Maja Schwob
CIO, Data Services
Deutsche Börse

The Challenge

In 2017, the Deutsche Börse needed an approved publication arrangement (APA) developed for its RRH business to support MiFID II regulations. The APA had to be fully operational by January 3, 2018. The service provides real-time MiFID II trade-reporting services to around 3000 different financial services clients. After an open RFP process, the Deutsche Börse approached Risk Focus to build this system, resulting in an on-time, problem-free launch. The Deutsche Börse then approached Risk Focus again in May 2018 to expand its system to allow the Börse to process twenty times the volume of messages, with no increase in latency, and to deliver the system to its on-premises hardware within 4 months.

The Solution

Though the implementation was technical, Risk Focus was ultimately recruited by the business unit at the Deutsche Börse to provide an implementation of its service. This required Risk Focus to determine and implement both technical and business requirements. The stakeholder group also included the internal client IT team and the Bafin (German Financial Regulator), as the choice of technology, infrastructure, and cloud provider was decided in tandem with all three groups.

Risk Focus’s deep domain knowledge in regulatory reporting and financial services was crucial to understanding and proposing a viable solution to the client’s need and satisfying all stakeholders. Risk Focus’s domain expertise in combination with its technology acumen allowed for delivery of the service under very tight constraints.

The client’s hardware-procurement timelines and costs precluded the option to develop and test on premises. Instead, Risk Focus developed, tested, and certified the needed infrastructure in AWS and applied the resulting topology and tuning recommendations for the onsite infrastructure.

For Deutsche Börse, Risk Focus:

  • Proposed a radical infrastructure overhaul of the client systems that included the replacement of their existing Qpid bus with Confluent Kafka, involving architecture changes and configuration tuning.
  • Implemented an automated CI/CD system that built both environment and application to find the optimal configuration, allowing developers and testers to create production-scale infrastructure on demand, both cost- and time-effectively.

Finding optimal configuration required executing hundreds of performance tests with 100s of millions of messages flowing through a complex, mission-critical infrastructure, and it would have been impossible in the few weeks available without the elasticity and repeatability provided by AWS.

Additional 3rd-party technology used for this solution included:

  • Docker Swarm: client chosen Docker orchestration framework
  • Redis: in-memory cache
  • Confluent Kafka: scalable replay log
  • TICK: monitoring framework 
  • Greylog: log aggregation
  • Jenkins: CI/CD pipeline

Results and Benefits

The system was delivered to the Börse on time and within a notably short timeframe. Risk Focus worked with the client to allow their internal IT departments to take over the delivered solution. All test environments and automation were made available to the client, allowing them to further tune and evolve the system.

The ability for the client to continue developing and experimenting in AWS enables them to:

  • Make precise hardware purchasing decisions as volume demands change
  • Maintain an environment for further development to adapt to new regulatory requirements.

Risk Focus’s work provides a pathway to public-cloud migration once that path is greenlit by regulators.

Learn More

Risk Focus is a consultancy solving capital-markets business problems with technology and insight. We combine business domain knowledge, technology expertise, and a disciplined process to ensure the success of the most challenging projects in the industry. Many of the largest exchanges and investment banks operate on systems built by Risk Focus teams. Our practices include Custom Application Development, Regulatory Reporting & Compliance, DevOps & Cloud, Streaming Architectures, and IT Strategy. We’re a Premier Confluent Systems Integrator and an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner with Financial Services, Migration, and DevOps Competencies. Clients count on us to provide outcomes that advance their objectives on time and on budget.

Deutsche Börse: Leveraging AWS for Rapid Infrastructure Evolution