The Client

CFRA Research is one of the best-known Financial Research companies and offers global coverage of individual stocks, ETFs and Mutual Funds to its retail and institutional clients.  The research that CFRA provides is based on quantitative and qualitative processing of large amounts of financial information on companies and their financial instruments.

Risk Focus understood our business and had the right technical expertise to design and execute a modern serverless architecture. This allowed us to increase agility, improve resiliency and cut costs at the same time.  They were able to engineer and rebuild the core of our platform in timeframes that were so compressed, that we did not believe were possible. Risk Focus replaced a low-cost outsourcing firm but proved to be much better value for money due to their expertise, productivity and ownership of delivery. They were committed to our success and were obsessed with automation, security and the total cost of ownership of the deliverable.

More impressively, they worked as true partners to our organization and helped us build out our teams, processes and IT infrastructure.

Eram Schlegel

CTO, CFRA Research

The Challenge

In 2016, CFRA acquired S&P Global’s Equity and Fund Research business including the core systems that were supporting it.  The systems were moved to AWS in a classic Lift & Shift approach.  In May of 2019, CFRA engaged Risk Focus to help them rationalize their whole architecture, replace certain raw data sources, integrate a new publishing platform from Eidos Media and create a new API layer to facilitate modern data access. Everything had to go live by October with no disruption to existing clients. 

The Solution

Our development team and business analysts worked with CFRA to map out the use cases to a logical architecture. This was then converted into a physical architecture and we created mocks for the various service implementations.  The API and Service design, the ingestion pipelines as well as the design of the database schemas required an intimate understanding of the business domain. Given the very tight timeframes, Risk Focus approached the challenge with a solution that would allow us to work in parallel. Risk Focus:

  • Partitioned the system into microservices
  • Agreed on the interfaces between them
  • Aligned the team structure to the microservices
  • Rolled-out a simple CI/CD solution based on Jenkins to allow the teams and developers to quickly roll out their pieces without breaking anyone else’s

The diagram below reflects the high-level architecture.

For each of the components, Risk Focus looked at the most applicable AWS offerings. The systems demand of the CFRA’s business are very spikey: multi-hour flat lines with big surges at various times.

This is a great use-case for many of AWS’s serverless services. Ultimately, Risk Focus used:

  • AWS Glue for the ETL service and AWS Lambda for most processing tasks
  • AWS API Gateway and Cognito for both the internal and client-facing APIs
  • Aurora for the main RDBMS, as it was both very performant and cost effective.

Additional AWS technology used for this solution included:

  • Glue
  • IAM
  • SQS
  • SSO
  • Aurora BeanStalk
  • CloudWatch

Additional 3rd party technology used for this solution included:

  • Jenkins
  • Terraform
  • Ansible

The Benefits

CFRA was able to go live within a very compressed timeframe with a new architecture and software stack that

  • Allows them to run with much lower data and software licensing fees
  • Resulted in over 90% cost reduction on average
  • Increased the resilience of the solution by leveraging the various AWS Serverless offerings such as AWS Glue, Lambda and Beanstalk

The delivery encompassed not just the end software, but also the necessary tooling and processes that enable CFRA to have a fast, automated, predictable Software Delivery Lifecycle.  In particular:

  • The CI/CD pipeline encompasses both the application and the underlying infrastructure
  • New environments can be provisioned on-demand with a partial or full stack of the software in minutes
  • Production releases can be made daily instead of quarterly
  • Fully automated pipelines ensure a consistent and repeatable security posture that has tightly controlled role access and secrets which are centrally managed and rotated

Risk Focus’s work has allowed CFRA to grow their analysis and distribution platform with increased agility and improved predictability.