Re-engineering CFRA Equity Publish Platforms reduces data and software costs by 90%

Executive Summary

CFRA Research partnered with Risk Focus, a professional services consulting firm, after inheriting three expensive databases and a datacenter through a business acquisition. Risk Focus re-engineered their entire system on AWS and migrated their databases to Amazon Aurora. By implementing a true DevOps approach to application development, this delivered a full re-architecture that increased resilience, significantly reduced their 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

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. They offer global coverage of individual stocks, ETFs and Mutual Funds to its retail and institutional clients. They create 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 knew they wanted to re-engineer their systems to consolidate infrastructure and improve processes but needed a catalyst. The tipping point came when they needed to integrate new data sources into their research and estimated the costs of doing it on top of their existing infrastructure.

The current system architecture used AWS as a replacement for a traditional data center, which meant they weren’t taking advantage of the tools, security features, or scaling abilities that come with the 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 their system or jeopardize their current customers’ experiences to make changes.

The Solution

Risk Focus worked with CFRA to help them rationalize their 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 Cognito for both the internal and client-facing APIs.

Combining that with the migration of Oracle workloads to Amazon Aurora, they were able to reduce their 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 to consolidate out footprint dramatically, improve our scaling, and lower our costs. We’re far more efficient with AWS.”

Eram Schlegel, CTO for CFRA Research

Results and Benefits

By partnering with Risk Focus and moving their 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 their licensing and infrastructure costs and connect seamlessly with other AWS products to enhance their value to customers.

Save the opportunity cost of running on-premises infrastructure
According to Eram, “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 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
Risk Focus’s assistance in helping CFRA migrate to AWS wasn’t just about saving on infrastructure cost. 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 add enhanced functionality. For example, moving to Amazon Aurora provided built-in redundancy that’s 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 Eram. “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 their 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 Eram. “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.”

Learn More

Risk Focus is a professional services consulting firm headquartered in New York City with offices in Pittsburgh, London and Riga (Latvia). They combine Financial Services business domain knowledge, technical expertise and process acumen to ensure the success of the hardest projects in the industry. As an AWS Advanced Tier Consulting Partner, they focus on DevOps and Automation, Data and Application Migration, Security Assessment and Implementation, and Remediation and Improvement.

Amazon Aurora is a MySQL and PostgreSQL-compatible relational database built for the cloud, that 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.