How 5 fintech companies build for scale, availability, and consistency

How 5 fintech companies build for scale, availability, and consistency

Building a payment processing system is hard and managing people’s money and personal data comes with a lot of risk. 

The fintech industry is extremely competitive and it’s no longer acceptable to make tradeoffs when building your infrastructure. For most organizations, a payment system is a tier 0 service essential for operations. Downtime is a huge liability. Scaling can be a difficult technical challenge. And what about guaranteeing consistent transactions at scale?

CockroachDB is a “toolbox” that many of our customers rely on to build payment systems that are highly available and scalable while guaranteeing consistent transactions — no trade-offs allowed! Here’s how five customers across five different continents are running their tier 0 services on CockroachDB today. 

Aurora Payments (U.S.)

Based in Arizona, U.S., Aurora Payments works with over 23,000K merchants and processes 10B+ payments annually. They help their customers navigate the complicated world of payment processing by delivering bank sponsorships, a variety of best-in-class technology platforms, a wide-selection of hardware, on-site underwriting, and technical support experts.

Prior to using CockroachDB, Aurora’s engineering team used PostgreSQL for many of their applications. However, they found that PostgreSQL doesn’t scale well natively in a geo-redundant configuration with an active/passive setup. They also wanted to plan for an outage because, well, that is something both out of their control and probably inevitable.

Now they use CockroachDB as a system of record for all of the data required by their customers and internal users. This includes critically private data which is subject to external audits and vendor risk assessments. It also includes point-of-sale (POS) transactional data and behavioral data (i.e., like whether you leave a tip after your order). They like that CockroachDB guarantees serializable transactions and also delivers the scalability and redundancy they couldn’t achieve with PostgreSQL.

“By using CockroachDB, we’ve removed the database as a bottleneck for performance or availability…CockroachDB makes us more advanced than the vast majority of the financial services industry, even firms many times our size. Everyone is capable of spinning up thousands of front-end servers (and paying lots for it), but not very many people consider fixing the core problem: the database itself. They just use what they know and deal with the bottlenecks. - Derek Maxwell, CTO

[Learn more about Aurora Payment’s use case.]

Fi (India)

Fi is a neobank that caters to the millennial audience in India. It offers a zero-balance savings account and helps users know their money, grow their money, and organize their funds. Their engineering team knew that building a payment system from scratch would not be an easy task and they needed to choose technology that would support their business in the long-term. 

The Fi team evaluated other distributed SQL databases like Spanner, TiDB, and Yugabyte, but CockroachDB was the only solution that met all of their requirements. They needed a database that could scale across multiple regions and clouds, guarantee consistent transactions, and pin data to a location to aid with meeting India’s complex data regulations. 

“We know that the startup mentality is to move fast and break things. But we are in fintech and we are handling people’s money! We needed to build for the long term in order to keep up with the competition. We felt comfortable making an investment in CockroachDB and trust that it will grow with us on this journey.” - Prasanna Ranganathan, Founding Team

Fi’s engineering team was familiar with PostgreSQL and hit the ground running with CockroachDB, which now serves as a financial ledger and stores all of the company’s core banking data. The platform now has over 1 million users; as Fi’s customer base increases, the team simply adds more nodes to their cluster and the data automatically rebalances across these nodes. 

[Learn more about Fi’s use case.] 

Pismo (Brazil)

Pismo is the first digital banking and payments processor with a fully multi-cloud SaaS platform that helps financial institutions overhaul their core processing systems, improve efficiency, and accelerate time to market. Pismo delivers a complete solution for card issuing, digital accounts, wallets, sellers’ management, and other next-gen payment platforms. The company is based out of Brazil but caters to countries across LATAM, and has locations in the U.S., UK, and Singapore. 

Prior to using CockroachDB Pismo built their asset registration service on another relational database, but they were not pleased with its performance. The CTO assigned a task force of 10 engineers to develop a multi-region, active-active version of the Pismo platform to improve the resilience of their solution. They also needed a database that would allow them to expand to additional regions across the globe while adhering to data storage regulations. 

“When building Pismo, we wanted to leave behind all the artifacts of an industry that still largely operates on decades-old infrastructure. Most banks are working with obsolete solutions. Not us. With CockroachDB we are able to build a cloud-native solution that will scale with our success.” - Daniela Binatti, Co-Founder and CTO

Pismo migrated their asset registration, custody, and management services to CockroachDB which serves as a system of record. With CockroachDB, the platform is able to support intense loads of create, read, update, delete (CRUD) operations, in particular when performing asset registrations and daily accruals. This data consists of fixed income debt instruments, and a vast amount of financial data such as rates, transactions, and redemptions.

[Learn more about Pismo’s use case.]

Form3 (UK)

UK-based Form3 delivers a fully managed payment processing platform for financial institutions. They handle their customers' core payments infrastructure in a scalable and cost-effective way through an API-first, cloud-native platform, delivered as an always-on, managed service. 

Originally, Form3 had implemented their payment gateways using primarily AWS and Postgres. A couple of years ago, though, they started building a new FPS gateway on Kubernetes clusters that required leased lines, physical HSMs, and other hardware — which meant there was no way to operate exclusively in the cloud. They also needed both the speed of a NoSQL database and the consistency of a relational database at the same time (no trade-offs!). 

“Regulators are saying that we are becoming critical infrastructure because of the amount of volume that we are doing. That, in turn, has led banks to wonder about what would happen if AWS went down, considering that a lot of Form3’s current software was written to work on AWS, it was written against Postgres… Now the idea of the platform is to be able to survive a cloud vendor outage. That makes CockroachDB, with its support for multi-cloud and hybrid cloud deployments, a perfect fit.” - Kevin Holditch, Head of Platform 

Rather than having two physical data centers and one cloud, they now have a Kubernetes cluster in each cloud vendor (Azure, AWS, GCP) – and run CockroachDB across all the three as the backbone of their FPS gateway. The ultimate goal is to be able to tell banks that they don’t have to worry about outages; for example, if AWS goes down, Form3’s platform will just keep running. 

[Learn more about Form3’s use case.

Birchal (AUS)

Equity crowdfunding, with platforms like Australian-based Birchal, is emerging as a reliable and increasingly popular mechanism for startups and SMEs to raise capital in favor of traditional early-stage capital raising methods. The team at Birchal knew that they had to build a unique user interface and seamless experience that would set them apart from other crowdfunding platforms. 

Since Birchal’s business model is centered around financial transactions, they wanted a transaction-oriented system that was built to scale for these types of workloads. They briefly thought about pursuing NoSQL options but really wanted to stick with SQL to lower the learning curve for their developers since they were familiar with PostgreSQL. Additionally, guaranteeing consistent transactions was extremely important to them and a lot of NoSQL solutions can only promise eventual consistency.

“Coming from Postgres, I’m pleasantly surprised by CockroachDB’s performance. With Postgres, you spend so much time and so many resources optimizing production workloads. With CockroachDB, the work is already done.” - Josh Stewart, CTO

The team got CockroachDB up and running in a day. Initially, they were using CockroachDB Self-hosted as a general purpose datastore, but once they moved into production they started doing more with transactional data storage which included collecting payment information, campaign data, company info, investor interest, investment data, and more.

[Learn more about Birchal’s use case.] 

If any of these stories resonate with you, we encourage you to get in touch! Or you can learn more about the benefits CockroachDB offers for fintech companies here.

About the author

Cassie McAllister

Cassie is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Cockroach Labs. Her focus is on vertical marketing and telling customer stories. She's been in the database world for the past 5 years and previously worked in communications for cybersecurity companies. In her free time, you can find her at the beach, sipping wine, or skiing down a mountain.

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