Open banking is here, and it is changing the face of financial services and payments. TrueLayer, a pioneer in open banking and Europe’s leading provider, predicts that open banking payments will replace debit and credit cards as the default methods of payment this decade. Since its inception in 2016, the company has used Kubernetes to galvanize market innovation. Its DevOps team, however, has long battled with manually intensive systems and craved a central management process. That was until 2019, when its journey with Rancher Prime began.
TrueLayer is a leader in the open banking and fintech space. It provides a platform used to build financial experiences in apps and websites that securely connect bank data, verify account ownership and process payments instantly. The 5-year-old company has pioneered an API-centric open banking methodology, operating across multiple sectors, including digital banking, wealth management, trading and investment, e-commerce and iGaming. The company works with some of the biggest names in the fintech industry.
Online investment management service, Nutmeg, for example, sought a way to transform its payments’ process to allow investors to get their money to market faster. With TrueLayer’s open banking solution, it was able to cut out the intermediary and allow its customers to fund their accounts seamlessly, without the interference – and expensive fees – associated with traditional debit and credit card companies.
Online car retailing platform, Cazoo, is using TrueLayer’s PayDirect platform to offer instant payments, powered by open banking – removing costly card and interchange fees and delivering instant transaction confirmations. It has also implemented instant seller payments, via TrueLayer, which authenticates a seller by comparing the account holder name to their bank details in just three clicks. With their seller’s details pre-populated and verified, Cazoo can pay them instantly, via TrueLayer, and eliminate the risk of failed transactions arising from invalid bank details.
With European firms across every sector embracing the open banking philosophy, TrueLayer’s technology team, led by Alessio Casco, director of DevOps, needed to be able to move quickly and to innovate at pace. The team quickly looked to Kubernetes to spearhead its containerization plans, but the lack of an orchestration platform held them back. By working with Rancher Prime, TrueLayer has simplified its technology infrastructure, enabling it to spearhead the open banking revolution.
A Kubernetes-centric strategy
From the start, TrueLayer recognized containers would be key to building a robust and agile environment for open banking. Open in nature, Kubernetes naturally became the team’s preferred containerization solution. Not only would Kubernetes require less system resources than traditional hardware or virtual machine-based environments, but it would also enable the company to become more efficient and increase innovation velocity. However, lacking a centralized management methodology, the company’s developers battled with time-consuming manual scripts and frustrating maintenance processes.
Casco wanted to give his developers the power to create their own environments themselves, safely in a managed environment that allows complete visibility. This is where TrueLayer’s journey to Rancher Prime began.
The journey to Rancher Prime
In 2019, the team began the search for the perfect container management platform. There were several contenders, including AWS EKS, Red Hat OpenShift and Rancher Prime, each with their own unique qualities. Casco created a scorecard detailing TrueLayer’s list of requirements, from cost effectiveness to feature set, and pitted each provider head-to-head.
OpenShift, while a feature-rich option, failed to make the cut due to its high price point. Casco says: “It was like, ‘guys, we’re a startup, how can you ask us for £1.3 million?’”
The DevOps team was keen to trial Amazon EKS, having had prior experience working with it and because the company’s entire architecture runs in AWS (Amazon Web Services). At the time, however, EKS didn’t have the right functionality for the team’s needs.
Casco comments, “Rancher Prime allows us to self-host our clusters, which is essential. This means we can make a host of changes to the cluster that we can’t in EKS.”
In January 2020 when trials concluded, TrueLayer selected Rancher Prime. There were two crucial reasons for this. Firstly, Rancher Prime is 100% open source – of significant importance to the team. Being completely open means TrueLayer can use any mix of technology, side-by-side on the same platform. It also means the team can switch out solutions and make changes in a contractive and controlled way, as the market and technical innovation evolves. The ability to flex with market changes, in a heterogenous way, made Rancher Prime a game-changer.
Secondly, Casco saw value in the burgeoning community sitting behind the platform, which gives him access to insight and best practices, as well as a faster route to resolve issues. Having a groundswell of cross-sector advice and access to existing knowledge was a major differentiator in the eyes of Casco and his team.
“Rancher Prime allows us to self-host our clusters, which is essential. This means we can make a host of changes to the cluster that we can’t in EKS.”
What were the challenges TrueLayer wanted to overcome?
The future of banking is open
A relatively new phenomenon, open banking is beginning to take its rightful place in the financial services mix. A recent report conducted by TrueLayer and YouGov showed whilst debit and credit cards remain the most popular ways to pay (50% of purchases over £200), digital wallets such as Apple Pay, PayPal and Google Pay, are fast becoming the norm.
In a recent article, Francesco Simoneschi, TrueLayer’s CEO wrote, “The problem is cards, which weren’t designed for online and have been retrofitted into current online payment flows. Newer digital approaches, such as Google Pay or Apple Pay, paper over those cracks but don’t change the fundamentals.”
Casco claims open APIs are the answer, “Many banks face unpicking decades of processes that can’t easily be accessed. Open APIs might seem alien to some traditional banks, but they hold the secret to the kind of frictionless banking customers want.”
Open banking relies on open APIs able to interface with myriad personal data locked in bank accounts that vary wildly in nature and location. In creating its open banking platform, TrueLayer knew it must underpin it with technologies that matched this philosophy. Only by creating an open, API-centric architecture could TrueLayer accelerate its vision.
Like TrueLayer, Rancher Prime is an API-first product. Everything Casco can do via Rancher Prime’s central UI can also be done via the RESTful API. This opens endless possibilities for programmatically interacting with TrueLayer’s clusters, from provisioning hosts, to installing Kubernetes, to deploying workloads via kubectl, to controlling applications launched via the Application Catalog.
Bringing control to a growing Kubernetes infrastructure
With automation a major benefit, the Rancher Prime platform has revolutionized how TrueLayer’s DevOps team operates. In Rancher Prime the team manages its five Kubernetes clusters in a vastly more efficient way. Compared to working with raw Kubernetes, the team can now automate what used to be laborious, hands-on processes; creating major resource savings and more time to innovate. Maintenance time has been dramatically improved; the team now resolves cluster issues 40% faster than before, while Rancher Prime’s support team is on hand to streamline the process.
Casco says, “Making changes could be hit-and-miss in the old methodology. Many scripts couldn’t be tested properly – in a sense we had to shoot and hope for the best. With automation, this is much easier, and far more predictable, which has radically simplified the management process.”
This, in turn, creates a seamless experience for the company’s rapidly expanding list of customers. An increase in development velocity is clear evidence of this. Rancher Prime allows TrueLayer to deploy improvements and new products more rapidly, as well as to upgrade to the latest version of Kubernetes much more easily than before. As a result, the company can stay on top of security and compliance regulations, critical for a startup in the fintech space.
“If a new version comes out tomorrow, we know Rancher Prime will test and release it in a very short timeframe, which was something we couldn’t count on with other solutions,” Casco concludes.
Enabling a multi cloud future
As a company built on open source, flexibility was key for TrueLayer. Unlike many other Kubernetes management platforms, Rancher Prime is 100% open source, which allows the startup to have full control over its clusters, while knowing it has the support of Rancher Prime behind it. With this in mind, the company has started looking forward to how its cloud architecture will evolve.
While all its systems are currently hosted on AWS, TrueLayer is planning to shift to a multi cloud strategy to capitalize on specific clouds for particular needs. Rancher Prime recognizes that forward-thinking organizations are looking to diversify their cloud operators, which is why the platform has been built to enable customers to deploy on multiple environments.
Rancher Prime is designed to support hybrid and multi cloud environments. The Rancher Prime team has long recognized the need for organizations to manage multiple Kubernetes clusters across different public clouds and private data centers. Rancher 2.0 was built to work with all Kubernetes clusters. Now, Rancher Prime 2.6 will bring full lifecycle management of Microsoft AKS and Google GKE, adding to existing support for Amazon EKS.
Full lifecycle management on all major hyperscalers enables customers to take advantage of the unique benefits of each public cloud’s Kubernetes service, while leveraging the consistent management, advanced features, and automation provided by Rancher Prime.
What’s next for TrueLayer?
Plotting its multi cloud strategy isn’t all that’s in TrueLayer’s roadmap. As the open banking industry expands, so will TrueLayer – the company is already planning to expand internationally in Europe and Asia. With Rancher Prime, this is no longer a daunting proposition for the company - the manual processes of old would have made this a difficult, time-consuming task. Rancher Prime will allow Casco and the team to expand services at a moment’s notice, anywhere in the world.