Over the past two decades, Xtiva has learned a lot from our customers about what is needed to succeed in the changing market of providing effective financial advice, products and services. We have also learned a lot about their pain points and stressors when it comes to technology investments. Without a doubt, the “how long will this investment last us?” question is second only to “what value will it deliver for us.”
It is our viewpoint that, as we look to the next two decades, financial advice and service providers are going to need robust and scalable technology platforms that are secure and compliant, enable integration with our technologies, are extensible and perhaps most importantly, can rapidly transform vast data stores into actionable insights that can drive growth and profitability through day-to-day deployment in business processes. They also need these investments not just to last, BUT to grow and evolve with the firm and the environment.
Case in point: In 2020, it is estimated we will generate 50 times the amount of data generated in 2011 from 75 times the number of information sources. We think it is fair to assume that Financial Services will be on front end of that volume. Unparalleled opportunities exist within this data and the XtivaCloud platform was designed to enable customers to capitalize on those opportunities in a highly integrated fashion.
XtivaCloud is based on the disruptive premise that to leverage this data explosion and deliver actionable insight and significantly more value to our customers we needed to re-engineer our solution. Our main goal when designing this new platform was to challenge the traditional barriers that exist in legacy technology. Barriers that limit the extraction of value across tools and data. By overcoming old-school thinking, we offer our customers a technology platform that can deliver near real-time access to an incredible array of data-driven business insights and business tools.
What is a Reactive Software Platform?
In the past two years, we re-engineered the XtivaCloud platform based on the principles of reactive software design, and it represents a new generation of development and architecture thinking intended to meet the real-world demands of financial services businesses and support the flexibility they need to respond to changes in the future. As the number and quality of digital solutions has spread throughout the financial services industry, the list of mission-critical business applications has grown significantly. These business applications need to function and perform consistently under a variety of demanding conditions – conditions that didn’t exist a decade or more ago – that challenge the capabilities of traditional software architectures and their inherent performance limitations.
See also: Glossary of Reactive Software Systems.
XtivaCloud is built on the following four principles of a reactive software design:
- Responsive – The system responds to users in a timely manner and performs consistently. Responsiveness is the foundation of usability. It also means that problems are detected and dealt with quickly by the system in a way that is transparent to performance, while minimizing the need for human interventions.
- Resilient – The system functions even in the face of failure. It is designed so that components are isolated and failures can be contained and overcome without affecting the overall responsiveness of the system.
- Elastic – The system stays performs consistently under various workloads. It can react to workloads and increase or decrease processing capacity, as needed.
- Message-driven – The system relies on asynchronous message passing and virtual hosting across a cluster of geographically diverse hosts. This overcomes the scalability limitations inherent in central database architectures.
Benefits for Financial Services Businesses
These aspects of XtivaCloud allow it to deliver several key benefits to our clients in a variety of financial services businesses.
1. Rapid time to value
As a true software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, XtivaCloud enables clients to get up and running much more quickly than traditional software systems. Since the infrastructure is completely virtualized, capacity can be ramped up to whatever level the client needs almost instantaneously – avoiding the substantial installation, testing, networking, and hardware provisioning that is required with traditional technology stacks.
Adding a customer’s business logic is also considerably easier and more reliable than old school approaches because the new platform is configuration-based. No hard coding is needed to accommodate custom business rules. This is made possible by a flexible user interface, which you can skin to your company’s standards, and configurable microservices accompanied by a rules-based library of templates to support rapid configuration of the key services (eg., compensation templates). The benefit is your configurations easily survive upgrades and are performant.
Our business applications are a collection of microservices that communicate with each other through a set of internal APIs, and we can also expose related APIs externally, yet securely, to extend the application functionality and benefits to other tools outside the XtivaCloud platform.
This approach has the additional benefit of greatly simplifying the integration of disparate data sources, including those from our customer’s other systems, which are often not based on similar architecture. Through the use of microservices, we are able to extract data from legacy systems, via API’s, and even through old-school file transfer (anybody recall the world of “EDI”?). Beyond legacy data sources, lies the brave new world of data-as-a-service (DaaS) and the plethora of data which is relevant to our customer’s business operations, but which is likely to be sourced from a growing variety of external, or even public, platforms. Market and industry aggregators, consumer and index data publishers, geodata, even weather data, has a place in the insight-driven world of monetizing financial advice.
2. High system availability
XtivaCloud offers 24/7 system support, with the ability to guarantee service-levels (SLAs). The responsive architecture enables the system to monitor itself in terms of its resource usage. As usage increases in any given dimension, the platform recognizes this and either expands temporarily on its own, or alerts an operator to increase capacity, depending upon the parameters. Because of the way XtivaCloud manages the virtualized infrastructure, the platform offers incredible scale, redundancy, and guaranteed access from geographically diverse locations. So, even if the AWS cloud has a catastrophic outage in some region (hardware, natural disaster, terrorist event, etc.), the application will continue to function for our customers.
Our enhanced ability to communicate with customer systems via APIs has also removed many traditional single points of failure. For example, in traditional systems, if a client experiences an internal system failure and can’t deliver us a file via a scheduled batch process, the options for recovery are very limited, often complicated and manual. Using APIs, the Xtiva system can receive the data as soon as it is ready (or indeed, as parts of the data are ready). Even partial processing is possible, as XtivaCloud seeks to deliver as much data value per unit time as the incoming data will permit. This “highest common denominator” approach assures that even in cases of upstream file failures, the maximum possible process has already taken place while administrators resolve root causes in parallel.
3. High performance
Built to support hundreds of thousands of users and billions of transactions and other data elements each month, XtivaCloud’s responsive architecture delivers virtually unlimited performance scalability. With traditional database architecture, you can add a certain amount of hardware to a performance problem, but that becomes self-limiting by inherent database issues (eg., table locks, table joins, query performance, etc.). Once you have massive amounts of data in your database and you attempt to manipulate it with a lot of users simultaneously, you run into inevitable performance issues.
The underlying design of XtivaCloud (Elasticsearch and CQRS patterns that separate read/write operations are key elements of the design) breaks those traditional limits at the foundational level. This allows for more cost-effective and responsive scaling, because the characteristics associated with “reads” vs. “writes” (“queries” vs. “commands” in CQRS parlance) differ significantly. In the old world, the database computing resources were scaled together, while XtivaCloud leverages the freedom to scale separately to mimic the behavior of these two very differently behaving system actions. For example, running huge multi-gig-to-terabyte nightly batches of file-oriented inputs (“commands”) from a finite number of sources demands a completely different scaling strategy than supporting responsive user sessions for hundreds of thousands of interactive human users throughout the business day. XtivaCloud is built for these asymmetric, asynchronous scaling demands.
4. Rock solid security
XtivaCloud provides an industry leading security infrastructure for ensuring physical security, data encryption, and application security. Hosted in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud, the XtivaCloud platform leverages AWS’s world-class-security model and adds layers of protections beyond that. The footprint of our application is containerized and hosted in the cloud, therefore, by design, we only use the capacity that we need and actually destroy what’s not being used. Traditional data centers are required to have excess capacity to handle processing load peaks and redundancy needs. By definition, we have a smaller footprint (fewer access points, networking, firewalls, etc.) which limits our attack profile. In addition, we have smart microservices which understand the entitlements of the users exercising them. Monitoring for attack patterns and thwarting them with both traditional and virtualized strategies is a part of the XtivaCloud advantage.
5. Designed for compliance
The XtivaCloud platform is built with compliance and regulatory audit requirements in mind. At its core are permanent immutable records – once they’re written, records cannot be deleted, though records can be added that modify previous ones. Unlike database in which records can be removed and edited so no trace exists, the CQRS patterns in the XtivaCloud platform are similar to a private blockchain – clear, chronological and immutable records.
An industry standard, fully compliant third-party identity management system (Auth0) ensures up-to-date security protocols are always in place. Even if the system was subject to attack, there would be a record of what was altered because an attacker cannot over-write records.
The XtivaCloud hosting and infrastructure will be certified to SSAE 16 auditing standards to ensure compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley requirements to show effective internal controls covering financial reporting. The AWS cloud itself can be HIPPA and PCI compliant, however, XtivaCloud app does not currently encompass that information.
6. Powerful collaboration and workflow capabilities
XtivaCloud’s built-in collaboration and workflow tools enable effective and efficient communication, internally, with customers and with value-added third-party applications and services that enrich the customer’s value.
Unlike other legacy back-office systems, all user roles the business application is broken down into a series of intelligent microservices that know about each other and about the data upon which they work, so that the proper workflow, order of business and data events are preserved and users can tell by the context and the user interface where in the process they are at any given point.
A great example of the complex workflow logic capabilities of XtivaCloud is the Error Correction Service (ECS) which is a collection of logical, data-cleansing workflows that highlight inbound data issues and step the administrative users through clear activities to resolve the issues quickly and with an audit trail. The ECS is synchronized with the Automated Error Detection capabilities of the Data Loading Service (which includes traditional ETLs from reference data sources like clearinghouses and customer’s own legacy systems) such that all the anticipatable types of inbound source data errors, omissions and duplicates are deciphered on the way into the system, and are retained in a “data quarantine” until known issues have been resolved via the ECS workflows.
Other examples of collaborative workflows include the seamless meshing of several layers of business-rule calculations, (e.g.; compensation calculations or sales enablement models) which leverage the Graph Computing power of the XtivaCloud system to ensure that the right person or entity receives the appropriate visibility and credit or debit for each aspect of the calculation rules. In the future, these same XtivaCloud workflow capabilities will be leveraged for machine-to-machine collaborations via APIs, data integration/aggregation and graph analytics.
7. Easy integration and aggregation of data
XtivaCloud enables a unified view of all the unique and disparate data sources required to run a financial services business. Integration of enriched data from virtually any third-party data source is enabled by a combination of our API strategy and microservices. And the architecture means that the limiting factors associated with traditional data models are completely overcome making it easy to integrate all manner of disparate data into XtivaCloud and instantly make it available for query.
Because we leverage structures including Elasticsearch for persistence of information in a fashion much more similar to the web itself (in contrast with traditional database-based data models) we don’t need to predetermine nor limit ourselves to the “known relationships in the data”. Instead, just like Googling a topic across the public web, we can construct new and unforeseeable Elasticsearch Queries, which are managed by their associated microservices, to quickly expose new insights from existing data. Likewise, the incorporation of third-party and unstructured data is straightforward, because we are not limited by table/row models.
Beyond the flexibility for Elasticsearch to index huge data sets quickly, we have also added Graph Computing functionality to the XtivaCloud architecture. This unique and powerful method for expressing and discovering relationships within the data provides a near infinitely extensible alternative to traditional data modelling. Now with XtivaCloud, we can easily commemorate new and nuanced relationships across datasets, regardless of where they dwell (inside or outside of our system), and organize these relationships around the business topics most relevant to our customer’s needs – particularly powerful since, as we all know, those needs are dynamically changing over time.
See also: Glossary of Reactive Software Systems.
Technology platforms are increasingly important in determining which financial services companies will survive and thrive in the digital age – and which ones won’t. Financial technology must meet a growing list of requirements in order to succeed – it must be robust and resilient, flexible in managing complex products and business processes, secure and compliant, and scalable in its capacity to integrate ever-growing unstructured data sets.
Not only can XtivaCloud deliver significant improvements to daily operational performance and capabilities, but it will also position Xtiva customers strongly for a period of unprecedented change in the financial services industry.