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COULD BANKING ON CLOUD BE MORE SOLID THAN TERRA FIRMA?

Kurtosys is a global provider of digital marketing and client reporting tools designed to help asset managers attract and retain investor assets. The firm has been established since 2002 and provides a team of industry experts who specialise in using digital media to transform the way that financial information is presented, shared and consumed. The firm also offers fund factsheets, fund tools and a secure portal with all its products delivered in a hosted format.

Today Kurtosys develops APIs, web and mobile applications for what it calls simplified and beautified financial information. Given the company’s proximity to new and (in some cases) still emerging technologies, it is perhaps no surprise to find that the firm has aligned towards cloud computing efficiencies.

Traditionally, Kurtosys had built classic web applications, installed on a three-tier system with web servers, DMZ application servers and database servers. Today Rackspace serves Kurtosys with its own Rackspace Private Cloud plus Dedicated Servers, Dedicated Firewalls and Load Balancers products. This is no plug-and-play installation and so Rackspace engineers worked directly with the company to ensure smooth installation and operation from the start.

Customers of Kurtosys require a “no compromise” solution when it comes to security and privacy. In switching its hosted platform to the Cloud, Kurtosys needed to demonstrate that the new approach would offer equal, if not better, assurances in this matter.

“We have refactored from the ground up taking advantage of IaaS flexibility and automation tools to deliver the next generation of solutions for our customers. We have used the opportunity to improve on security in that development cycle,” said Harry Thompson, Kurtosys CTO & co-founder. “We also recognised the greater control that a managed cloud service offering could give us for our hosting operations. At the end of the day, I don’t want to have to run an IT infrastructure, I want to concentrate on delivering the applications that make us a world leader in reporting tools.”

OpenStack open cloud standards

Embracing the potential future use of Cloud computing, the company began virtualising all of its servers in 2007. OpenStack became a key choice in the path to open cloud services once the maturity of Cloud solutions became a realistic proposition a few years later. The firm surveyed and analysed the cloud hosting marketplace looking for a supplier with strong reputation for upfront managed services. Rackspace was that specialist cloud supplier reinforcing the security and service ethics at the center of the Kurtosys proposition.

It selected Rackspace as its service partner of choice for Private Cloud solutions. Known through its brand reputation for leadership in terms of community contributions to OpenStack open cloud standards, Rackspace primarily distinguishes itself on the strength of its technology, the effectiveness of its staff (known as Rackers) and the comprehensiveness of its service/support layer (known as Fanatical Support).

“Rackspace ticked a number of important must have criteria on what you could call our IT-evolution list,” said Thompson. “An important factor for us was the was ability to future-proof by using a cloud backbone and so therefore always stay ahead of the game. The complexity of our products means we need an sophisticated IT infrastructure underpinning them at all times; the responsibility of having to build and operate both the front and back end at the same time just didn’t make economic good sense in the long run.”

“Kurtosys already knew OpenStack well, and was seeking a global partner with the proper resources,” says Sab Knight, Rackspace UK Enterprise Sales. “To grow and expand globally, it needed a stable platform and minimal risk. Rackspace fit that profile and we have a reliable and enviable track record of OpenStack success as well.”

A rationale for cloud

Much of Kurtosys’ computational work is performed in short bursts on regular periodic cycles. The company may have workflow processes running intensively for one or two weeks a month, but these then shut down until they are needed further.

In terms of operation, Kurtosys creates software for asset managers to showcase data. So for optimal success, the company needs the flexibility to scale to client requirements as and when they cyclically fluctuate. This is essentially a perfect fit for cloud with its ability to turn services on and off in what is often a matter of minutes.

With the help of Rackspace, Kurtosys is currently using NoSQL, memSQL and Lucene ElasticSearch to boost responsive support. While Kurtosys still produces the traditional application that sits in front of the API, it also provides sample code that customers can integrate themselves into their own portals and use through other distribution channels.

“Working with Rackspace feels like we have an extension of our own team and we know everyone on a first name basis. Since the information we’re providing must be available at all times, the presence of Rackspace allows us to focus on what we do best, and Rackspace takes care of the infrastructure so that we can be disruptive and innovative for the future,” said Thompson.

As of 2014 Kurtosys uses Rackspace services out of both the United States and the United Kingdom, with plans to expand in the near future. The company has the ability to standardise its current computing environment in any of Rackspace’s global data centres. From Australia to Hong Kong to the UK, the company can (if a customer needs them to) deploy the exact same offerings with the same people and equipment through Rackspace operations.

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