IN4IT Delivers Cake’s Secure, Scalable Banking App

IN4IT is an AWS Select Consulting Partner

Executive Summary

Startup Cake launched its banking app—rapidly and securely—with help from Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner IN4IT.

Using Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS), Amazon Athena, Amazon SageMaker, and AWS Glue, Cake now has thousands of users and an app that scales rapidly to meet spikes in demand with zero infrastructure downtime.

IN4IT Delivers Cake’s Secure, Scalable Banking App

Belgian startup Cake had a unique vision: a consumer banking app that would be secure and easy to use, and let people view and understand all of their financial activity from one place. The app would also feature a one-of-a-kind ingredient—revenue sharing, in which users regularly get part of Cake’s revenues.

As it prepared to launch in late 2018, Cake needed an IT partner that could make its app work as intended — securely, responsively, and scalably. That’s where Belgium-based IN4IT — a boutique consultancy and AWS Partner with a focus on remote-first and experience in DevOps and cloud architecture — entered the picture. IN4IT brought a deep understanding of AWS, and long experience of working with startups; that made it the right choice to take on the challenges facing Cake.

The app links to all of a user’s bank accounts, so security is critical. The app must also continually monitor and analyze financial activity to provide insights into user income, spending habits, and more. It has to anonymize and analyze activity data, packaging information into reports that commercial customers buy to understand consumer spending patterns across their markets. Cake also needs to share that commercial revenue with its active users. And its app needs to be scalable as the company grows.

“We built the platform from the start with security and high availability in mind, because if you’re launching an app, you install it and it doesn’t work, the first thing you do is remove it, right?” says Jorn Jambers, IN4IT Co-founder and Senior Cloud Architect.

IN4IT made it all happen, from greenfield to live app, in just over a year—less time than Cake had anticipated. Today, Cake has gone from some 200 alpha testers to thousands of users across Belgium. Next it plans to expand more widely across Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and then the rest of Europe.

Enterprise-Class Security from the Start

Financial services is a highly regulated industry, so Cake needed enterprise-grade levels of security—but on a startup’s budget. AWS’s pay-as-you-go pricing made that possible.

Cake also required many other services to link multiple customer bank accounts, monitor and analyze transactions, create commercial reports, and share revenue with users. This made for a complex architecture, because identification, verification, and authentication of users is critical.

IN4IT deployed Amazon SageMaker and AWS Glue for ETL and analytics, using Apache Spark and Amazon Athena for data queries and processing, and Amazon ECS for scalable container orchestration. AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) and AWS Key Management Service ensured data encryption and authentication of Cake users.

Using Amazon WorkSpaces, IN4IT eliminated the need to manage security on employees’ desktops and laptops. Cake’s developers can do all of their coding within AWS rather than managing any data locally.

To comply with strict financial regulations, IN4IT used AWS Config and the AWS Security Hub to define security policies and ensure continuous monitoring of AWS services. This allows Cake to quickly identify and resolve issues as they arise.

“Security isn’t a one-off job—it requires daily attention,” says Pieter Schelfhout, Head of Engineering at Cake. “These tools make it manageable for a small team like Cake to keep ahead of any problems that might occur.”

For secure revenue-sharing, Cake uses Amazon Athena with IAM. This works to define active users, aggregate and analyze their data, and push those results to Apache Spark for processing. Working across all of Cake’s different AWS services, this system manages revenue distributions and notifies users in real time via the Cake app.

Easier Working through Abstraction, Self-Service and Managed Services

Despite the complex architecture, IN4IT made sure the solution was easy for Cake to use. For example, IN4IT abstracted some flows within AWS using YAML files. These enable Cake’s developers to deploy services without having to understand the intricacies of, say, Amazon Elastic Container Service or Kubernetes—once developers are ready to launch a new service, the abstraction ensures proper deployment across Cake’s AWS environment.

Similarly, managed services made Cake’s life easier from the start. For instance, Amazon DynamoDB managed NoSQL database scales automatically as the volume of queries grows. This ensures reliable, stable performance, whatever the data throughput.

With Amazon Kinesis, Cake can smoothly collect, process, and analyze streaming data in real time. Kinesis offers easy management via an API, providing Cake with availability and stability that’s baked in from the start.

“IN4IT had the skills to set up our environments on AWS, was able to provide guidance on cloud architecture, and had the skill to also handle the operations,” says Schelfhout. “They also provide the flexibility needed when working with a startup where things move fast and directions can still change early on.”

"It Just Works"

“We wanted to have our first version of our application running within six months after we started,” Schelfhout says. An initial version to start building on arrived much faster than that: “IN4IT was able to get us off the ground and running in about two weeks. This allowed us to experiment freely with the platform while our development team worked out the first beta versions of the application.”

And it ensured that Cake’s app worked as intended upon launch, with zero infrastructure downtime from the start.

The built-in scalability has already been put to the test: when Cake’s revenue-sharing payments and notifications go out, they go out to all users at the same time. As a result, many users open and check the app at once. But this doesn’t set off alarm bells.

“It’s not like we have to get out of bed in the middle of the night and just start provisioning stuff,” says Jambers. “It’s like, oh, we had a massive spike and we didn’t have to do anything. It just works.”

“It just works” will be critical as Cake grows. Meanwhile, IN4IT provides ongoing guidance to control workloads and regularly monitors the environment to identify potential issues that could increase expenses, ensuring that Cake avoids unexpected developments.

Challenges Met, with Room to Grow

Financial services startups face many challenges to ensure their offerings are secure and compliant. With IN4IT’s help and AWS infrastructure and services, Cake successfully met these requirements while launching its banking app cost-effectively and ahead of schedule.

Cake

About Cake

Cake operates a profitable banking app that lets users manage all their financial accounts in one place and regularly pays them a share of its revenues.

About IN4IT

IN4IT provides AWS consulting services for its worldwide clientele. The team helps various organizations with architecting, building, and managing scalable and highly available environments on AWS. IN4IT's reputation as a source for expertise has established the company's presence worldwide and has led to work with top established companies and startups.

Published September 2020