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iZettle Case Study

2016

iZettle is growing its payments business in markets across three continents by using AWS. The company’s payment solutions—some of the first of their kind to meet international security standards—allow individuals and small businesses to accept card payments through iOS and Android smartphones. The company runs most of its infrastructure, including its mission-critical payments platforms, on AWS.

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Database queries that took six seconds now take three seconds in our AWS infrastructure. That’s 100% faster.”

Johannes Löfgren
Head of DevOps and Infrastructure, iZettle

The Challenge

iZettle has always had a strong focus on DevOps. Its six-strong team of DevOps engineers have the task of making the startup’s vision a reality. “We want to empower small businesses to prosper,” says Johannes Löfgren, head of DevOps and infrastructure at iZettle. “We come to work every day to build game-changing services and apps that help our customers run their businesses efficiently.”

This drive to innovate has seen the company expand operations globally. “Although our offices are in Stockholm, our products are used by hundreds of thousands of small businesses in 12 countries across three continents,” says Löfgren. “We’re a global organization, so we require a global IT infrastructure to ensure low latency to customers.”

Using a traditional hosting provider for its payments services was becoming increasingly challenging. The iZettle team wanted easy control of its architecture and the flexibility to develop services quickly. Given the sensitive nature of the financial data that its systems handle, Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance was an essential requirement of any technology iZettle used in its infrastructure.

Why Amazon Web Services

Having already used Amazon Web Services (AWS) to run its public-facing website, iZettle started exploring other AWS services in more detail, with a view to moving other parts of its infrastructure to the cloud. “We immediately saw that we could cover all the regions we required—and more,” says Löfgren. He and his team then began migrating operations from a local data center to AWS.

To ensure global availability, iZettle works across three AWS regions—US West (N. California), South America (São Paulo), and EU (Ireland)—with multiple Availability Zones in each. Its AWS resources sit within an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC). The company uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), with Elastic Load Balancing automatically distributing loads between multiple EC2 instances, and Auto Scaling to deal with capacity provision. iZettle moved its databases from local data centers to Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), and uses Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) for block-level storage. The company employs Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) and Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) as part of its messaging solution. AWS Config provides a complete inventory of resources and Amazon CloudWatch is used for monitoring log files.

Networking is crucial to keep latency low. For this, iZettle uses Amazon Route 53. Löfgren says, “Providing a card payment service is a real-time operation that requires a backend with low network latency. We make this possible through the global presence of AWS in combination with Amazon Route 53.” AWS Direct Connect provides a dedicated network connection to the firm’s cryptography hardware.

The last piece of the project—but the most crucial—was the migration of the company’s core system. This comprises all the activities involved in moving money around, from fund clearance to credit-checking processes provided by third parties. Löfgren says: “The migration was complex. We work with many third parties, including banks and other financial institutions, and all the connections had to be secure from day one. Plus, we had to work to different sets of regulations in 12 different markets. Thanks to our meticulous planning and our AWS technology, we managed to achieve all of this seamlessly.”

The Benefits

Before, iZettle was paying for expensive solid state drives (SSDs) but using only 10% of the IOPS capacity. “Since we migrated the core system—the heart of which is our 600-gigabyte master database—we’ve recorded a significant improvement in performance,” says Löfgren. “Database queries that took 6 seconds now take 3 seconds in our AWS infrastructure. That’s 100% faster. And, by paying only for what we use with Elastic Block Store, we can achieve high performance more cost-effectively.”

To successfully deliver its services, iZettle relies on multiple third-party financial institutions across the 12 markets that it serves. Working with a PCI-compliant provider with a range of tools to help secure connections between these organizations ensures iZettle is able to support its global ambitions.

“AWS is great if you’re expanding like we are,” Löfgren says. “It gives us a way to securely operate our global infrastructure with no need for our IT staff to travel around the world. It took just two years from being deployed only in Sweden to being present in three continents. That type of speed is impossible if you want to use traditional IT.” Not only does this help provide operational savings, but it also means there are no limits to the startup’s expansion into developing markets. “We run our Mexico business from the AWS US West region in California and our Brazil operations from São Paulo. We know that if we were to branch out into other markets in Central or South America—or indeed in Asia Pacific—we would be covered with AWS. I feel confident that AWS is supporting our ambitions for growth,” says Löfgren.

He is equally enthusiastic about the need for fast development processes. “We run multiple ongoing development projects that require us to have an agile infrastructure for a fast time to market,” he says. “With traditional hosting, it can take up to a month just to provision a new server. Using the AWS API, together with some creative scripting, we can set up a fully working payment dev environment within 90 minutes.”

Löfgren concludes, “Our clients rely on us to provide a real-time service. It doesn’t take a lot for a potential customer to walk away if a transaction isn’t being processed quickly enough. Businesses need fast card payments, and we can deliver those on an international scale using AWS.”


About iZettle

iZettle is growing its payments business in markets across three continents by using AWS.


AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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Auto Scaling

AWS Auto Scaling monitors your applications and automatically adjusts capacity to maintain steady, predictable performance at the lowest possible cost.

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Amazon VPC

Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) lets you provision a logically isolated section of the AWS Cloud where you can launch AWS resources in a virtual network that you define.

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Amazon EBS

Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) is an easy to use, high performance block storage service designed for use with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) for both throughput and transaction intensive workloads at any scale.

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Amazon RDS

Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud.

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Amazon SNS

Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) is a highly available, durable, secure, fully managed pub/sub messaging service that enables you to decouple microservices, distributed systems, and serverless applications.

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Elastic Load Balancing

Elastic Load Balancing automatically distributes incoming application traffic across multiple targets, such as Amazon EC2 instances, containers, IP addresses, and Lambda functions.

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Amazon SQS

Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) is a fully managed message queuing service that enables you to decouple and scale microservices, distributed systems, and serverless applications.

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