WEX Increases Scale and Agility on AWS by Shifting Payments to the Cloud
WEX is one of the largest global commercial card issuers and payment processors in the world. But as the company looked to expand even further, it found that its on-premises infrastructure made increasing scale for volume, performance, and dependability cumbersome due to its growth. WEX found itself spending more and more time maintaining its physical hardware stacks to keep pace with rapid growth while also needing to significantly scale those stacks—in some cases overnight—to meet the demands of new financial institutions and financial technology partners.
To address this issue, WEX embarked on a multiyear digital transformation strategy to migrate critical processing environments to the cloud on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Using a suite of AWS services—including Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS), which provides a simple, scalable, fully managed elastic file system for use in AWS services and on-premises resources—WEX rapidly scaled multiple payment services for its customers without having to manage lengthy order, procurement, and implementation processes for physical servers.
AWS helps us achieve rapid time to market with new features. Now we’re able to focus our time on enhancing solutions versus supporting the underlying infrastructure.”
Senior Vice President of Product and Strategy, Corporate Payment Solutions, WEX
Scaling Up to Meet an Ever-Increasing Need
Processing over $120 billion in payments annually, WEX focuses on transactions across four main divisions—corporate payments, travel, healthcare, and fleet. As WEX added some of the world’s largest virtual card portfolios and online travel agencies to its client roster, it was clear the company needed to rethink its tech infrastructure. WEX had to simultaneously scale up the number of payments processed and reduce the amount of time it took to process those payments.
“The financial technology payments space requires immediate scalability with subsecond response times for creating and processing cards,” says Mark Aquilina, senior vice president of product and strategy for corporate payment solutions at WEX. “Before we migrated to AWS, it took us 2 to 3 seconds to generate cards and facilitate card payments. After migrating our proprietary processing environment to AWS, we were able to process almost all card requests in subseconds. This has been critical to our success in signing multiple large global online travel agencies and financial technology partners.”
WEX considered multiple cloud providers and chose AWS because of its size, scale, and ease of use. Plus, the tech tools AWS provided put it over the top in WEX’s evaluation. “The primary reason for migrating to AWS was so that WEX could maintain multiple services—across our card processing, card management, and payment delivery functions—that are instantly scalable, highly deliverable, and distributed in the cloud,” says Aquilina.
Using Cloud Capabilities to Stay above the Competition
WEX began building on AWS in 2014, starting its digital transformation process by developing its payment processing engine and supplier services for its financial institution customers. For those large customers that sometimes completed over 500 million transactions per day, WEX needed a solution that enhanced uptime and dependability while also enabling the company to scale rapidly in response to future growth opportunities.
To accomplish this massive project successfully, teams from WEX consulted AWS, and the team from AWS took the time to learn and understand WEX’s business. “It wasn’t just a lift and shift,” says Aquilina. “It was a thoughtful migration to the cloud. AWS made recommendations, reviewed our plans, responded to our request for new features, and helped streamline our larger migration moves.” In addition to using Amazon EFS, the company used Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), which makes it simple to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud.
WEX also used Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity designed to make cloud computing simpler for developers, and Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), a high-performance block storage service designed for use in Amazon EC2 for transaction-intensive workloads—like the ones WEX was deploying in the cloud. “Because we’re not manually purchasing and deploying infrastructure and server racks, we can build, experiment with, and deploy solutions on AWS very quickly,” says Aquilina. “There are many things we can now do with ease on AWS that were extremely difficult and time consuming for us to do before.”
One challenge for WEX—and in the business-to-business space at large—is developing systems and services that bridge the gap between accounts payable and accounts receivable. Invoices generated from accounts-payable systems are often challenging for accounts-receivable systems to interpret. But by using AWS services, WEX was able to build connectivity and interpretation layers between its cloud-based card-issuing and merchant-payments services that help bridge the gap between the two market spaces. “We can facilitate data-rich payments from buyers to suppliers with ease and scale those services up quickly on AWS, and that creates a unique position for WEX in the marketplace—one that we think is completely unmatched by any other provider,” says Aquilina.
WEX has been able to migrate multiple corporate payment services to AWS, enabling the company to create new features for its customers and develop new analytics tools for itself. “AWS is really effective in making recommendations that help us achieve rapid time to market with new features,” says Aquilina. “Now we’re able to focus our time on enhancing solutions versus supporting the underlying infrastructure.”
Automating Payments around the World
WEX is localized in six countries and issues in 21 currencies. “We have the ability to scale in many places and with many currencies and capabilities,” Aquilina says. “We could never have achieved this level of global scale, or such a rich capability set, without having the nimbleness and the scalability of the cloud.”
WEX is working on migrating its payment delivery service onto AWS next. This migration, slated for early 2021, will enable WEX to use its industry-leading payment robotics tools to automate the placement and delivery of payments to partners and merchants all around the world. By the fourth quarter of 2021, WEX plans on migrating its EnCompass service—a front-end card account management system for clients—to AWS.
For WEX, building natively on AWS means the company has more freedom to experiment with new features to entice new customers, as well as the scalability to bring those customers on quickly and simply. “Some of our largest legacy services—like our Transact Global (TAG) card processing service—have been cloud native since 2014,” says Aquilina. “And our resulting nimbleness and agility in serving our partners has been a key differentiator that continues to enable WEX to outpace its competitors.”
Powered by the belief that complex payment systems can be made simple, WEX is a leading financial technology service provider across a wide spectrum of sectors, including fleet, travel, and healthcare.
Benefits of AWS
- Built services that were instantly scalable and highly deliverable
- Reduced the need to constantly maintain physical hardware stacks
- Increased its speed for building and deploying solutions
- Decreased time to facilitate card payments from multiple seconds to subseconds
AWS Services Used
Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS) provides a simple, scalable, fully managed elastic NFS file system for use with AWS Cloud services and on-premises resources.
Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud.
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.
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud.
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