Officially founded in October 2014, Ant Financial
originated from Alipay
, the world’s largest online payment platform that launched in 2004. The company also offers numerous other services leveraging technology innovation. With the volume of transactions Alipay handles for its 900+ million users worldwide (through its local and global partners)—256,000 transactions per second at the peak of Double 11 Singles Day 2017, and total gross merchandise value of $31 billion for Singles Day 2018—not to mention that of its other services, Ant Financial faces “data processing challenge in a whole new way,” says Haojie Hang, who is responsible for Product Management for the Storage and Compute Group. “We see three major problems of operating at that scale: how to provide real-time compute, storage, and processing capability, for instance to make real-time recommendations for fraud detection; how to provide intelligence on top of this data, because there’s too much data and then we’re not getting enough insight; and how to apply security in the application level, in the middleware level, the system level, even the chip level.” In order to provide reliable and consistent services to its customers, Ant Financial embraced containers in early 2014, and soon needed an orchestration solution for the tens-of-thousands-of-node clusters in its data centers.
After investigating several technologies, the team chose Kubernetes
for orchestration, as well as a number of other CNCF projects, including Prometheus
. “In late 2016, we decided that Kubernetes will be the de facto standard,” says Hang. “Looking back, we made the right bet on the right technology. But then we needed to move the production workload from the legacy infrastructure to the latest Kubernetes-enabled platform, and that took some time, because we are very careful in terms of reliability and consistency.” All core financial systems were containerized by November 2017, and the migration to Kubernetes is ongoing.
“We’ve seen at least tenfold in improvement in terms of the operations with cloud native technology, which means you can have tenfold increase in terms of output,” says Hang. Ant also provides its fully integrated financial cloud platform to business partners around the world, and hopes to power the next generation of digital banking with deep experience in service innovation and technology expertise. Hang says the team hasn’t begun to focus on optimizing the Kubernetes platform, either: “Because we’re still in the hyper growth stage, we’re not in a mode where we do cost saving yet.”