Exclusive Interview with Akshay Soam, Chief Technology Officer, Seracle

Exclusive Interview with Akshay Soam, Chief Technology Officer, Seracle

With lots of fans and critics, blockchain, with its apps and blockchain development tools are growing in popularity to unimaginable heights. It is becoming the buzzword where even a normal company changing its name and business model according to the blockchain hype is leading to higher profits. Founded in 2018, Seracle enables developers to develop and create apps on blockchain very fast, with the full support of the Seracle blockchain experts. Analytics Insight has engaged in an exclusive interview with Akshay Soam, Chief Technology Officer, Seracle.

1. What was the business problem? How was it identified and by whom?

Founded in 2018, Seracle enables developers to develop and create apps on blockchain very fast, with the full support of the Seracle blockchain experts. Seracle has quickly grown to become more than a USD $100 million business employing over 100 staff and with offices across India, Singapore, Thailand, and Canada. We work with a wide range of industries, in banking, agriculture, and travel which are increasingly reliant on blockchain technology. Over the last two years, during the pandemic, we have seen a remarkable uptake in the number of people investing in crypto, as well as the use of blockchain tech by other organizations hence keeping pace with this newfound demand, was an important element. This is where our technical team identified some significant issues.

As an early-stage start-up, we built a lot of our crypto and web 3.0 infrastructure on our own, using the services of a cloud provider that offered basic capabilities. We knew that we would need to handle and prioritize a wide variety of data types and hence, chose MongoDB as our core database which we managed ourselves. But our team of developers quickly needed extra scalability to support the business' strong growth. We also needed to overcome the challenges that came with having to manage growing data complexity so we could continue to improve performance and reliability.

While an average day would see about 3,000 users on the Seracle platform, this number could go up to between 12,000 and 18,000 new registrations per day following marketing campaigns. It was important our developers could scale up and down on-demand to manage transaction volumes. The development team also had to continually make changes and release updates to keep up with the quickly evolving Crypto landscape. While this was all possible with our existing infrastructure, it required a large investment in developer time and more capital resources.

We also had an important analytics and visualization challenge:  getting a holistic picture of all up-to-date data was a pain. We were using Kibana and had to sync all our different data sources into ElasticSearch, just to generate reports. This was time-consuming and created other problems like multiple copies of data and the risk the data would be out of date by the time it was shared. The syncing issues often caused downtime and would make queries inefficient.

Finally, Seracle's initial data infrastructure didn't allow for different sets of data from different projects, each having different privacy and security requirements based on each country or region, to be aggregated in a single database. As more customers from a wide range of countries were onboarded, we required extra security capabilities and built-in compliance for every conceivable geographic region, but it couldn't compromise the customer experience.

2. How did you and your team settle on this solution to the business problem?

Once we had identified the problems, we started figuring out ways to resolve these and make our system much more reliable and efficient.

In our quest to be able to support scaling up of clients, we upgraded to MongoDB Atlas, the fully managed cloud database service. With MongoDB Atlas, our developers no longer had to worry about the infrastructure and management of the database – think scaling, security, optimization, etc. MongoDB manages all of that in the backend and enables our developers to focus on building and releasing applications. It saves time and cost for us as a company. We migrated away from Digital Ocean to host MongoDB Atlas on AWS, which provided the company with extra flexibility and scalability. We currently heavily rely on AWS, and the ability to have MongoDB via AWS was a big selling point.

MongoDB Charts have helped us solve the BI problem we were facing. Charts are built on a drag and drop interface, so users can perform custom queries and doesn't require data movement or the use of a querying language. Once a data source is selected in Charts, updates happen in real-time, so syncing is a non-issue even across lots of different data sets.

3. What was the build/creation process like? How long did it take? Were there any hiccups or surprises?

We recently migrated one of our marquee customers- to Atlas. In all, the entire migration process took about 40-50 days. The migration was a perfect opportunity for us to revisit its cloud layer and overcome the flexibility and scalability limitations of our cloud provider and we also moved to AWS. The second stage of the migration included the move to MongoDB Charts for analytics.

We were handheld by MongoDB through the entire build /creation process and this made the whole process of migration as well as implementation seamless. The team at MongoDB, hosted one-on-one sessions with our technical team to better understand our architecture and gave us suggestions on how to improve our platform. The always-on support from people who know the database inside and out gave us a lot of added value. Developers can now focus on what matters the most: driving innovation and supporting customers instead of just managing the database and issues such as queries, sync, security, compliance, and more. Together, the MongoDB platform, MongoDB Atlas and Charts are helping drive forward one of the most modern and exciting areas of technology, pushing the boundaries of what our platform can offer.

4. What was the most challenging aspect for you (as CIO) and how did you address that challenge?

Working with data has always been the hardest part of building and evolving applications. And for us, performance and reliability are key.

MongoDB has provided us with the flexibility to move fast and simplify how we build data for any application. With MongoDB's application data platform, our team can use one interface, for any application, and run it anywhere. This provides us with resilience, nearly infinite scalability, and best-in-class security, with multi-cloud deployment flexibility. The MongoDB Atlas platform has helped us immensely in operational tooling and management while freeing up developer time. Another important aspect is the charts, which have added huge value for us by enabling better and easier analytics and access by having everything in one place.

5. What were the results? Has the project transformed your business in unexpected ways? Has it led to identifying additional opportunities?

We now have a more efficient trading mechanism and can now go beyond 15000 trades per sec with no trouble. This directly translates to better performance and cost savings for Seracle's clients. Customers are able to make more money because they can process more transactions. The analytics element also results in the creation of more targeted products and a better understanding of customer needs. Compared to Kibana, MongoDB Atlas's Charts can more easily and quickly handle a large – and exponentially growing – number of data sets. Atlas on AWS provides us with extra flexibility and scalability. That means the company can scale up and down to respond to any promotional activity or anything in a particular region without having any issues or downside.

We can also now more easily control where and how data is accessed. This could be stored on local servers or separated data into distinct clusters and we can do this with a few clicks. So now we can comply with different regional rules more easily, whether that's European customers that need to comply with GDPR or with APAC customers that also have their own specific compliance requirements.

6. Any advice or best practices you'd like to share with other CIOs that may be facing similar business challenges or undertaking similar projects?

Well, first I have to say to tech leaders if you're looking for crypto or blockchain services, there are world-class solutions out there that can radically transform how you do business. Just call me! Working with MongoDB helps ensure we can offer industry-leading reliability, robustness, and security.

It makes more sense to plug into an already built solution like Seracle, than build the whole tech stack from the ground up. Companies can reduce costs as well as save precious time in terms of Go-to-Market by using an already existing solution. Doing what we have done from scratch, building your own infrastructure would take at least 3 years and over 40 developers. Thanks to MongoDB we were able to build what we've built much faster, and with fewer developers. We plan to onboard more customers in 2022 and will continue relying on MongoDB to power our growth as well as sustain its innovation efforts in an industry that is fast growing.

It is better to focus on your areas of expertise and strengths and leave the rest to the other experts as we have done with databases and MongoDB.

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