Controversial pay-day money lender Wonga.com has moved its development infrastructure on to Amazon Web Services to speed up software deployment and empower development teams, according to its CTO.
Chief technology officer Jonathan Galore, in his role at the short-term, high interest creditor since 2011, told an audience at Cloud Expo Europe in London that Wonga's goal was to empower development teams by being able to spin up servers when needed, while removing the reliance on their system administration team.
"We've been able to eliminate dependence on physical infrastructure," Galore said, "and now we only need one software engineering team with the know-how to support our infrastructure."
Galore said Wonga employed over 100 in-house software engineers, based in Dublin, London and Kiev and operating in global markets including South Africa and Poland as well as the UK.
Previously with all 22 small teams relying on a single small infrastructure team with limited development capabilities, Galore said, there were often bottlenecks slowing down deployment and software updates.
Despite these bottlenecks, Wonga has managed to achieve incredible growth since it was founded in 2006, becoming the first company to use fully-automated risk processing technology to provide short-term, unsecured personal loans online and via user friendly mobile devices.
The start-up, however, was the focus of an attack by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who sits on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, and was criticised by the government for its interest APRs which can be around 5000%. However, the Mirror also revealed in 2012 that Adrian Beecroft, chairman of Dawn Capital – the venture capitalist behind Wonga – was a major donor to the Conservative Party since David Cameron came to power in 2010, and it was subsequently revealed that Wonga executives paid large sums of money to dine with Tory MPs during the party's conference that same year in order to discuss "business-friendly policies".
Despite poor press criticising the lender of praying on the vulnerable, it returned profits in 2011 of £45.8 million on revenue £185 million, although this included payments from its UK trading name to a Swiss company also owned by the parent organisation.
The negative PR surrounding Wonga, despite its success, was eventually so severe that it even set up the organisation OpenWonga to educate the public about the company. Ironically, however, the Guardian reported abusive Tweets sent to MP Stella Creasy – who was proposing an interest rate cap – shared the same 'sock-puppet' username as comments on the Silicon Roundabout Reboot blog whose IP address was registered to the OpenWonga editor. The comments on the blog were defending Wonga as a "rare British tech success story", although the abusive tweets concerned the mental health of Creasy.
Galore said that once AWS put a focus on creating environments for financial services, automating their infrastructure with Amazon became an easy decision. The fear from developers was having a cloud infrastructure that would slow things down and restrict flexibility, but Galore said that with AWS they were able to balance these concerns with price and security.
Galore said that although Wonga hasn't been running is software development infrastructure on AWS for a long time, initial findings show the company's dev teams as "twice as productive, and are releasing updates a lot more frequently".
But the CTO explained that Wonga had not yet seen much financial upside to moving onto AWS.
"We haven't found the cost to be significantly different to running your own data centre," he said. "But we're not doing this on a large scale yet."