Transforming the Developer Experience with
VMware Tanzu Application Platform

Merchants and financial services institutions worldwide rely on Fiserv solutions to process payments, power e-commerce and make digital transactions easier. To retain its competitive edge, the company needed to attract and keep the best talent, which demanded modern app development and modern programming languages. After building a modern, cloud native stack on two proprietary cloud platforms, Fiserv ported its self-service Developer Studio to the cloud-agnostic VMware Tanzu Application Platform, empowering developers to create smarter, build faster and collaborate more effectively.

Enabling the exchange of money and information

Fiserv is a global provider of payments and technology solutions for merchants and financial services institutions, enabling the exchange of money and information for tens of thousands of businesses and millions of customers daily. In a nonstop digital world, Fiserv solutions support 24x7 credit and debit card processing, embedded API-enabled fintech solutions, and hundreds of fintech merchant solutions from Apple Pay to Clover to Gyft.

Fiserv supports a customer base of almost 10,000 financial institutions, processes 12,000 transactions per second and serves more than 1.4 billion global accounts. In 2021, the company recorded revenues of USD $16.22 billion.

"Cartographer is a game changer. It gives us a consistent supply chain we can use across all Fiserv teams without locking them into using one tool.”

—Ganesh Venkataraman, Chief Technology Officer, Fiserv Digital Technology Transformation Team

Modernizing the developer environment

To keep pace in a fiercely competitive, device-forward market, Fiserv must continually develop and release high-performing apps, products and services at scale. The quality of the development environment is crucial to attracting top talent and key to business success. To provide its developers with the most advanced engineering environment, Fiserv needed a modern stack in a cloud-agnostic environment.

Over its 35-year history, Fiserv has developed a portfolio of products with hundreds of endpoints and a robust catalog of more than 500 APIs. With many solutions under development by disparate teams, the fragmented environment needed to be more consistent, but because of different platforms and portals that slowed modern application development, the company needed a modern development environment to meet and serve its customers where they were.

“One banking client might use 24 different products from us, running on multiple clouds. Dealing with that was our problem, not the client’s problem, but different teams had different ways of working. Integrations were manual and generated a ton of paperwork,” explains Tom Eck, senior vice president of digital transformation, Fiserv. “We needed a top-down mandate that standardized communication and made better use of APIs.”

Fiserv decided to unify its environment and build a modern stack to support its goal of becoming cloud native, offering API-driven solutions, and reducing the time developers spend on administrative tasks.

“If my developers aren’t coding 85 percent of the time, something’s wrong. It’s my job to remove obstacles that are getting in the way and give my team the right tools to innovate at speed,” says Eck. Moving quickly demands cultural change and a growth mindset that inspires developers to create boldly.

“We move about USD $1.3 trillion per year, so we can’t afford to make mistakes or have security problems. We need the right technology, culture and mindset.”

To give developers fast access to the resources they need around the clock, Fiserv wanted to centralize resources on one self-service portal and move into a modern, cloud native environment that can support microservices and Kubernetes. The portal also needed secure sandboxes to enable the team to experiment without risking service disruption.

"We’re a tiny team, and we really punch above our weight in terms of the impact we can have on development.”

—Tom Eck, Senior Vice President of Digital Transformation, Fiserv

Centralizing developer resources on a self-service portal

Fiserv Developer Studio catalogs developer services on a single platform—a one-stop developer shop. Initially deployed on two different public cloud services, Fiserv moved the entire operation to VMware Tanzu Application Platform in one month with support from VMware architects.

“We partnered with VMware because it all has the solutions we need to make the developer experience better straight out of the box,” says Ganesh Venkataraman, chief technology officer, digital technology transformation, Fiserv. “We had two goals. First, to support delivery while maintaining governance over how solutions are built so they can be launched across multiple clouds. And second, making provisioning cloud resources easier.” Known internally as “the tip of the spear,” Venkataraman’s team includes the most skilled engineers and architects assigned to address the company’s most challenging technical issues.

More innovative ways of working accompanied the creation of Developer Studio

“As we moved toward modern apps and microservices, we discovered ‘force multipliers,’ which increase efficacy, such as VMware application accelerators, and customizable templates imbued with security and observability,” says Eck. “This helped developers who were less familiar with microservices get on the path to production quickly and safely.”

Accelerating development with blueprints

Rather than creating every new solution from scratch, developers now build blueprints to template other solutions, accelerating product development and scale. Using the Cartographer feature embedded in VMware Tanzu Application Platform, developers can define more effective pathways to production that can undergo security reviews more quickly, making them available for all engineering teams.

“Cartographer is a game changer,” says Venkataraman. “It gives us a consistent supply chain we can use across all Fiserv teams without locking them into using one tool. We still have the foundation of developer freedom, and the DevOps experience is phenomenal.”

The team is also incorporating observability into its operations. Using VMware Aria Operations for Applications, Fiserv gains high-level visibility of analytics and insights across the whole environment, mitigating the challenges of pinpointing issues with microservices.

"We partnered with VMware because it has all the solutions we need to really make the developer experience better right out of the box.”

—Ganesh Venkataraman, Chief Technology Officer, Fiserv Digital Technology Transformation Team

Award-winning developer experiences

For all its robust functionality, Fiserv Developer Studio is also an elegant, usable interface, earning a 2022 Webby Award for best mobile visual design function. But the design is no accident. “We take the developer experience very seriously,” says Eck. “We’re very proud of Developer Studio. Our team can access all the code, APIs and documentation they need from a single point of entry. It’s all self-service. Developers never need to pick up the phone to say they can’t find something. It’s all there.”

Another way the company employs force multipliers is to magnify the impact of its senior infrastructure engineers. Investing in upskilling the whole team can be expensive and moving from monolithic development to microservices can be a significant shift. The company’s skilled engineers develop automated processes that can be reused, enabling the rest of the team to learn new skills gradually without slowing down development or risking any outages to critical infrastructure.

“We’re a tiny team, but we really punch above our weight in terms of the impact we can have on development. We’re collaborative and supportive of each other,” says Eck.

With VMware Tanzu Application Platform, Fiserv can give developers the best tools and environment to bring innovative new solutions to market quickly, helping protect its competitive advantage against fintech startups and making it easier to break into new markets.

Reducing maintenance in the future

Looking forward, Fiserv plans to roll out VMware Tanzu Service Mesh™, built on VMware NSX®, which supplies advanced, end-to-end connectivity, security and insights for the modern applications Fiserv develops, encompassing end users, microservices, APIs and data, to align its work against Service Level Objectives (SLOs) and data protection and privacy regulations.

“VMware Tanzu Service Mesh will provide an abstraction layer to deal with issues such as securing service-to-service communication and encryption, and managing autoscaling policies at the node level,” says Venkataraman. “These fall outside the scope of what a developer should be doing, but VMware will make it easier to keep all of our services consistent.”