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How Airwallex leveraged Google Cloud to scale globally

May 10, 2024
Andy Chow

Chief of Staff, Technology, Airwallex

Cathy He

Engineering Manager, Airwallex

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On a mission to disrupt and transform the fintech industry, Airwallex is constantly innovating, embracing new technologies that can help businesses overcome international money transfer challenges so they can grow without borders. We aim to provide end-to-end solutions and currently offer services related to global payments, treasury and expense management, and embedded finance services. With our proprietary infrastructure, we can remove friction from global payments and financial operations, so that businesses of all sizes can unlock new opportunities for growth.

Our developers are at the heart of everything we do at Airwallex. We follow a “develop first, and deploy fast” mindset, which we believe has benefited our customers, and we are highly focused on finding a good balance between velocity and quality.To that end, our continuous Integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, which are run on Google Cloud and Gitlab, always need to be at optimum performance. Over the years, we’ve built a lot of integrations and have automated testing and validation, which enables us to deploy with confidence. 

Expanding into new markets globally with Google Cloud

During late 2018 to early 2019, we decided that it was time to grow our presence globally and began looking for a platform that would support our ambitions. We were already on a hybrid cloud with different providers, which made sense in our earlier days as it provided more support in the APAC region. However, our goals were different as we looked to expand, and we found that Google Cloud was best suited to meet our needs because of its well-established global network. Google Cloud’s highly connected cloud infrastructure and advanced inter-region capabilities meant that we could easily build out into different geographies. 

Together with the scalability of Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) and agility of BigQuery, our team has been able to take on projects that have become increasingly more complicated and challenging as we continue to extend our global network. 

Relying on the stability of Google Cloud for CI/CD

Airwallex relies on powerful and flexible APIs and CI/CD pipelines for seamless international money transfers, among other services. GitLab and GKE provide a scalable, always-available environment that enables us to respond to the rapidly changing security and market conditions. 

All our GitLab service components are run natively in GKE clusters. We use Cloud SQL, Google Cloud’s fully managed relational database as our GitLab database, and the cache service on Memorystore and Cloud Storage buckets act as our GitLab object storage. Some of our GitLab runners are also hosted on Compute Engine virtual machines. 

The diagram below illustrates how Google Cloud is integrated into our GitLab CI/CD pipelines:


A key benefit of Google Cloud is scalability. Running GitLab on GKE has provided us with immense benefits in terms of scalability and reliability. For example, the autoscaling of GKE and the Horizontal Port Autoscaling (HPA) feature of Kubernetes means we never have to worry about the load on GitLab. 

Kubernetes nodes can be autoscaled based on the node pressure, and the replicas can also be autoscaled based on the performance of containers. Our GKE clusters are deployed regionally across three zones, which improves the availability of our GitLab instance. Using Cloud SQL, we can guarantee a 99.95% SLA for our GitLab database, and we can deliver up to 99.999% availability by backing up the GitLab data on Cloud Storage buckets — building a truly global DevOps culture.

In the past, everything was manual, and it used to take us eight hours to deliver a release to production. With an automated CI/CD pipeline, we can deliver a change in less than an hour, including manual approvals from our stakeholders.

Identifying fraud efficiently with Vertex AI 

As a fintech company, data security is paramount. We need to ensure that we are working with verified institutions, which is why fraud detection is the first line of defense. In August 2023, we launched a new project using Vertex AI, focused on anti-money laundering and fraud analysis using generative AI technology. We implemented Vertex AI on our proprietary fraud detection system to scan any website that a customer gives us to determine its validity. After we verify that the website is legitimate, it is put through our other machine learning models to measure the risk of that website.

Prior to this, we relied on BigQuery to train our machine learning models to detect fraud on our system. With Vertex AI, we can detect fraud in real time, improving the speed and efficiency of our day-to-day operations and enabling us to react to potential fraud much quicker. However, we continue to use BigQuery to support other data-driven decision-making due to its minimal maintenance and high security. The serverless, highly scalable infrastructure of BigQuery makes it an incredibly economical tool. 

Delivering mission critical infrastructures with a trusted partner

For Airwallex, we collaborating with the Google Cloud Professional Services Organization (PSO) has been a game changer. The team’s willingness to share their in-depth knowledge on system designs and SRE practices inspire our engineers to continuously do their best work. Having a dedicated team to support us also gives us the confidence to experiment and develop new products quickly, knowing that our infrastructure is secure.

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