How NerdWallet makes use of AWS and Apache Hudi to construct a serverless, real-time analytics platform


This can be a visitor put up by Kevin Chun, Employees Software program Engineer in Core Engineering at NerdWallet.

NerdWallet’s mission is to offer readability for all of life’s monetary choices. This covers a various set of subjects: from choosing the proper bank card, to managing your spending, to discovering the most effective private mortgage, to refinancing your mortgage. Because of this, NerdWallet presents highly effective capabilities that span throughout quite a few domains, comparable to credit score monitoring and alerting, dashboards for monitoring web value and money circulation, machine studying (ML)-driven suggestions, and plenty of extra for hundreds of thousands of customers.

To construct a cohesive and performant expertise for our customers, we’d like to have the ability to use giant volumes of various person knowledge sourced by a number of impartial groups. This requires a powerful knowledge tradition together with a set of information infrastructure and self-serve tooling that allows creativity and collaboration.

On this put up, we define a use case that demonstrates how NerdWallet is scaling its knowledge ecosystem by constructing a serverless pipeline that allows streaming knowledge from throughout the corporate. We iterated on two completely different architectures. We clarify the challenges we bumped into with the preliminary design and the advantages we achieved by utilizing Apache Hudi and extra AWS companies within the second design.

Drawback assertion

NerdWallet captures a large quantity of spending knowledge. This knowledge is used to construct useful dashboards and actionable insights for customers. The info is saved in an Amazon Aurora cluster. Though the Aurora cluster works properly as an On-line Transaction Processing (OLTP) engine, it’s not appropriate for giant, complicated On-line Analytical Processing (OLAP) queries. Because of this, we will’t expose direct database entry to analysts and knowledge engineers. The info house owners have to resolve requests with new knowledge derivations on learn replicas. As the information quantity and the variety of information shoppers and requests develop, this course of will get tougher to keep up. As well as, knowledge scientists principally require knowledge information entry from an object retailer like Amazon Easy Storage Service (Amazon S3).

We determined to discover options the place all shoppers can independently fulfill their very own knowledge requests safely and scalably utilizing open-standard tooling and protocols. Drawing inspiration from the knowledge mesh paradigm, we designed a knowledge lake primarily based on Amazon S3 that decouples knowledge producers from shoppers whereas offering a self-serve, security-compliant, and scalable set of tooling that’s simple to provision.

Preliminary design

The next diagram illustrates the structure of the preliminary design.

The design included the next key elements:

  1. We selected AWS Information Migration Service (AWS DMS) as a result of it’s a managed service that facilitates the motion of information from varied knowledge shops comparable to relational and NoSQL databases into Amazon S3. AWS DMS permits one-time migration and ongoing replication with change knowledge seize (CDC) to maintain the supply and goal knowledge shops in sync.
  2. We selected Amazon S3 as the muse for our knowledge lake due to its scalability, sturdiness, and suppleness. You may seamlessly enhance storage from gigabytes to petabytes, paying just for what you employ. It’s designed to offer 11 9s of sturdiness. It helps structured, semi-structured, and unstructured knowledge, and has native integration with a broad portfolio of AWS companies.
  3. AWS Glue is a totally managed knowledge integration service. AWS Glue makes it simpler to categorize, clear, rework, and reliably switch knowledge between completely different knowledge shops.
  4. Amazon Athena is a serverless interactive question engine that makes it simple to research knowledge straight in Amazon S3 utilizing customary SQL. Athena scales mechanically—working queries in parallel—so outcomes are quick, even with giant datasets, excessive concurrency, and sophisticated queries.

This structure works high quality with small testing datasets. Nevertheless, the crew rapidly bumped into problems with the manufacturing datasets at scale.


The crew encountered the next challenges:

  • Lengthy batch processing time and complexed transformation logic – A single run of the Spark batch job took 2–3 hours to finish, and we ended up getting a pretty big AWS invoice when testing towards billions of information. The core drawback was that we needed to reconstruct the most recent state and rewrite your entire set of information per partition for each job run, even when the incremental modifications have been a single document of the partition. After we scaled that to hundreds of distinctive transactions per second, we rapidly noticed the degradation in transformation efficiency.
  • Elevated complexity with numerous purchasers – This workload contained hundreds of thousands of purchasers, and one frequent question sample was to filter by single consumer ID. There have been quite a few optimizations that we have been compelled to tack on, comparable to predicate pushdowns, tuning the Parquet file dimension, utilizing a bucketed partition scheme, and extra. As extra knowledge house owners adopted this structure, we must customise every of those optimizations for his or her knowledge fashions and client question patterns.
  • Restricted extendibility for real-time use instances – This batch extract, rework, and cargo (ETL) structure wasn’t going to scale to deal with hourly updates of hundreds of information upserts per second. As well as, it could be difficult for the information platform crew to maintain up with the various real-time analytical wants. Incremental queries, time-travel queries, improved latency, and so forth would require heavy funding over a protracted time frame. Enhancing on this problem would open up potentialities like near-real-time ML inference and event-based alerting.

With all these limitations of the preliminary design, we determined to go all-in on an actual incremental processing framework.


The next diagram illustrates our up to date design. To help real-time use instances, we added Amazon Kinesis Information Streams, AWS Lambda, Amazon Kinesis Information Firehose and Amazon Easy Notification Service (Amazon SNS) into the structure.

The up to date elements are as follows:

  1. Amazon Kinesis Information Streams is a serverless streaming knowledge service that makes it simple to seize, course of, and retailer knowledge streams. We arrange a Kinesis knowledge stream as a goal for AWS DMS. The info stream collects the CDC logs.
  2. We use a Lambda operate to remodel the CDC information. We apply schema validation and knowledge enrichment on the document degree within the Lambda operate. The remodeled outcomes are revealed to a second Kinesis knowledge stream for the information lake consumption and an Amazon SNS subject in order that modifications might be fanned out to varied downstream programs.
  3. Downstream programs can subscribe to the Amazon SNS subject and take real-time actions (inside seconds) primarily based on the CDC logs. This will help use instances like anomaly detection and event-based alerting.
  4. To resolve the issue of lengthy batch processing time, we use Apache Hudi file format to retailer the information and carry out streaming ETL utilizing AWS Glue streaming jobs. Apache Hudi is an open-source transactional knowledge lake framework that significantly simplifies incremental knowledge processing and knowledge pipeline improvement. Hudi means that you can construct streaming knowledge lakes with incremental knowledge pipelines, with help for transactions, record-level updates, and deletes on knowledge saved in knowledge lakes. Hudi integrates properly with varied AWS analytics companies comparable to AWS Glue, Amazon EMR, and Athena, which makes it a simple extension of our earlier structure. Whereas Apache Hudi solves the record-level replace and delete challenges, AWS Glue streaming jobs convert the long-running batch transformations into low-latency micro-batch transformations. We use the AWS Glue Connector for Apache Hudi to import the Apache Hudi dependencies within the AWS Glue streaming job and write remodeled knowledge to Amazon S3 repeatedly. Hudi does all of the heavy lifting of record-level upserts, whereas we merely configure the author and rework the information into Hudi Copy-on-Write desk kind. With Hudi on AWS Glue streaming jobs, we cut back the information freshness latency for our core datasets from hours to below quarter-hour.
  5. To resolve the partition challenges for top cardinality UUIDs, we use the bucketing approach. Bucketing teams knowledge primarily based on particular columns collectively inside a single partition. These columns are generally known as bucket keys. Once you group associated knowledge collectively right into a single bucket (a file inside a partition), you considerably cut back the quantity of information scanned by Athena, thereby enhancing question efficiency and decreasing value. Our current queries are filtered on the person ID already, so we considerably enhance the efficiency of our Athena utilization with out having to rewrite queries by utilizing bucketed person IDs because the partition scheme. For instance, the next code reveals complete spending per person in particular classes:
    FROM "{{DATABASE}}"."{{TABLE}}"

  1. Our knowledge scientist crew can entry the dataset and carry out ML mannequin coaching utilizing Amazon SageMaker.
  2. We preserve a duplicate of the uncooked CDC logs in Amazon S3 by way of Amazon Kinesis Information Firehose.


In the long run, we landed on a serverless stream processing structure that may scale to hundreds of writes per second inside minutes of freshness on our knowledge lakes. We’ve rolled out to our first high-volume crew! At our present scale, the Hudi job is processing roughly 1.75 MiB per second per AWS Glue employee, which might mechanically scale up and down (because of AWS Glue auto scaling). We’ve additionally noticed an excellent enchancment of end-to-end freshness at lower than 5 minutes resulting from Hudi’s incremental upserts vs. our first try.

With Hudi on Amazon S3, we’ve constructed a high-leverage basis to personalize our customers’ experiences. Groups that personal knowledge can now share their knowledge throughout the group with reliability and efficiency traits constructed right into a cookie-cutter resolution. This permits our knowledge shoppers to construct extra subtle indicators to offer readability for all of life’s monetary choices.

We hope that this put up will encourage your group to construct a real-time analytics platform utilizing serverless applied sciences to speed up your enterprise objectives.

Concerning the authors

Kevin Chun is a Employees Software program Engineer in Core Engineering at NerdWallet. He builds knowledge infrastructure and tooling to assist NerdWallet present readability for all of life’s monetary choices.

Dylan Qu is a Specialist Options Architect centered on huge knowledge and analytics with Amazon Net Companies. He helps prospects architect and construct extremely scalable, performant, and safe cloud-based options on AWS.


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