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Orkes Case study

United Wholesale MortgageFully Automates Application Bootstrapping, Delivers Swift Business Results via Orkes Conductor

Orkes Conductor, hosted on Orkes Cloud, enabled United Wholesale Mortgage to slash application and microservices delivery time from months to minutes

Pontiac, Michigan-based United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM) is the largest overall mortgage lender in the nation. One of the reasons for UWM's success is its focus on building the best technology to help its mortgage broker partners deliver an exceptional experience for their borrowers. That requires an unparalleled focus on the experiences of both their partners and the borrowers — and the technology necessary to run a modern, constantly changing business.
As businesses grow, so do the development and operational demands placed upon DevOps teams. This is a challenge Andy French, AVP of Platform Automation at UWM, understands well.
The DevOps team at UWM found it increasingly challenging to build and manage the infrastructure behind their continuous development pipeline in a way that allowed developers to consistently move code forward efficiently. That meant applications didn't move from development into production as timely as the team wanted. Whether it was a complete desktop application or a microservice, it could take months to get software fully deployed to production.
"We needed to identify a solution that addressed these needs," said French. "Our DevOps Architect, Joseph Karp, understood that we needed to find a way to help our developers move quickly. We empowered the team to find a way to automate our application bootstrapping process and optimize speed while offering a stable, manageable development pipeline."


Wholesale Mortgage Lending

Business Problem

To reduce the time to deploy, UWM sought to automate application bootstrapping.

Why UWM Chose Orkes Cloud

  • Other options failed to provide the visibility and manageability UWM sought.
  • Orkes Cloud enables UWM to orchestrate their microservices at scale reliably.
  • Orkes Cloud UI makes it easy to bring new users into Orkes Cloud.
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"Thanks to Orkes Cloud, we barely have to think about orchestration or managing our complex workflows. Our DevOps Architects don't have to spend 95% of their managing Conductor; they can focus on creating new services and features,"
– Andy French, AVP of Platform Automation, United Wholesale Mortgage

UWM's path to automated application bootstrapping

French explained that while searching for a solution, the team considered several potential technologies and architectures. One consideration was building real-time streaming data pipelines and applications. But, coordinating that infrastructure to support their developers proved overly complex, with too many potential points of failure. "In those environments, it's tough to keep track of the general status and system failures," French said.
The team also explored infrastructure-as-code tools but learned from previous experience that communication and manageability would be a bottleneck in their environment. "With those technologies, you hit a maximum in how far you can go, and you can't go any further," he said. "You have to be able to make failure cases; you have to be able to retry things and have visibility when something fails. You can then fix that part of the infrastructure and restart it where you left off," he added.
The team also worked on improving processes they already had in place, including reducing UWM's time frame to deploy an application to about a month. "We just couldn't get it any faster than that. When you're trying to move fast, and you're trying to be agile, it's tough to tell a team working in 2-week sprints that they can't do anything for a month because the organization can't spin up a new service in time," French explained.
After careful consideration, the team recommended Conductor, delivered via the Orkes Cloud, and when he explained why, French agreed.

Conductor delivered via the Orkes Cloud "just works"

Because of the efficiency with which Conductor manages workflows and orchestrates services with control and visibility into their interactions, the UWM team selected Conductor as their workflow orchestration engine. They wanted to invest more time building workflows and microservices, so they decided the enterprise-grade and fully managed Conductor, delivered via the Orkes Cloud, was the optimal choice.
Orkes Cloud is a cloud-based, fully managed platform that delivers Conductor and helps to improve microservices management. Orkes Cloud provides the workflow engine for managing complex, long-running tasks across multiple microservices. Their web-based user interface enables UWM's team to monitor and debug workflows more readily, and Orkes Cloud provides them with comprehensive logs and metrics for each task. Organizations use Orkes Cloud with Conductor to improve their microservice-based applications' visibility, reliability, and scalability, and it enables microservices to be deployed and managed on any cloud services provider or on-site.
French explained that before Orkes, they tried to manage their Conductor installation in-house. They created a Helm chart for Conductor and manually managed the entire deployment. "Our team created an elaborate process to build and manage a single Conductor instance, but it wasn't the most stable of setups, and we couldn't attain anything that reached high availability," French said. "It was hard to back up and manage. Our next choice was looking for a managed solution, and Orkes fit that bill very nicely."
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"If you manage Conductor manually, your teams must deal with a lot of overhead daily. With Orkes, Conductor just works. That's what makes it so great. All of the management and security is literally out of the box," said French.
French added that the user interface within Orkes is quite an improvement over what's native with Conductor. For instance, the Orkes UI Builder has helped new teams get up to speed. "Whenever Joseph and the team introduce new people to Orkes, using Orkes' UI enables them to build their workflows very quickly."
With Conductor delivered via the Orkes Cloud, UWM's DevOps team slashed the time to deliver microservices from over a month to within minutes.

The payoff: UWM fully automates application bootstrapping

Automating their application bootstrapping processes was the initial, primary objective for UWM's Conductor deployment. UWM called the new system Keystone.
Previously, various groups within UWM would build specific capabilities to run applications or microservices that would include teams creating the code repositories, establishing the DNS, providing security certificates, and application testing capabilities. To build Keystone, the DevOps team gathered the processes each group undertook to create those capabilities. "We went to each team and codified their processes into a microservice. That enabled us to iterate quickly and get Keystone running within three months," said French.
With Keystone, developers only need to complete a simple form. Keystone then automatically generates everything to make a new microservice, including the codebase repository, security certificates, and the DNS, and it even provides a basic development pipeline. The system supplies the Kubernetes clusters, creates the namespaces, and automates the creation of logging capabilities. Within a couple of minutes, developers have everything they need to build a new microservice.
To date, the system has automated the creation of 153 microservices. "It used to take us a month or two to create a microservice in-house. We can now do it in 2-3 minutes. This saves UWM thousands of work hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.

UWM plans to further expand Conductor on Orkes Cloud

The UWM team continues to extend their use of Conductor on Orkes Cloud. For instance, because of the sheer volume of electronic documents that must be signed during the ordinary course of UWM's business, the central online commercial electronic agreement management system UWM was using couldn't handle its volume. So UWM created its own electronic agreement management system, which entails a considerable amount of sensitive third-party data that must be removed. Conductor on Orkes Cloud allowed the team to create a workflow that removes the data when UWM is done with it. "We're planning to continue to add more capabilities in the future," French emphasized.
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"I can't stress enough how much Orkes Cloud has helped us over the past year to get our microservices efforts off the ground and accelerate this process. And our development teams love Orkes because they can quickly make the microservices they need. Our development teams can automate anything they want. It's very empowering,"
French said.
– Andy French, AVP of Platform Automation, United Wholesale Mortgage