Hometrack Australia

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Reducing risk in residential real estate

Client: Hometrack Australia

Industry: Real Estate

Solution: Data Centre, Managed Infrastructure

Location: Australia


Project

Founded in 2007 through the expansion of a United Kingdom-based business, Hometrack Australia provides residential property data and valuations to banks, mortgage lenders, mortgage insurers and the real-estate industry. “Our software integrates into the critical workflows of businesses such as banks to provide data-driven automated property valuations within a few seconds. We also return several risk metrics such as our level of confidence around the valuation accuracy and other customer guided indicators,” says David Sirr, Chief Technology Officer, Hometrack Australia. “These help the financial institution make an informed risk decision whether to proceed with the deal or escalate it, requiring a more expensive valuation type that may require a valuer to visit the property in question and potentially adding days to the approval time.”

Challenges

  • Reduce infrastructure costs, including equipment purchases
  • Deliver 99.99% system uptime to exceed customer service level agreements
  • Support rapid growth of the company and expansion of products offered
  • Enable reliable recovery from disasters with minimal disruption to customers

Solutions

  • NTT ICT data centre with in-house Network Operations Centre
  • Professional services/consultancy
  • Managed infrastructure services
  • Cost-effective procurement via NTT ICT technology partners

Benefits

  • Achieved near 100% system uptime
  • Established complex, highly redundant and resilient infrastructure
  • Delivered highly responsive, infrastructure maintenance services
  • Achieved cost savings of up to 50% on hardware and license procurement

Founded in 2007 through the expansion of a United Kingdom-based business, Hometrack Australia provides residential property data and valuations to banks, mortgage lenders, mortgage insurers and the real-estate industry. “Our software integrates into the critical workflows of businesses such as banks to provide data-driven automated property valuations within a few seconds. We also return several risk metrics such as our level of confidence around the valuation accuracy and other customer guided indicators,” says David Sirr, Chief Technology Officer, Hometrack Australia. “These help the financial institution make an informed risk decision whether to proceed with the deal or escalate it, requiring a more expensive valuation type that may require a valuer to visit the property in question and potentially adding days to the approval time.”


Challenges: Provide a reliable, responsive service

Hometrack launched in Australia with a small team and without dedicated infrastructure experts. The business planned to find a partner that could help architect, deliver and support the solution, as well as manage the required hardware and network layer on a daily basis.

However, the partner selected by Hometrack Australia was unfamiliar with the start-up’s architecture and Sirr felt it was comparatively slow to resolve issues. “These problems were exacerbated by the fact the partner was headquartered in another state and only has a single engineer managing all their Sydney-based infrastructure. They were additionally located a long distance from the data centre, resulting in a travel delay to address any on-site problems,” Sirr says. “This meant that we would have to wait for a resolution while potentially risking service to our customers in key financial sectors.” Compromising the availability of financial services companies’ systems would not only risk Hometrack Australia’s revenue and reputation, but potentially contribute to loss of business for its customers. In addition, the business had to ensure the infrastructure was secure enough not to provide an access point for malicious individuals to gain access to sensitive customer or government data, or for such data to leak inadvertently.


Solution: Security, performance and uptime prompt Hometrack Australia to select NTT ICT

In 2012, Hometrack Australia went to tender with four leading managed infrastructure providers and selected NTT ICT as its provider. “We chose NTT ICT due to its very strong track record and the fact its data centres in Sydney had an excellent reputation for security, performance and uptime,” Sirr says. “Another reason was the fact that its Network Operations Centre was located within its primary data centre, rather than in distant corporate offices, enabling its engineers to address issues in a timely fashion.”

Hometrack Australia incorporated a number of service level agreements (SLAs) into its contract with NTT ICT, including a requirement for system uptime of 99.99 percent. To meet these SLAs and comply with financial industry regulations, NTT ICT designed a robust, highly available infrastructure to deliver Hometrack Australia’s property valuation and risk products. This infrastructure is modular and based on market-leading technologies, including Cisco and Juniper Networks’ firewall and switching products, F5 load balancing across physical and virtual infrastructures, Dell PowerEdge R820 servers, VMware server virtualisation products, Pure Storage all-flash storage arrays, and Microsoft SQL Server databases.

“We opted for a private cloud design with two data centres operating in an active-passive configuration for high availability and disaster recovery,” says Sirr. “We have constant database replication between the two sites and an intelligent load-balancing layer sitting in front of the application layer. If an outage occurs, this layer can ‘sense’ which data centre is active and automatically route traffic over a private dedicated link between the sites. This model enables us to avoid undertaking a traditional whole-site failover, and avoid impacting our customers.”

“NTT ICT helped us design and set up the complex firewall and load-balancing layers, the networking stack, enterprise-class storage area networks, sever clustering and hypervisor layer that delivers server virtualisation,” Sirr adds. With Hometrack Australia designing the application and databases to scale, the infrastructure is easily capable of supporting a sizeable increase in traffic volumes.”

Hometrack Australia then completed a six-month test of application performance and solution availability on the new infrastructure.

WE WANT TO BE BULLETPROOF IN OUR DELIVERY TO MEET CUSTOMER AND REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS AND NTT ICT IS HELPING US ACHIEVE THAT.

 


Benefits: Reduction of downtime and cost-effectiveness prompt contract renewal

Hometrack Australia has re-signed with NTT ICT for another three years and could not be happier with the service it receives. “With NTT ICT, we’ve always been treated as a first-class citizen, and its customer support team has gone out of its way to familiarise itself with the infrastructure components of our solution,” Sirr says. “We feel that we can trust them and speak to senior team members about our circumstances anytime we need to.”

Hometrack Australia has grown from about six people when it signed its first contract with NTT ICT in 2012 to 20 database engineers, application developers, infrastructure specialists and quantitative experts. The business is providing automated valuation services to each of Australia’s Big Four banks and is continuing to build new business quickly among second-tier banks and mortgage lenders. “We’re continuing to mature and win new business with NTT ICT as our managed infrastructure partner,” Sirr says. “We expect to see that continue for at least the next three years.”

The move to NTT ICT has also delivered Hometrack Australia a 16% savings relative to its previous infrastructure services provider. In addition, NTT ICT’s purchasing power and deep relationships with technology vendors has paid off, with Hometrack Australia able to acquire networking equipment through the service provider for up to 50 percent saving over a competitor’s quoted price.

THE MOVE TO NTT ICT HAS ALSO DELIVERED HOMETRACK AUSTRALIA A 16% SAVING RELATIVE TO ITS PREVIOUS INFRASTRUCTURE SERVICES PROVIDER

In addition, NTT ICT has helped the business achieve what Sirr describes as an “amazing” track record on service uptime. “We have only had one hour of unplanned downtime on our core products within the last three and a half years and this has been critical to our success,” he says. “Our products operate within the core workflows of banks and other businesses, and needs to be responsive and available to support thousands of transactions across our client base every day.” “These products also support processes that touch on all areas of property and are central to internal risk decision-making, so availability and performance are the key things for us,” Sirr adds.“We want to be bulletproof in our delivery to meet customer and regulatory requirements, and NTT ICT is helping us achieve that.”

 

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