Executive summary

  • With Spot by NetApp, finova reduces Azure compute spend for their internal development & testing environment by almost 70%.
  • finova’s stateful workloads now run on Azure spot VMs with the same consistency they had before. Spot VMs now account for as much as 98.5% of the project scope (i.e., the VMs populating finova’s Dev & QA Azure estate).
  • finova has visibility into cloud spend by team, successfully implemented cost accountability, and is able to make informed decisions about future cloud budget allocation.
  • finova plans to roll out this successful cloud optimization model to some of their other Azure environments, which are four times bigger than Dev & Test. This will help finova deliver a more competitive product offering to the highly-demanding finance sector.


Client overview


finova is a B2B fintech company offering SaaS-based open-architecture software to help their clients in the mortgage, lending, and savings sectors in the UK.

finova is the leading mortgage and savings technology provider in the UK with more than 200 financial institutes using their mortgage platform. Their brokerage solution has helped more than 3,000 brokers, while their core banking platform serves around 60 lenders. finova’s customer portfolio includes global clients like Investec, Santander, Metro Bank, and Aldermore. They offers a suite of modular software that helps their clients speed up their application processes through intuitive interfaces and achieve operational efficiency.


Technical characteristics

finova chose Microsoft Azure as their primary cloud service provider. Their entire development lifecycle is hosted in Azure. One estate runs development and testing, while the other is dedicated for production. Further, they require a specific cluster for every customer as finova offers unique, client-specific bespoke customizations of their solution.

At any given period, finova’s development team had hundreds of on-demand Azure VMs running, making it a costly setup. Their compute spend on developing, testing, and production exceeded £1M per annum.


Industry requirements

The disruptive nature of the fintech sector requires engineering buy-in for any infrastructure-related software investment. It was also clear that to reduce compute bill, spend accountability had to be fostered on the engineering side.

To achieve engineering buy-in and accountability, cost reduction alone is not enough. It must be accompanied by increased productivity, namely more compute power and more business impact delivered on the same number of resources.

Furthermore, the great sensitivity of financial data sets lofty standards for third-party software solutions, especially infrastructure-related ones. These must be proven, enterprise-grade, SLA-backed solutions, that contribute towards solid, sustainable architecture fundamentals.



finova, on the surface, was very satisfied with the Azure cloud platform. Azure VMs had optimal technical capabilities for finova’s single-VM workloads. However, on the operational side, finova did face some challenges related to overspending and mismanagement of cloud infrastructure.


Overspending on dedicated Azure VMs

finova’s cloud development infrastructure consists of many single-VM stateful workloads. To prevent overprovisioning, or interruptions to development operations, finova relied on Azure’s pay-as-you-go cost model for VMs.

finova before Spot: underprovisioning
finova before Spot: underprovisioning

finova could save a great deal by using Azure spot VMs. Azure spot VMs are excess cloud capacity offered by Azure at 90% discount, against the trade-off that these instances can become unavailable without any notice. Without proper guardrails in place, this makes running critical workloads on these low-cost resources highly risky — a chance that finova didn’t want to take with their client environments.

Yet as finova grew, senior managers and directors became concerned about the increasing cloud costs and were looking at new ways to keep track of resource requirements and spending.

Within the Azure portal, although they could see the information related to subscriptions, tenancy, and usage patterns, finova personnel had difficulty analyzing the data to optimize and improve resource management. The teams were unable to understand which instances can be better utilized to improve the overall cloud consumption. Azure gave them surface-level reports without any actionable models or recommendations.


Manual optimization exhausted

In their operational setup, finova had non-standard and non-conformant development environments that had different specifications and run times, causing increasing VM count and Azure costs.

finova’s engineering leadership was well aware of that. Richard Marsh, finova’s director of operations, led an initiative to assess the sprawling cloud environments and bring down the number of VMs, compute use hours, and developers’ unsupervised ability to start up and scale up more servers.

“Azure’s optimization approach is one of reporting and recommendations. We needed more than that,” Marsh explains.
This initiative decreased finova’s VM count to just over 100, compared to some 1,200 beforehand. Now, with finova’s growth mindset, the focus shifted to minimizing the cost of VMs. This already required a shift in finova’s compute consumption model — for which finova needed a solid partner.


Maximizing savings with Spot by NetApp

The making of a partnership

finova has had a longstanding relationship with UK-based licensed Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP) Crayon. As an acclaimed Azure Expert MSP, Crayon’s mission is to maximize client return on Azure investments through optimized performance and controlled costs.

After a few years of rapid growth and doubling their customer base, finova was looking to mitigate increasing compute costs, make infrastructure management easier, and achieve greater scalability. Crayon set to find a solution that balances budget optimization, productivity enhancement, and utmost reliability. And that solution was Spot by NetApp.


The proof-of-concept

Crayon recommended that finova deploy Spot to their dev & test environment first. This environment was one of finova’s main centers of compute spend, mostly incurred by stateful single-VM workloads. Therefore, Spot’s Stateful Node for Azure fit like a glove for finova’s requirements. Tailored to the single-VM use case, it allowed these stateful workloads to run safely on Azure spot VMs, which are 90% cheaper than the pay-as-you-go option used by finova until then.

“Spot by NetApp looked too good to be true on the marketing side, but we were technically convinced once we understood how the solution worked,” says Marsh.

Spot enabled finova to safely and easily use Azure Spot VMs for their single VM, stateful workloads. Typically, spot VMs are recommended for scaling, stateless workloads, but Spot by NetApp’s Stateful Nodes changes that by adding data and networking persistence (“state”) to Azure Spot VMs. This guarantees workload continuity through the replacement of an evicted spot VM with a new one.

Fallback options further guaranteed that a stateful workload persists even through temporary unavailability of spot VMs. Workloads can fall back to pay-as-you-go VMs, while the Spot algorithm monitors relevant spot VM markets and reinstates spot VMs as soon as they become available.



Being early adopters of Spot’s Azure Stateful Node, finova also provided valuable design inputs. “Working with the Spot team was a very open and collaborative experience,” says Marsh. “The team took our requests, and very quickly came back with a proof of concept for us to test. Spot has a very rapid development team — unlike any other software vendor I ever interacted with.”

The Spot engineering team worked closely with finova to understand their needs and was able to deliver a solution much quicker than expected. Further, Spot’s commitment to finova’s success was evident through our risk-free pricing model, which made procurement a pretty easy decision.

Similarly, the team at Spot was delighted to find an eager customer in finova. “It was a pleasure to work with an organization that has the drive to get things done, instead of looking for reasons not to act. That’s how you achieve big savings and overachieve on your objectives,” explains Spot Solutions Architect Carl Gridley.



Using Spot by NetApp enabled finova to maximize the value of their Azure budget. Spot helped greatly reduce compute spend while keeping Dev & Test environment highly consistent and reliable. This not only put costs in check; it also allowed finova’s IT and DevOps to focus on quality product and infrastructure initiatives and maximize their business impact on the organization.


70% of Azure VM spend freed

Implementing Stateful Node saved finova nearly 70% of their annualized Azure compute spend in the dev & testing environment.

Spot’s optimized fallback settings helped maintain a high coverage of spot VMs. Currently, finova’s spot instance coverage stands at 98.5%, compared to 0% previously.

This freed up considerable amount of budget that is now invested in product & infrastructure innovation.

“In practice, Azure compute cannot be optimized without a third-party solution — let alone stateful single VM workloads like ours. With Spot by NetApp, we exceeded our extremely ambitious savings target of 25% in just two months. We got further than what we thought was possible.”
Richard Marsh, director of operations, finova


With Spot: application-driven provisioning, heterogeneous resource profile

Absolute visibility and intelligent suggestions

Spot gave finova smart suggestions on how they can best optimize their compute resources to leverage Azure cloud to the fullest. Spot also provides end-to-end visibility into all resources across environments.

“With Spot, we’re able to see the underlying compute that’s being used, translate that into development costs for each team, and justify the costs or trim down certain parts of the compute,” Marsh says.


Greater awareness and accountability

With Spot by NetApp’s console, developers can see how many VMs they are using against the capacity they actually need. It paved the way for a solid FinOps culture whereas finova’s engineering teams could — and were required to — understand, justify, and streamline their compute spend.

“Developers want as much compute power as they can have,” Marsh explains. “Spot allows us to offer developers more compute power at less costs for their projects. This makes developers very happy and allows us to test wider scenarios on the QA phase.”

“Developers want as much compute power as they can have. Spot allows us to offer developers more compute power at less costs for their projects. This makes developers very happy and allows us to test wider scenarios on the QA phase.”
Richard Marsh, director of operations, finova


Higher consistency & reliability via high availability

Spot by NetApp’s Azure Stateful Node allowed stateful workloads to run on spot VMs, with the reliability of pay-as-you-go VMs. finova’s developers can now move with confidence with the knowledge of steady processing times and compute levels.

Marsh explains, “Regardless of whether you are a developer, tester, or engineer, having consistent environments and stable compute levels are important for us, and we achieved that with Spot.”

Worst case scenario with Spot: slight overprovisioning enables maximum availability at reduced costs


“Regardless of whether you are a developer, tester, or engineer, having consistent environments and stable compute levels are important for us, and we achieved that with Spot.”
Richard Marsh, director of operations, finova


Accelerated development through easy scalability

Developers can spin up multiple powerful instances concurrently for the same budget they had before. It gives teams a fairly large playing field to innovate quickly by easily scaling infrastructure when needed. This helps ensure that the product lifecycle is never hampered and in turn yields higher-quality products.

“The speed of development has increased thanks to Spot. We can have more instances, or more powerful instances, with controlled costs. This gives us more confidence and benefits our clients. It’s a win-win.”
Richard Marsh, director of operations, finova


Freeing up managerial time & effort

Spot made it easy to manage and control Azure compute costs. By unlocking access to Azure spot VMs, Spot by NetApp helped maximize the ROI on the time spent managing costs. This led finova to a decision to hire a dedicated FinOps function, which will free finova’s IT leadership from looking into the nitty gritty details of cloud spend and allow them to focus on more strategic initiatives.

“The first thing I would recommend to an organization operating in the cloud is to try Spot by NetApp. You need to understand how much you’re spending, and you need a tool that knows how to get the best value out of what you’re spending.”
Richard Marsh, director of operations, finova


The way ahead

Using Spot by NetApp, finova was able to maximize Azure’s values in development and testing. To fuel these benefits on a larger scale, finova is testing ways of extending the usage of Spot to their other environments, with an aim to drive down costs for their customers. They believe this would give them a significant advantage that would augment their competitive position in the market.

“The first thing I would recommend to an organization operating in the cloud is to try Spot by NetApp,” Marsh states. “You need to understand how much you’re spending, and you need a tool that knows how to get the best value out of what you’re spending.”

finova was one of the earliest adopters of Spot’s Stateful Node for Azure. Stateful Node for Azure is in general availability on the Spot console.

If you, too, find yourself tied up to pay-as-you-go Azure VMs to guarantee network and data persistence, Spot’s Stateful Node for Azure may be the answer you’re looking for.

Learn more about Stateful Node for Azure on our blog.


finova is a B2B fintech company offering SaaS-based open-architecture software to help their clients in the mortgage, lending, and savings sectors in the UK.