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Morningstar & MongoDB: A wise investment with MongoDB Atlas


Financial Services


MongoDB Atlas





When you hear the word “investors” you probably think of big businesses and their CEOs. But companies like the Chicago-based firm, Morningstar, are leveling the playing field to give individuals the same opportunities to invest.
“It gave us the opportunity to reimagine the tech stack from the ground up as we pivoted to a pure API service.” - Neil Davidson, EMEA CTO, Morningstar

Making wise investments comes down to having accurate data on millions of portfolios in real-time and knowing how to interpret it. Morningstar provides investment data, analytics, and research on more than 600,000 investment offerings while managing $260 billion in assets. However, what the company is most famous for, according to EMEA CTO, Neil Davidson, is its ratings — for example, how it predicts an investment will perform compared to others on the market.

“We take the huge breadth of data that we have around funds, equities, and stocks to produce ratings, analysis, and opinions based on that data,” he says. “That’s packaged into different data products and tools to help customers decide where to invest their money.”

As always, today’s customers expect that data to be easily accessible, real-time, and personalized — favoring sustainable companies, or avoiding those with ties to the tobacco industry for example. So how does a 40-year-old company with a “huge on-premises footprint” deliver that experience to customers, in an industry where an IT outage or security breach is front-page news?

Embracing the cloud and accelerating product development

Morningstar has a mandate to quit its datacenters by 2025, with a few exceptions for specific workloads. “We didn’t want to reach a point where we were losing money by upgrading firewalls and networking equipment with no return on investment. That kickstarted our cloud migration. We took a lift-and-shift approach for the most part, modernizing products, breaking down monoliths, and deploying serverless for efficiencies of scale,” Davidson explains.

This move to the cloud empowered Morningstar to become more agile and speed up product development. Take the evolution of Direct Web Services for example. This enables customers to plug personalized Morningstar dashboards into their own website. Initially, it was a server side rendered ASP.NET web page that was embedded as an iframe, and it ran on a self-managed, self-hosted version of MongoDB.

“It became clear we were investing lots of time in one-off implementations, which doesn’t scale. More customers just wanted the APIs so they can plug in without needing a large database infrastructure at their end,” reveals Davidson. “It gave us the opportunity to reimagine the tech stack from the ground up as we pivoted to a pure API service.”

Rebranded as Dynamic Service APIs, it now runs on a multi-region cloud instance of MongoDB Atlas. It pulls disparate data from a broad range of back-end sources into one place and makes it available in collections. Morningstar plans to roll out MongoDB Atlas Search to implement Lucene-based text matching without the need to manage additional data sets or ETL pipelines in the future.

Turning opportunities into reality with MongoDB

The footprint of MongoDB Atlas is growing organically across Morningstar, thanks largely to how much people enjoy using it. “We like Atlas, we think it’s a great product. It’s easy to deploy, we don’t have any infrastructure headaches and the support we get from MongoDB is really good,” says Davidson. “We can pull, collect, and aggregate data from backend sources into a product-level database and optimize data models for different use cases.”

It’s no surprise, then, that Morningstar built its new strategic platform for financial advisors on MongoDB Atlas. Morningstar Wealth Platform is used by more than 255,000 financial advisors all over the world. It simplifies managing investments, so they have more time to spend building stronger relationships with their clients. It also provides seamless access to in-depth insights and helps to navigate industry regulations.

“What’s great about Atlas is it gets us closer to our customers and gives them a better user experience,” explains Davidson. “We can deploy modern infrastructure with lower latency and get much better return on investment compared with running on premises. That makes it easier to embrace new and exciting opportunities and further our mission of empowering investor success.”

Neil Davidson, EMEA CTO, Morningstar

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