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PayPal: powering secure, reliable digital payments at the edge

For payment solutions giant PayPal, which reports a large and growing user base of 300 million, security, optimal performance, and scale aren’t optional. That’s why Arijit Ghosh, software engineer at PayPal, says they started exploring edge engineering. Innovating at the edge has helped them remain dominant in a competitive market, delivering dynamic user experiences at scale.

The promise of the edge

PayPal has an ambitious vision to democratize financial services and empower people and businesses to join and thrive in the global economy. Doing this effectively requires a laser focus on two things:

  1. Security: financial organizations are in the business of trust

  2. Fast, reliable user experiences: enabling customers to make and receive digital payments with ease

An edge cloud platform gives PayPal the opportunity to better achieve both, which is what first attracted the PayPal team to our platform. “Edge solutions are necessary for today,” Arijit told us at our 2020 customer conference, Altitude, “but they’re also an absolute requirement for tomorrow.”

The security imperative

PayPal has naturally always had a strong focus on security. So when the company’s engineering team started its edge journey, the biggest task was ensuring the highest level of risk mitigation and security controls were in place.

Website spying and attempts at DDoS attacks or exploits are everyday threats for financial services providers. PayPal has to be robust in safeguarding their customers at all times. To help do this, it enabled our WAF and other related security controls, which extended their security measures already in place.

What PayPal has loved most about these features, Arijit told us, is the real-time visibility they enable. With a smart alerting system, the team can identify, respond to, and analyze threats as they happen, minimizing risk and disruption.

Faster, more reliable experiences anywhere in the world

With a global footprint as expansive as PayPal’s, latency can be a real challenge, with data sometimes having to make long round trips, and when repeat business depends on user experience, every millisecond matters. 

By setting up a direct fiber connection between their origin servers and a Fastly shield POP with Origin Connect, we are able to shrink the number of organizations (and by association, the number of servers) handling PayPal’s data. This reduces the number of hops, effectively reducing latency, increasing network availability and powering faster response times.

Fastly’s smart network has also helped PayPal to avoid many other internet weather issues. The internet is vast and prone to failures. Maintaining reliable operations around intermittent losses of connectivity, can be a big challenge, and for PayPal, the real time insight and control helps reduce the scale of that problem. 

Through our real-time logging, PayPal has the visibility and flexibility to fine tune its configurations based on the service in question, user needs, and how the internet is performing on a given day. Through real-time dashboards they've customized, powered by our logs, PayPal engineers can see which routes have the most latency in order to decide on configurations and shield selection that always deliver the fastest, most dependable user experience.

For digital businesses, the quality of the end user experience is often measured by network specifics, like time to first byte and page load times, but Arijit believes that today, these metrics are better for identifying performance issues and bottlenecks. A true, accurate picture of end user experience, he says, comes from having this kind of real-time network monitoring. With near real-time visibility, PayPal can programmatically steer traffic and configure clustering for high availability and minimal downtime.

Forward into the future

The PayPal team sees the edge as a key part of their future growth, Arijit told us. 2020 showed us all just how fast-paced change can be. Consumer behavior and the way technology is used can shift overnight. Amongst all this uncertainty, PayPal is making sure that consumers and businesses can rely on its important payment system.

“Technology will change. Tools will change. There will be more challenges, but one thing which we truly value the most in our engagement with Fastly is the people we work with,” Arijit told us. “They have been a tremendous partner and an extension of our team. They are willing and wanting to work alongside you to quickly fix any issues you encounter, and share success and failure together.”


This blog post was based on a talk given at Altitude, our customer summit held in November 2020. Watch other talks on the future of Fastly and the internet from the virtual event here.

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