Since writing my last post, “Behind the scenes …”, I have had a number of discussions following my suggestion of how the inner workings of an ATM may be headed to the sub $100 mark, excluding the cartridges and the hardened unit wrapped around these inner workings. These last two items may end up being locally sourced anyway, so as variables, I feel more inclined to remove them from the equation. But only temporarily, of course, as there’s still no easy way to discount their costs and their costs will vary wildly depending upon location.
However, raising the topic of Tandem computers — known today as HP NonStop BladeSystems — did lead to some raised eyebrows. Not everyone is aware that these servers remain as popular as they do, or that they continue to be developed. And just as many of you weren’t as appreciative of how much commoditization has been pursued by NonStop development, or that they have dropped in price as much as they have. For more information on this subject, you may want to check out an opinions paper I recently completed, “Why more corporations today depend on HP Integrity NonStop mission-critical servers!” that will be posted to HP’s web site — I will provide a link, probably as a comment to this post, as soon as HP provides me with an update.
While I have worked with a number of different vendors’ platforms over the years, including IBM mainframes together with their plug-compatible equivalents from the likes of Fujitsu/FACOM and Nixdorf, as well as with systems from Digital Equipment/DEC and Tandem Computers/NonStop BladeSystems, I have long harbored a slight bias in favor of Tandem/NonStop that continues even to this day, as they continue to roll off the production line at HP’s Singapore facility.
For many years it was the extensive communications connectivity support that came as a part of NonStop that led to its success at supporting POS and ATM networks. Credit and debit card issuers still rely heavily on NonStop, as do many of the major financial institutions, and as one of the more significant vendors in the payments platform space, ACI Worldwide found out all too well, these users would rather switch solutions vendors than change platform.
However, should we head to a future where ATMs cost only a few hundred dollars and the best, most robust servers are priced in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars (yes, I am beginning to hear some really positive news about the potential performance benefits coming from Intel’s “Poulson” Itanium chip program) then I expect to see much more attention focused on the software — in particular, on the software that monitors these new networks of inexpensive ATMs.
It is only logical to anticipate that with a much lower entry price for deploying ATMs the number of them will explode. It is also just as reasonable to expect that the biggest markets for them will likely also be the most populous countries where economies are changing rapidly. The middleclass of some of these countries has already surpassed the total population of all but the very largest of developed countries and newly empowered as these middle classes have become, they will want their morning cup of Starbucks or whatever along with their favorite fast-food snack, just as I do, even as they wait for the oil to be changed in the BMW, Nissan or Chevrolet — and for many of them, cash will continue to be king!
But the bottom line remains the same. Take the price out of ATMs and couple that with much lower-priced server platforms, and leverage new modern payments platforms coming today from as far afield as India and France — and the scope of what needs to be monitored will only become much larger. Perhaps the $99 ATM is still a long way off and perhaps the $10,000 NonStop is just the stuff of dreams, but the potential for such price erosion is very real and with it comes the responsibility to monitor and to manage ever-larger networks of ATMs as well as to mine what is observed and collected to better compete in the financial services marketplace.
In coming posts I will look at the products and solutions designed to better monitor and manage these flourishing networks of cheap ATMs as well as the analytics solutions now emerging that are helping to provide greater insight into the behavior of those who frequent these devices. With a history of working with both IBM mainframe and HP NonStop systems, I have seen a lot of good solutions and am expecting to see even greater engagement between the vendors involved and the financial services industry — after all, we don’t expect just to leave dozens if not hundreds of these ATMs just hanging at the end of a line!
No, not just a bunch of tools and utilities, today’s modern monitoring products have become true solutions for all those within IT who just have to know what’s happening! Who could have predicted how explosive the marketplace for tablets and smartphones would have become? Who could have predicted the size of the marketplace for the apps that arose? Or that they would arise as quickly as they did?
And who would want to suggest this will not happen anytime soon with ATMs, or forecast their growth as being anything other than as explosive as we have seen with tablets and smart phones?
As with everything else we do within IT, being prepared is a big part of winning the battle so no, let’s not become too shortsighted about this potential development for ATMs. After all, we can see a very long way these days …