Sad to say, but no matter how hard we try to make sure there are no disruptions to the services we provide our customers, they continue to happen.
Checking the headlines in the Feb. 1, edition of USA Today, I came across the story "Bank of America's online banking crashes." According to the report, "[I]ts online banking website crashed Friday, leaving customers unable to access their accounts. From late morning Friday, customers trying to log on saw a message that said the site is 'temporarily unavailable.'"
In the same story there was also a report of BBVA Compass having a similar outage, causing customers to "hit social networks on Friday to complain about problems accessing their accounts online. The bank responded on Facebook, telling customers that it was working to resolve system issues."
Access to our money is a cornerstone of how society gets by; you would think that ensuring its critical infrastructure keeps on running 24/7 would be news in and of itself. If the only items that papers deem newsworthy pertain to bad news, then I suspect we will very rarely read anything about NonStop.
At a time when there is so much attention being given to the rise of mobility and online banking (and their potential effects on the branch office) you might expect a lot more comparisons made with the services on offer from ATMs. But unfortunately, there's nary a peep to be heard. Online banking solutions that crash may not be cool but, so it seems, it's also not cool talking about the robustness and reliability of our ATM networks.
It was back in February 2009 that I posted an opinion piece, "Game changers!" In that post I quoted Sami Akbay, co-founder of WebAction and formerly of GoldenGate Software.
"One of the coolest sneakers out there today is the Adidas 'Stan Smith'; it was first introduced in 1971 and it was recently reintroduced," Akbay told me. "When it was cool the first time around, the innovation was that it was the first fully leather tennis shoe with dimple sole and rubber cup outsole; now it is cool because of simplicity, function, and 'classic' effect."
Tandem Computers produced a cool product in the late '70s and it proved to be an immediate hit with customers who depended on technology for their business — stock exchanges, network switches and even newspapers. And just as with the sneakers Sami talked about, there is strong evidence mounting that the NonStop server line that keeps on processing ATM transactions is every bit as cool today as it ever has been.
It may be a niche product, but NonStop appeals to a sub-segment within a market that handles some of the largest transaction volumes out there. At a time when Gartner still thinks 500 TPS is "extreme" transaction processing that requires a new architecture, I was reminded by Neil Coleman, CEO of Infrasoft Pty Ltd., that "major banks worldwide handle rates of 1,000 TPS at peak times with their existing NonStop architecture and infrastructure".
Akbay continues to stand by his remarks of a couple of years ago, he said in an email exchange this week. But this time he expanded on them:
"Technology is invented, has a lifespan, and then it becomes obscure or dead. It isn't born as a niche or it doesn't die as a niche; people create technology to address a real or perceived problem that is believed to exist now or will exist in the future. If the innovation and technology address a 'real' problem that exists now and continues to exist into the future, you have a winner.
"If a problem doesn't exist or disappears as a side effect of some other phenomenon, the technology dies away. The success, lifespan, longevity all depend on the size of the problem and the merit/brilliance of technology or innovation.
Niche means distinct, specific, and distinguishable — although we often use [to mean] a small sub-segment. It really means a 'distinct segment.' Apple iPhone has its niche with the young and cool crowd. That sub-segment is neither small nor marginal. The key to unlocking further success for NonStop comes back to the basics. NonStop today addresses a limited segment. It owns that segment and it is here to stay."
(For more on this topic from Akbay, check out a post to run later this month on the Real Time View blog.)
There's no way to dress up failures and there's really no way to escape the headlines that so often follow. And yet, so much of the world's infrastructure that we expect always to be there doesn't go down.
And as other channels are introduced — online banking, mobile banking, etc.— it's hard to imagine why we aren't seeing their greater unification around a platform best suited to this sub-segment of a very sizable market. Maybe reading this post will be all it takes to get some to think again!
Richard Buckle is the founder and CEO of Pyalla Technologies LLC. He has enjoyed a long association with the IT industry as a user, vendor, and more recently, as an industry commentator.