July 25, 2016 | by Richard Buckle

An advertisement for a high-end credit card, with the tagline "life without limits," caught my attention recently while I was reading online about the declining value of the Aussie dollar.

When that tagline appeared, all thoughts about a potentially floundering economy halfway around the world ceased.

"Life without limits" ... Who wouldn't want to believe in such a notion? But we all recognize the principle — or at least understand it, even if we don't believe it applies to us — that if seems too good to be true, it very likely is.

I am constantly reminded of this in practically all aspects of daily life:

My wife loves shoes. Her current favorite shoe brand is Christian Louboutin and the particular shoe she has in mind is called "Bellissima." But she just hasn't been willing to pull the trigger on such a purchase.

Turns out there are limits, and as much as it pains use to admit it, there are boundaries and lines and crossing them comes at too high a cost.

The onward march to ever-more appealing credit cards shouldn't surprise any of us in the payments industry. Whether your penchant is for black or titanium or gold, there's a luxury top-end card for you.

But here's the catch: In a competitive payments landscape, it's not about issuing the card — it's about getting you to use it.

What really struck me about this advertisement was the question, "Just how far do financial institutions have to push the boundaries to attract our attention as consumers?"

To this end, how large will major financial institutions make their ATM and POS networks? Will we see networks of half a million ATMs and multimillions of POS terminals become the new normal?

How many individual transactions per cardholder will we build out our systems to support? Is a time coming when the Fed will deploy ATMs that can print money onsite in any denomination we want? Are we truly comfortable thinking in terms of our financial lives having no limits?

Of course, there are the usual questions, too. Are we breaking with expected security standards? Are we compromising our ability to process it all? Do we have the tools to understand the needs of consumers if we give them life without limits just for the sake of growing market share? Are we getting a little too cavalier? And can regulators keep up should we begin to think the impossible — that life without limits might be possible?

As it turns out, there are reasons why we have limits, though we do our best to downplay them whenever possible.

This has come up in recent discussions of cloud computing. A presenter at one recent conference said we can now think about unlimited processing power — that we can scale out almost indefinitely (until we run out of ways to fund expansion).

Yes, run everything from within the cloud and enjoy a business life without limits!

Don't get me wrong. I am a big believer in cloud computing. But for me, it's just another swing of the pendulum, shifting as it does between centralized and distributed processing.

As much talk as there is now of edge products — particularly in respect to IoT and analytics — and of the processing power attributed to these products, the move away from centralized computing looks to be underway yet again.

For financial institutions, though, there never will be transaction processing without limits despite the best efforts of cloud evangelicals. There will continue to be boundaries and lines and crossing them will always come with too high a cost.

Just as the trick to selling a card that promises a lifestyle without limits is to get the holder to use it, the trick with public cloud computing is to get business to become dependent upon it.

As a believer in cloud computing, I know there will always be a cost. And a mix of public and private clouds together with traditional IT as a hybrid will likely remain the benchmark for financial institutions. A little here, a little there ... a little more over there.

We can see it all and we can measure the value and it will not be without limits.

As for these credit cards that offer life without limits it turns out that perhaps they are too good to be true.

An analyst checking up on one such offer found it to be "interesting, if not especially compelling." Compared to less expensive offerings, "it didn't quite stack up." Ouch.

As I continue to be bombarded with messages about cloud computing, I have to ask, "How well do they stack up?"

Is a life without limits just over the horizon — tempting, but still a little out of reach? More than likely. Interesting it may be, but is that enough for us to pull the trigger? I don't think so …

photo istock


Topics: Software, Transaction Processing, Trends / Statistics


Richard Buckle / 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.
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