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10/30/2003
03:22 PM
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Migration Off The Mainframe

Shazam deploys a system from HP so it can offer new electronic-funds-transfer services to banks and others

With paper checks increasingly being replaced by online bill paying, companies that provide electronic-funds-transfer services are looking for new ways to deliver E-payment and banking services. What service providers need are time-tested, highly available systems that can embrace today's popular programming languages and object-oriented databases.

Terry Dooley, VP of IT infrastructure at Shazam

Shazam expects a 40% savings over mainframe costs with the NonStop server, VP Dooley says.
Shazam Inc. is mindful of these changes but unwilling to compromise when it comes to downtime. The electronic-funds-transfer service provider is migrating its mission-critical services from a 28-year-old mainframe infrastructure to a fault-tolerant Hewlett-Packard server that runs the NonStop Kernel operating system. Shazam provides electronic-funds-transfer services to about 1,700 banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions, and it plans to use the NonStop server to run transaction-processing and authorization appli- cations, as well as customer-relationship-management software from Siebel Systems Inc., at a 40% savings over what the mainframe system costs, says Terry Dooley, VP of IT infrastructure.

Shazam plans to bring the NonStop server online slowly over the next couple of years. The first module running on the server is scheduled for the first quarter of next year and will provide a card-authorization service for Shazam's customers. Shazam will consolidate transaction, cardholder, and merchant data on the server, where each transaction can be analyzed to detect patterns of fraud. Once that service is launched, Shazam will in three-month increments begin offering services for settlement and billing, real-time ATM and point-of-sale authorizations, and routing transactions among different networks.

The HP server also will help Shazam move away from using flat files and toward a relational NonStop SQL database for transaction processing. "As we write our applications, we've created a middleware layer that represents our access into the database," Dooley says. Shazam will soon be able to extract information from the database through Corba-based middleware.

The move will let Shazam remove paper checks from the collection and return processes, allowing important account data to be captured and routed electronically. Financial institutions will be able to transmit electronic transactions from branch offices and ATMs to central data-processing systems, where substitute checks could be created and forwarded for collection. This increased speed and efficiency might let financial institutions extend cut-off hours that dictate when deposits and payments can be posted to an account.

"The NonStop's value is that you don't have to license third-party technology to get that six nines of availability," Dooley says. "You don't need an external database or clustering software."

While the server is a throwback to an era when companies bought high-end systems that came fully integrated with their own operating systems and apps, HP has recognized the need for its fault-tolerant platform to ac- commodate open standards. By early 2005, HP will replace NonStop's RISC-based Mips processors with Intel Itanium processors. NonStop servers have for years been able to run applications written in Java or C++.

NonStop servers with open standards and Intel processors will more easily integrate with the automated data centers that HP, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and others are promising. Automated, holistic data-center management has appeal when it comes to meeting service-level agreements, Shazam's Dooley says. "One of my goals as an IT manager is to make our operations more intelligent and more responsive."

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