Monday, March 7, 2016

Covering all points on the compass, NonStop is hard to miss!

Nothing but clear skies ahead even as the highway beckons! At the ATMIA US Conference the panel sessions proved to be an interesting backdrop to challenges still facing financial institutions and yet, financial transactions still pass through NonStop … 


The ATMIA US Conference in New Orleans was the must-to-go place for everyone involved with ATMs. Whether it’s the devices themselves, the parties involved with moving the cash around or those involved in providing payments solutions, this rapidly growing event had it all.

Of course, the conference itself featured an exhibition hall with 85 plus exhibitors and there certainly was a lot to take in. It was also good to see companies with strong ties to NonStop exhibiting and this included companies such as FSS and FIS as well as Visa and Pulse / Discover.

However, for me, the real excitement came with the numerous panel sessions where ATMIA did a very good job of ensuring a representation from all interested parties were included and that often extended beyond simply users and vendors to include analysts, the press and even consultants close to ATMIA itself.

The result was not just a balanced discussion but ensured more than one aspect of the topic was covered. After all, everyone is entitled to their opinions and when it comes to cash, there were as many opinions as there were attendees.

There’s a growing sense that the bad days of winter are behind us and that, as the temperature begins to climb, we will be spending more time outdoors and for me, this also means more time on the road. Rest areas are clear of snow and while it’s a cliché, there’s nothing like driving under clear blue skies! As I noted in the last post, with February drawing to a close, we have driven across nearly twenty states as we have taken in Las Vegas and then Dallas and New Orleans.

This week will be our last in Boulder as this time next week, we hit the highway once again as we head to Scottsdale, Arizona, to attend DUST – the Regional User Group that accommodates NonStop users from Tucson and Phoenix and all points in between. It also is a hidden gem, when it comes to fine dining in America.

Time spent on the road means interacting with NonStop on a regular basis. When you stop to pump gas anywhere, use your Visa debit to pay for fast food or coffee, your MasterCard to check into your hotel, your AT&T smartphone to text a message, there’s every chance whatever I am transacting is passing through at least one NonStop system, oftentimes even more than just one system.

To attempt to explain all of that to even the most frequent attendee at events like the ATMIA still draws a blank with many of them and yet, it’s still important that as a NonStop community, we continue to emphasize just how widely used are today’s NonStop systems. But in reality it’s hard to ignore just how strong an influence NonStop commands today in the world of transactions.

A central theme at the ATMIA event had to do with the commercial servers in each ATM – Windows XP no longer will cut it and all networks need to make moves to upgrade with either Windows 7 or Windows 10 being the preferred replacement OS. There are some though considering Android and even Linux, but for the most part, the move will be to a more modern version of Windows.

What makes the discussion lively is the fact that while the bigger banks have moved off of Windows XP and yes, OS/2 and even Windows NT/2000, many of the smaller to medium size deployments are only slowly migrating even though Microsoft support for Windows XP ceased in April 2014, from what I heard.

But the point remains, 21st century ATMs are all commercial server based that are sourced from multiple vendors. The onus now is on the big ATM suppliers to continue to add to their security offerings even as the migration off Windows XP is being dovetailed with the need to support the EMV mandate. Security was clearly a big topic at the ATMIA event but the surprising thing for me to hear was that even though it’s a mandate, not everyone is rushing to embrace EMV!

Quite the contrary, many POS devices haven’t been swapped for new generation terminals supporting chip and pin but rather, where they have been introduced (and mostly by the big box stores like Home Depot and Target), they are chip and mag stripe. ATMs of the major banks seem better setup to handle chip and pin, certainly, but as for the rest, they are pretty much in the same boat as these less protected POSs. Yes, for the most part, we have all received chip-enabled cards but it’s pretty much universally accepted that in America we will be on chip and signature for quite a long time.

Not even equipped with NFC or QR capabilities, these devices aren’t doing anyone a favor but it’s part of the American way – we all move at the same rate as the last business to embrace and if you want to use your smartphone, it’s still a hit and miss proposition. For many attendees at the ATMIA event, even as our eyes rolled to the back of our heads, we all agreed that fortunately, we still had cash and surely, having cash ensured us the highest possible level of security. As Charlie Brown would say, after Lucie pulled the football, Ahhhhhhh!

But ATMs using commercial servers that are essentially PCs takes us back to language surrounding NonStop of late. In posts and commentaries provided elsewhere there’s been extensive coverage of the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. While it has now wrapped up, if you visit the HPE web site and check out the page Showcase, you will see sitting atop the list, of all that is being showcased by HPE, the heading Transform to a Hybrid Infrastructure

Cool, but follow the link and you will find sitting atop that list the heading Virtual NonStop Infrastructure.  In case you missed it, what attendees were being encouraged to do was to "Visit this demo to learn about the future of highly available and massively scalable infrastructure for your core network. This is a live demonstration featuring a potential HPE virtual NonStop environment with x86 COTS hardware."

And here’s where I have seen for the very first time NonStop systems being described as COTS,  Commercial-Off-The-Shelf, hardware and I am wondering whether the new "NonStop as Software" now free from hardware and becoming clearly free from infrastructure will find a home on just about anyone’s COTS hardware.

Probably not, and as best I can tell, this is not on the NonStop roadmap so don’t go making calls to IBM for instance any time soon. NonStop remains firmly a HPE Mission Critical Systems solution. There is still a lot more to NonStop than just a sliver of OS capable of running on the Intel x86 architecture as, remember, it’s the whole stack!

Time spent on the road is always educational and the variety of transactions you initiate are almost endless but every time you perform a transaction, there is every chance your transaction will pass through at least on NonStop system. And no system continues to provide the value proposition that NonStop offers.

Perhaps comparing an ATM with a NonStop system is a stretch but then again, perhaps not – as branch offices begin to fade from the scene and are replaced with far more complex systems (check out Quantum Systems, MonRo, complete with its robotic arm for a glimpse at one perspective of what that future may look like), as NonStop gets even smaller future comparisons may not be quite as off-the-wall as we would like to think.

Trust I will see you all at DUST and travel safe!

No comments: