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Thursday, 22 September 2011 12:43

Distra and Cisco plug payments gap


Australian based financial software company Distra has spent the week at Sibos, the world's leading banking conference, to show off what its CEO Mike Aston believes could prove a pragmatic solution to the banks' mobile payments problem. It's working with Cisco on the system which it has dubbed the Universal Payments Platform.

Last month BPAY pulled the plug on the Mambo initiative after NAB, ANZ and Westpac withdrew their support for the programme which had been conceived as an attempt to create a single mobile payments platform for Australia. 

While he was disappointed at the collapse of Mambo Mr Aston, who spoke to iTWire from Toronto where Sibos is currently being held, signalled that he wasn't surprised. 'In Australia the banks are growing at different speeds, which is a problem. If you are doing something that requires everyone to be on the same page at the same time it's really hard.'

Although in the absence of Mambo there is no clear alternative for a unified approach to mobile payments Mr Aston believes that banks can't afford to wait long, and to remain competitive will need to start offering mobile payments services perhaps even ahead of a standard being settled.

Working with Cisco Distra has recently demonstrated how its system can be loaded onto a Cisco UCS, and still deal with high transaction volumes. Mr Aston said that a major US financial services company had wanted to see what throughput was possible using that arrangement, to in part help allay concerns that virtual environments have limitations in terms of transaction throughput.

According to the company trials the system was able to handle comfortably transaction processing rates of 3,000 transactions a second with message latency of less than 150 milliseconds.  It claims the system can handle peak loads of up to 4,500 transactions a second.

'We are providing a mission critical platform for transaction processing,' said Mr Aston.

He described the Distra/Cisco solution as having potential to be; 'The building blocks of what would be the mobile payments network.'

What Distra and Cisco are hoping is that banks will consider installing what amounts to a payments appliance that can sit separate from, but linked to, legacy core banking systems.  Mr Aston said that the companies were currently working on a roadmap for their solution, and also the surrounding architecture and infrastructure that would be needed to allow the system to integrate with a bank's legacy or core banking systems.

Mr Aston says the pressure to offer mobile and real time processing will largely stem from customer demands. There is however a review of payments systems currently being undertaken by the Reserve Bank which is bringing into sharp focus.

While batch systems continue to have an important role, Mr Aston believes that consumers are increasingly demanding real time processing of most of their payments.

'It is culture that will drive mobile payments - people don't expect that you can't access funds until the next day,' he said.

'Systems in banks will not change overnight but there are ways we can augment that. You do have to integrate with the traditional network and that's what we are trying to address - but we may be able to complement the (existing) systems to leverage some real time services.'



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