No single bank has the ability to put together an alternative platform, but if some of them co-operate, then it is doable. The challenge therefore is to put together anAffordable Technology Infrastructure Commons (ATIC) on which different banks can build their own services. This is akin to the role that an operating system plays in a computer: it encapsulates all the commonly used elements into a standardized interface called the API (applications programming interface) so as to make it easier and cheaper for others to build their applications on top.
The difference is that in this case the ATIC provides a hardware and software abstraction layer, which brings down cost of computing significantly, without compromising on the functionality in any way. So, what does the ATIC comprise of? There are three building blocks for the ATIC: thin clients, server-centric computing and open-source software.
Thin Clients are PCs without local storage and do very limited local processing. They are, in essence, network computers or PC-Terminals. They light up in the presence of the network, and are useless without it. These thin clients can either be the older, existing computers or newer, low-cost, low-configuration machines. Thin Clients make up the Rs 5,000 PC (5KPC) Ecosystem. How does one get to PCs for Rs 5,000?
New thin clients (PCs without disks, lower memory and processor configurations, and inclusive of a monitor) are available for about Rs 10,000. In fact, the base configuration needed is no more than 100 Mhz in processing power and 32 MB RAM. The machines will boot off a server on the network. So, you must be thinking, how does that get us to the 5KPC? Simple. Look around the bank.
Many banks have existing desktops which may be 3-5 years old. Ordinarily, these would need to be upgraded. The resale value of these desktops is extremely limited. These desktops are perfectly functional systems the problem is that over time, the need for faster computers is being driven by the newer software which needs greater resources. So, banks are left with little option to upgrade. Imagine now if the same desktops can be used without any changes or upgrades to provide the performance of a new computer. The new incremental investment on these desktops is zero.
So, we have Rs 10,000 for new thin clients and Rs 0 for existing desktops. Assuming a roughly even split between the new purchases and the older machines, we get an average cost of Rs 5,000. Welcome to the 5KPC world.
The 5KPC never needs to be upgraded all the processing happens on the server in the network. This is one of the reasons its administration is simplified. Think of our telephone there is rarely a need to call customer support for our telephone. For the 5KPC, the network connectivity is what makes it come alive the network provides the digital dial-tone. This simplification also ensures that the 5KPC is a zero-maintenance device. This is especially useful when these computers are deployed in remote locations (bank branches are everywhere). The 5KPC is, thus, a sealed endpoint if it does not switch on, it needs to be replaced there is no debugging it!
Tomorrow: Part 3
TECH TALK An Affordable Alternative Technology Architecture for Indias BFSI Industry+T