AT&T Global Information Solutions, Dayton, Ohio, has introduced a new family of large-scale computers designed for transaction processing and relationship banking applications.
The product line, called WorldMark, is built around "parallel processing" technology, in which hundreds or thousands of computer processors work simultaneously to handle many tasks.
The technology has become popular at large banks for developing data warehouses, which pool information from disparate computer systems and are used for such applications as customer profitability analysis and decision support.
Electronic Payment Services Inc., the Wilmington, Del.-based organization that runs the MAC automated teller machine network, is the first financial industry customer for the product.
In addition, two core customers of the AT&T unit, BankAmerica Corp. and Fidelity, are looking at the new platform, along with several other institutions that AT&T officials declined to name.
The announcement is in line with AT&T's restructuring plans, which include placing a greater emphasis on banking and computer sales, said Martin Shepard, director of enterprise computing in the financial marketing area. As part of the restructuring, the AT&T GIS financial service group is now based in London.
To improve the way it works with customers, AT&T GIS is trying to emphasize its consulting and support capabilities and has pledged to help financial institutions define business opportunities and apply technology.
Addressing banks' affection for relationship-based strategies, AT&T has built a technology platform that offers customers a migration path from low-end, departmental solutions to larger data base configurations.
This scalability will allow banks to expand systems to meet their needs, while holding down initial investments in entry-level systems, said AT&T officials.
WorldMark will also make it easier for banks to go from symmetrical multiprocessing systems to the more powerful massively parallel machines, said AT&T officials.
A bank can start out with a small, four-processor machine, used to consolidate network information at a departmental level, and add up to 64 processors in the same cabinet for on-line transaction processing applications.
This clustered symmetric processing approach, which will be employed by Electronic Payment, offers a redundancy that reduces the risk of failures, said Mr. Shepard. Processing nodes can share workloads, so if one fails, another can take over, he said.
By adding more processors, a bank can migrate to a massively parallel system with thousands of processors for data mining applications.
Electronic Payment has purchased the high-end model 5100, which will be used for transaction routing and security.
The installation of the system is part of the company's deployment next year of "access workstations," high-powered PCs situated at customer sites that will provide a window into Electronic Payment's information.
The 5100 will locate information stored on several large-scale systems, including systems from Tandem, International Business Machines Corp., and AT&T, and will route the information to appropriate customer workstations.
Through the 5100, Electronic Payment's approximately 1,800 MAC members will be able to access settlement and billing information and reports, and to enter adjustments and send e-mail.
The 5100 will also provide security, since only authorized users will be able to go through the system to access the company's information.
The WorldMark system replaces many of Electronic Payment's paper-based, manual processes, including the mailing and faxing of reports and other information to and from customers.
Jeffrey Michel, chief technology officer at Electronic Payment, said the company chose WorldMark "because we're a high growth company, and we needed a technology with ease of growth."
He added that AT&T is very much involved in the design, consulting, and development of the project, and called the company's return to its retail and financial businesses "very positive."