Oasis Technology Ltd., a Canadian vendor of on-line processing software, is making its debut in the United States.

Oasis of North York, Ontario, is one of several companies that offer "open" systems for transaction processing. Unlike proprietary systems, open systems allow banks and other customers to mix different hardware and software technologies.

Until recently, open systems were not considered reliable enough to support point of sale, automated teller machine, and electronic funds transfer transactions. Nor could they handle high transaction volumes.

Technology improvements have made client/server-based systems an attractive option for transaction switching, said Peter Kulik, managing partner at Kulik & Lazarus Consulting Inc.

Traditional transaction switching systems-like the ones offered by Tandem Computer Inc., Stratus Computer Inc., and International Business Machines Corp.-tend to be more available and reliable, Mr. Kulik said.

"The big advantage to a proprietary system is it's nonstop, it doesn't go down," he said. "For very large networks, transaction switching is a mission-critical application."

But open systems are far less expensive and require a lower critical mass of transaction volume, Mr. Kulik said. As companies rely more heavily on Unix and Windows NT computing environments, "the landscape is really changing quite a bit," with more companies adopting open systems.

Besides Oasis, vendors of open systems include S2 Systems (a unit of Stratus); NCR Corp. of Dayton, Ohio; Mosaic (a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., unit of Persetel Holdings of South Africa); Interlink Fund Switching Technologies Ltd. of London; and U.S. Software Inc. (a Carter Lake, Iowa, unit of Transaction Systems Architects Inc. of Omaha).

Oasis, an eight-year-old company that does business in 65 countries, is "finally ready to bring it" to other countries in North America, said Ashaf Dimitri, president of Oasis. A new sales office in Miami has dispatched salespeople to drum up accounts, he said.

"Our solution is very cost-effective and, we think, long overdue," he said. "We're going to force prices downward."

Oasis' clients include Citicorp, MasterCard International, Visa International, and Diners Club. In Canada the company has begun supporting Bank of Montreal's Mondex smart card system.

Mr. Dimitri said growing receptivity to open processing systems has created vast potential for companies like his. "When we started in 1990, it was a mature market," he said. "Now there is an opportunity for change." u

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