Citicorp and Stratus Offering Software for Fail-Safe System

A software unit of Citicorp and Stratus Computer Inc. have announced development of a retail banking system that runs on specialized computers that keep running even if a vital part fails.

The software, developed by Citicorp Overseas Software Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Citicorp based in Bombay, India, and Stratus, is one of the first retail banking systems to use an advanced software technology, called client/server computing.

Client/server systems allow host computers and workstations to more easily share and manipulate information.

Link to Headquarters

The new package, called Finware, will let branch personnel grant loans or sell certificates of deposit, processes that require information from headquarters, while a customer waits.

A handful of banks are slowly adopting this software technique, including Bank One Corp. and BankAmerica Corp. Using this method, banks can choose which computer is most appropriate to process certain functions.

Use of fault-tolerant systems to run a bank's branch network is also relatively new. Banks, which account for about 30% of the fault-tolerant computer market, have traditionally used the systems in such transaction-intensive businesses as electronic funds transfer, credit card operations, and ATM networks.

Hanging On to Second Place

Stratus is an aggressive No. 2 in a fault-tolerant-computer market led by Tandem Computers Inc. Earlier this year, Digital Equipment Corp. introduced its first fault-tolerant systems. International Business Machines Corp. remarkets the Stratus line under the System/88 name.

Stratus and the Citicorp unit said they planned to market Finware jointly to medium-size and large banks, concentrating initially on the Asia/Pacific region. Eventually they plan to bring the product to the U.S.

"The [Asian countries'] economies are growing very quickly, and banks are investing significant amounts of money to become more competitive," said Pam Laufer, a spokesperson for Stratus, in Marlboro, Mass.

Stratus officials said the system will help banks move to 24-hour banking by giving continuous on-line access to central files. Finware can also be used to handle multiple currencies.

The software is designed to distribute a bank's transaction processing from the headquarters office to regional offices where fault-tolerant computers act as "servers" linked to networks of personal computers in branches.

Relational Data Base Used

The system provides instantaneous access to central data bases for deposit accounts, general ledger, mortgages, and consumer loans. The software uses a relational data base in which all account information is stored. The Citicorp unit declined to disclose pricing for the Finware software.

Finware runs on the Stratus XA2000 series of fault-tolerant hardware, which range in price from $155,000 to more than $1 million.

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