Meeting an Insatiable Need for Scalability and Performance

At a recent NuoDB breakfast event in San Francisco, Steve Emmerich, chief architect/technical fellow at ACI Worldwide Inc. spoke about his company’s need for performance and scalability on a scale not imagined by most companies in corporate America.

In case you don’t know ACI, it is a $1 billion payment software provider, arguably one of the largest if not the largest such company. Twenty-one of the world’s top 25 banks rely on ACI BASE24 software, which has a decades-long track record of extraordinary reliability and performance. Retailers and billers, along with banks, now use ACIs’ next-generation switch, BASE24-eps. This system routinely handles 2,000 to 3,000 transactions per second and can scale up to thousands of transactions per second at peak times. Impressive stuff.

ACI’s BASE24-eps system has to perform flawlessly in an unforgiving world in which payments must arrive and transactions must occur in near real time, without errors or downtime. Technical requirements include completely predictable performance and scalability, with no spikes. The bottom line? “Nothing can bring the system down,” said Emmerich.

But even meeting those incredibly stringent requirements isn’t enough. Emmerich is looking ahead to the next-generation technical architecture he will need to target new customers and flexible business models. Existing payment systems will remain very important. But the traditional line-of-business boundaries will diminish, he said, and that will change ACI’s technical requirements. To accomplish this, ACI is moving to a service-oriented architecture that can satisfy existing customers while allowing the company to address unmet market sectors with different needs.

“As we move to the service-oriented architecture and integrated solutions, our needs don’t change,” said Emmerich. “We still have all of the response-time requirements, the throughput requirements, the availability requirements.” What is different: No fail operation at the data tier. “To what extent will the database will become the first line of defense? That is the question,” said Emmerich.

Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, spoke at the breakfast about the challenges of moving out of traditional architectures and onto modern architectures such as the one Emmerich described. Cloud is an enabler for the type of continuous availability and resilience that companies like ACI require. But the onset of distributed computing can make it difficult to get a single view into what is happening with individual service delivery. “Failures happen,” said Proctor.

Scaling the database is the real challenge in this new environment, added Proctor. That’s partly because of the limitations of traditional database design. Advanced distributed database designs that replicate data in memory on demand are needed to handle complex cloud workloads. NuoDB provides a distributed SQL database management system specifically designed for the cloud and the modern data center.

Lauren Gibbons Paul, a freelance business/technology writer and editor, covers topics from big data and analytics to social and mobility. She regularly contributes to various publications, including CIO, Computerworld, Network World and State Tech magazine.

 

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