Oswald Regular
OpenSans Regular
A Credit Crisis
One of the world’s largest credit card networks needs to rebuild its data backbone.

Ab Initio gets called upon to solve big problems, and this is an example of a big one. A number of years ago, one of the largest world-wide credit card networks was running out of horsepower in its data backbone. Transaction volumes were climbing steadily, and it was just a small matter of time before the system would no longer keep up. In addition, because the backbone had been cobbled together over many years as the business had grown, it consisted of a large number of complex point-to-point connections and interfaces. The result was that no one aspect of the backbone could be changed without touching all the elements. And the business was desperate for more flexibility.


This company tried everything to remedy the situation. It rearchitected some of its major mainframe systems. It moved some systems off the mainframes. It brought in a well-known enterprise application integration (EAI) product and started writing loads of C++ code. Ultimately, none of this solved the problem. Remediating individual systems bought time but didn’t solve the underlying problem. Furthermore, the EAI product and C++ code were not only extremely time-consuming to deploy, they didn’t scale. What was worse, the more they tried to make them scale, the bigger the problem they had with dropping transactions. Naturally, in this business, you can’t drop transactions.

This is where Ab Initio came in. At first, it was difficult for this customer to believe that a software product existed that would allow them to (1) implement all of their complex logic on complex data in a graphical manner, (2) scale systems to whatever rate they might ever need, (3) run equally well on mainframe and Unix platforms, and (4) build robust systems that would never lose data. It sounded so good that their chief architect kept saying “Stop making all those claims! If you do half of what you claim to do, that would be a miracle!” From an Ab Initio perspective, it wasn’t a miracle – just good engineering.

But before going forward, the customer required, and Ab Initio insisted on, an end-to-end Proof-of-Concept. In a matter of just a few months, this customer and Ab Initio put together a small team that built the majority of the data backbone and benchmarked it at a rate of many tens of thousands of transactions per second on a medium-sized mainframe. This was several times faster than the actual requirement, and it handled all the complex data that flowed through the system. The customer decided to go forward.


Over the next 6 months, this small team replumbed all of this customer’s systems to get all credit and debit card transaction authorizations through the new data backbone. Many dozens of back end systems were involved, and they came in every possible flavor: some were on mainframes and some on Unix, some were real-time and some were batch, some were very high volumes and some were trickle feeds, some took data in legacy formats and some wanted XML. This was done so quickly because of Ab Initio’s ability to handle complex data and complex business logic, which in turn allowed connections to legacy systems that did not require modifications to those applications.

Given the centrality of the data backbone to this customer’s systems, the company was extremely conservative in its deployment, testing in every possible way to ensure that the new backbone would be resilient in the face of inevitable failures of the environment. Ab Initio’s checkpointing and guaranteed message delivery are core capabilities that were heavily exercised during this testing. The system was so robust that when it finally went live, the worst thing that happened to the deployment team was that their beverage cooler sprang a leak. That was a mess to be cleaned up!

Since then, this customer has reimplemented many of its back end systems with Ab Initio. These systems include merchant billing, fraud detection, loyalty cards, large-scale data retention for customer service, and everything having to do with business intelligence and reporting.

As for the data backbone, transaction rates have approximately doubled since initial deployment on this customer’s mainframes. Rather than doubling the mainframe platform, an expensive proposition, the customer took advantage of Ab Initio’s capability of running applications distributed across multiple servers with different operating systems. They did so by relocating much of the data backbone’s computational workload from the mainframes to less-expensive Unix servers simply by changing configuration settings – the applications themselves were not changed at all.


This company has successfully deployed the Co>Operating System across applications of all types, from operational systems to business intelligence. To support all these users and applications, they have taken extensive and full advantage of Ab Initio’s strengths – its technology, its people, and its deep customer-focused culture.