BACS ahead of schedule with £75m IT overhaul

Links: Councils told backing BACS could save £100m

The NewBACS project is due to be completed by 2005 and will see BACS introduce a public key infrastructure and Internet Protocol-based network to improve communications with users, and a more flexible electronics payments infrastructure.

Martin Wilson, programme director for NewBACS, told VNU News Net the project was on track and work on the phase two had started early.

‘We are in the development stage of phase one and we have actually started work on the second phase,’ he said.

This part will see BACS upgrade its customer data management systems, to allow customers to maintain their own contact details online, rather than using a paper based system. The rest of the project will be the creation of a component-based electronic payment system.

The first phase, due to go live early next year, will see the gradual migration from the telecoms-based Bacstel network to a new IP network and protected by PKI encryption.

Anticipated growth in the volumes of transactions handled by BACS was the driver for NewBACS. The clearing house, which is owned by the major banks, currently handles over 3.5 billion financial transactions a year, such as direct debits and standing orders, and this is expected to rise to 5 billion by 2005.

‘With those numbers you wouldn’t expect a big bang. For a period of time IP-based networks and telecoms networks will be used as the migration goes on,’ he said.

BACS has chosen a Unix mainframe platform and Java development environment as the basis for the new infrastructure.

‘One of the early decisions we made was to move onto a Unix platform for reasons of resilience, performance and scalability. We wanted to move to open standards, and Java has a smoother learning curve than C++,’ said Wilson.

NewBACS will be built on Oracle 9I and Real Application Clusters and Sun Fire 15000 servers, BEA’s WebLogic application server, using Borland’s Jbuilder Java development tools.

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