Linux in Banking

Mr. Shoham tells us how his company set up an Internet banking system using Linux for a bank in Western Canada.
A Mature Development Environment

We have used Linux as a development platform before and chose it because of the rich set of tools included with most distributions. This project held no surprises—Linux was a convenient, productive and reliable development platform. We never had problems with any of the development tools, and never experienced system downtime.

In the past, we have developed software for Windows NT as well as for other UNIX platforms. Linux compares very favorably with these as a development and deployment platform—it is simply more full-featured and better supported.

A Robust Production Platform

Linux is proving its worth as a production environment as well. It runs on inexpensive hardware and, along with Apache SSL, offers excellent WWW server performance. We would be hard-pressed to find comparable systems on which to run our WWW servers, development environment and firewall without spending much more money and settling for a less comprehensive tool set.

In this project, the rich set of network features found in Linux proved especially useful. In particular, the following:

  • Setting up the firewall was simple, and the resulting system is quite effective.

  • Our development server uses ssh for secure remote connections, the X Window System for convenient access to source files and tools, and Samba to allow developers to access files directly from their PCs.

  • BIND made it easy to implement a failover from the primary to a backup server.

  • Various shell tools make it easy to keep the software on the backup server current.

Linux is not only feature rich, but also well-supported. We have found that whenever new security exposures are discovered, Linux is invariably the first system for which patches or workarounds are available. For instance, the ping-of-death vulnerability was reportedly fixed in three hours, and a Linux patch for a common buffer-overrun vulnerability was released alongside the discovery of the bug itself. We doubt that any vendor could match the response time of the worldwide community of Linux programmers.

An Open Future

In this project, we built just one application—a user interface with which our customer's clients can make financial transactions. However, there is nothing about our technology that is specific to the Internet or even to banking.

Within our customer's organization, the same technology could also be used to enable thin clients to function as teller workstations, process loan applications and support communication with automated teller machines and telephone voice response systems. Beyond the financial sector, this technology could be used for any transaction processing system with a broad or geographically distributed user community. Examples include travel booking systems, libraries, government registries and more.

References

Postscript

Idan Shoham is one of the principals of M-Tech. To learn more about M-Tech, please visit the company's site at http://www.m-tech.ab.ca. Mr. Shoham can be reached via e-mail at idan@m-tech.ab.ca.

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