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Developers’ Retirement Creates Next Y2K

Modernization of core systems should be priority, says IBM.

Banks may have other plans for their core systems rather than relying on aging developers to maintain their legacy code. "Banks are coming up on a new generation of spending around core systems," says Mark Greene, GM, global banking industry, IBM (Armonk, N.Y.). "These are systems that are, in many cases, 20 to 25 years old. They're increasingly difficult to maintain because they're written in antiquated programming languages like COBOL, and the skills needed to maintain them are harder and harder to come by."

Although it's highly unlikely that all of the COBOL programmers will retire at the same time, the situation invites comparisons to Y2K. "This has some parallels in the sense that it's a pervasive problem that affects most every bank," says Greene. "I'd rank it at a similar scale of importance and also a similar size of investment requirement."

IBM has responded with a solution for core banking transformation, "a substantially enhanced set of software and services that provides the platform for the next generation of core banking systems," explains Greene. IBM has reworked its WebSphere middleware product to accommodate the needs of transaction processing in the back office, with faster performance, batch-processing capabilities and performance monitoring.

The initial launch, in partnership with Fidelity Information Services (Jacksonville, Fla.), targets Japan's rapidly transforming banking market. Fidelity has rewritten its core banking system using the Java programming language. "They have re-architected their application and optimized it for WebSphere," notes Greene.

Within months, IBM expects to extend the core banking transformation initiative to other regions, in conjunction with Fidelity and its other core banking system partners. In addition, IBM's Business Consulting Services division will take part in the core systems push by providing strategic assessments of banks' back-office environments. "This is arguably our most strategic investment, within IBM, with respect to the financial services industry," says Greene.

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