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Images On Demand, All the Time

Viewpointe and IBM embark on a major upgrade to check-image archive.

IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) and national check image exchange and storage provider Viewpointe have entered into a $174 million deal intended to upgrade the image archive's current architecture to enable national on-demand check retrieval services. According to Rich Walsh, Viewpointe's COO, the move is in response to the changing needs of its financial services customers.

When Charlotte, N.C.-based Viewpointe was founded in 2000, the demand for image retrieval was not urgent; however, things have changed post-Check 21, Walsh notes. "Now there's an explosion in requests for [payments] data in a timely manner," he says. "So as clients' business needs shifted, we felt we had to change our technology as well. Our current challenge is to improve the ingestion of check images and allow for speedier return. The image on-demand idea increased the need for us to take on more requests than we have ever gotten before." Current systems process fewer than 100 check images per second, according to Viewpointe. The new architecture, however, will be designed to handle 3,500 images per second.

Viewpointe already offers its customers an on-demand image service, known as ImageShare. But, Walsh says, the IBM system will eliminate the technical barriers that previously prevented such an endeavor on a national basis, and the capability now will be extended to noncustomers.

The planned system, according to Walsh, will use some of the same technology found in the current system, such as IBM's content management system and p-series servers, but, "Every piece of hardware and software will be upgraded," Walsh says. The new architecture will leverage IBM's DB2 technology for providing high retrieval rates, Walsh notes.

As part of the new image on-demand concept, banks no longer will have to maintain their own image storage archives and instead can tap into Viewpointe on an as-needed basis, relates Jennifer Lucas, Viewpointe's marketing and corporate communications director. "Before, planes, trains and automobiles transported checks," she explains. "Then image exchange replaced this with telecom pipes crisscrossing each other where 100 percent of the images are sent to the banks. But why spend all this money and effort on these huge pipes when banks typically only need to retrieve [check images] 5 to 10 percent of the time?" Image on demand, she says, eliminates this waste by letting banks access images only when they need them.

Added Payments Info

The new architecture also will enable Viewpointe to accommodate other payments information, such as ACH data. However, emphasizes Lucas, "We are not creating a new ACH network. But Viewpointe can be a storage repository for that data."

Although a fee structure has not yet been worked out, Walsh says it likely will be a pay-as-you-go service. Implementation of the updated architecture currently is under way. Software and hardware upgrades began in March, and customer testing should commence at the end of the year.

The impact on bank clients from a technology standpoint should not be too significant, relates Walsh. "What customers do today is the same as what they did with the old way, but with slight software upgrades.," he says. "The benefits far outweigh the pain." * --Maria Bruno-Britz

Check Imaging

The Viewpointe Archive

Total Images stored (as of 6/06): 79 billion.

Average Response Time: 0.164 seconds.

Approaching 5 petabytes of storage.

Each check image is approximately 26,000 bytes.

Storing more than 75 million images a day and more than 25 billion a year.

Sub-second retrieval for more than 2 million check images a day.

Largest customers: BancorpSouth, Bank of America, BB&T, Compass, the Federal Reserve Banks, First Horizon National Corp., HSBC Bank USA, JPMorgan Chase & Co., National City Corporation, U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo.

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