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Transforming payments with Novate

Those of you involved in the payments business know what a dynamic industry it is: the advent of new technologies has time and time again been the catalyst for both disruptive innovations and increased efficiencies within the payments space. That being said, the fundamentals of the payments business have not changed in several decades. For example, the vast majority of e-commerce transactions are authorised and settled using the same multinational card schemes as ever, while mobile payments (the payments topic de jour) look practically identical to standard card based transactions to core payments systems.

That being said, there are still numerous opportunities for companies to make money in the payments business. Companies like Square and its e-commerce analogues have shown that it is possible to make an impact by knocking the edges off the payments process for smaller merchants, there has been an explosion in stored value gift card schemes offered by merchants, while telcos are just starting to make use of their global reach by offering financial products to their vast customer base.

Despite changes like these, as I have pointed out the fundamentals of the payments business haven’t really changed at all. It is an industry especially intolerant of downtime (just ask Royal Bank of Scotland), and while the volume of transactions that must be processed is rapidly increasing, the margin per transaction available to a processor is being constantly squeezed.

Introducing Novate

It is in the midst of these trends and opportunities that we in Aviso have launched Novate, a flexible and cost effective payments switch. The Aviso team has many years’ experience in developing large scale payments systems, an experience that we have brought to bear on the design of Novate. Importantly, we have also many years’ experience in running payments systems, so we know what differentiates a good system and a bad one from the perspective of those who must ensure that it continues to perform its task day after day.

Operational simplicity

Novate has been designed from the ground up to be simple to operate. As a development team, we spend a lot of our time reviewing the way the overall switching platform operates, to make sure it is as simple and intuitive as possible. We believe that there should be a aesthetic quality to logging output produced by a switch: if your operators need to diagnose an error in an authorisation, the switch should not put barriers in their way of achieving that diagnosis through cryptic or incomplete log messages.

Composability

As a development team we believe strongly in the concept of composability. Novate is an example of a composable platform. Most services that the core switch relies on are delivered in the form of RESTful web services or queues – thus accommodating reuse. For example, we can make use of the same authorisation and authentication modules from both Novate’s command line client and its web based client – simplifying the overall structure and reducing the potential for bugs.

Scalability

In some ways this is a corollary of Novate being composable. Novate has been designed from the beginning as a platform rather than simply a switching process: it is as easy to manage and maintain twenty authorisation instances as it is to manage one on the Novate platform. This is crucial, because payments processors cannot tolerate downtime – it is not acceptable for the entire platform to go down when some part of the system requires maintenance. We have put considerable effort into ensuring that Novate compares well with other switches performance-wise, and we’re confident that we can stand toe-to-toe with any other switch when it comes to transaction throughput.

Database independence

In many applications, being independent of a single database vendor is an inadvisable goal: it is complex, and can lead to performance problems if the implementing team do not properly understand all the databases that they support. However, for a payments switch it makes sense to support multiple databases. Different payments processors have different database preferences and in-house skill sets, and where possible it is a good thing for Novate to allow such customers to make use of pre-existing skills rather than have to learn a whole new database engine. Currently, Novate supports both Oracle and Postgres databases. Oracle is an excellent RDBMS engine, but it ain’t cheap. Postgres gives a good option in a lot of circumstances.

The JVM

The Java Virtual Machine is the obvious choice on which to base any serious server side payments system today. The performance of the JVM has dramatically improved over the past number of years, to the extent that it is comparable to C at this point. The advantages brought by Java (such as garbage collection and platform independence) make it a good platform for Novate to be built on.  We have had good success in using Clojure as the core programming language used in Novate – its clean approach to concurrency combined with its first class Java integration have given us a sound basis on which to build the best payments switch on the market

Call us!

We believe that Novate is going to be the reference platform for how to properly build a payments switch for the next twenty years. Although we are a young company, we already have a substantial set of functionality supported within Novate (including most of the major card schemes) and have built the platform in a way that allows rapid addition of features as necessary. We have a number of customers in the pipeline, but would love to hear from you should your company be either considering replacing your existing switch, or be looking for a next generation payments platform to service a new business opportunity. Let our experience help yours!

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