What's Best for Branch Automation: PC Networks or Unix-Based Systems?

Article excerpt

AT THIS POINT IN TIME, the cost of an intelligent device isn't that much greater than for a dumb terminal.

A PC network configuration also has multiple advantages. An IBM 4700-type teller terminal, for example, can handle a limited number of transaction types. A PC can handle many more types of transactions, with much greater flexibility.

The PC configuration also allows data to be stored on a more localized basis and is much more user-friendly. Off-the-shelf software packages for the PC are very powerful, so when the right package becomes available, you can take advantage of it. And if you look at the overall picture, the branch as a delivery mechanism needs to expand its capabilities. Alternatives like ATMs and toll-free numbers are easier and faster, so any branch automation system must be able to deliver a wider and deeper range of functionality.

ON THE SERVER SIDE, the choice of hardware is not that relevant.

A server can be based on any one of a number of standard operating systems, including Unix, OS/2, or Novell, as long as it is able to support the users, or clients, of the system.

But it is important to deploy intelligent workstations in most branch applications.

A situation where all of the application resides on the server and the client [workstation] is used for display presentation only might be suitable for teller terminals, but that configuration isn't worth much for more complex applications, such as in-lobby information systems or platform workstations.

In terms of flexibility and performance, it all comes down to how you configure the client workstations.

AS IN ANY CASE, the application, and not the hardware, is the most important consideration.

I don't know whether one or the other hardware configuration is a better base for branch automation. It depends entirely on the quality of the application, particularly in the platform area.

Branch automation applications packages are very specialized, to the point where an entire market has developed for them.

This market mirrors the entire microcomputer arena, which is very applications-driven.

We've tried to develop an environment within the bank that supports a variety of hardware, operating systems, and communications standards and that enables all users to communicate.

I DON'T THINK THERE IS A SINGLE answer to that question, because both architectures are suited to a branch environment.

In our case, [branch automation] was an application-driven solution.

We identified what we think is the best branch automation application in the marketplace, made sure it was stable and robust enough to meet our needs, and then deployed it.

In other instances, the choice might depend on a bank's overall automation architecture. …