The Banks Automated Clearing System (BACS) has started work ahead of schedule on the second phase of a £75m project to re-engineer the clearing house's IT infrastructure.
The NewBACS project is due to be completed by 2005 and will see BACS introduce a public key infrastructure (PKI) and an Internet Protocol- (IP) based network, to improve communications with users and offer a more flexible electronics payments infrastructure.
Martin Wilson, programme director for NewBACS, told vnunet.com that the project was on track and that work on phase two had started early.
"We are in the development stage of phase one and we have actually started work on the second phase," he said.
This part will see BACS upgrade its customer data management systems to allow customers to maintain their own contact details online, rather than using a paper-based system. The rest of the project will be the creation of a component-based electronic payment system.
The first phase, due to go live early next year, will see the gradual migration from the telecoms-based Bacstel network to a new IP network and protected by PKI encryption.
Anticipated growth in the volumes of transactions handled by BACS was the driver for NewBACS. The clearing house, which is owned by the major banks, currently handles over three-and-a-half billion financial transactions a year, such as direct debits and standing orders. This is expected to rise to five billion by 2005.
"With those numbers you wouldn't expect a big bang. For a period of time IP-based networks and telecoms networks will be used as the migration goes on," Wilson said.
BACS has chosen a Unix mainframe platform and Java development environment as the basis for the new infrastructure.
"One of the early decisions we made was to move onto a Unix platform for reasons of resilience, performance and scalability. We wanted to move to open standards, and Java has a smoother learning curve than C++," said Wilson.
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