ATMs bank on Windows after OS/2

The automatic teller machines of many banks, the last outpost of IBM’s OS/2 operating system, are moving towards Windows partly as a result of Big Blue’s decision to stop supporting OS/2 from 2006.

Banks in New Zealand are mirroring overseas counterparts in choosing Windows as the migration path, not least because ATM vendors are heading the Windows way.

ASB Bank technology solutions group manager Steve Watt says the majority of devices it has in the field have the capability to move to a Windows-based environment. “And we have a strategy mapped out to position the ATM channel off OS/2.”

However, it’s the need to get the most out of ATM hardware, not an inability to cope with unsupported OS/2, that’s driving the strategy.

“While OS/2 will be unsupported, I can’t recall any problems we’ve had relating to it. Going unsupported is a risk but not an issue,” Watt says. “It’s more about saying ‘we want to get the most out of our OS/2-based devices and maximise our investment in them’.”

In New Zealand OS/2, a joint IBM-Microsoft product which predated Windows NT, has all but disappeared from the IT landscape apart from at banks. The BNZ has already dropped it, having implemented a Windows-based ATM operating system in 2001.

National Bank technology head Peter Lockery says the bank is moving off OS/2 to Windows NT-based Wincor Nixdorf next year. Linux “isn’t on our radar”.

ANZ ATM support manager Tony Miles says the bank will continue to run OS/2 with ATM manufacturer NCR’s NDC+ application until 2005. It intends to replace it with a Windows-based solution and upgrade its ATM network software from the ageing SNA protocol to TCP/IP.

Westpac ATMs also run on OS/2 and spokesman Paul Gregory says no date has been set for migration to a new platform.

“We’re working on an appropriate replacement strategy.”

Major customer moves away from OS/2 include the police’s shift to Windows NT three years ago and NZ Post’s replacement of OS/2 with Windows 2000 at its Post Shops earlier this year.

In the US IBM is encouraging banks to migrate to Linux after support for OS/2 ceases, but most appear headed down the Windows path. ATM manufacturers NCR and Diebold have indicated they’ll move toward Windows.

Watt says the move to a Windows environment would be based on a ready hardware platform and capability. “We’ve got functionality that some of our component-based architectures allow us to move to Windows.”

A definite timeframe has yet to be set for the migration. “We have the capability now to do it, but it’s about maximising our investment in OS/2.”

Last month IBM’s WebSphere industry solutions development director, David Kerr, said having Windows on ATMs and bank teller workstations would stifle competition.

“Banks, being frugal with cash, would prefer to purchase from a competitive marketplace so they don’t get tied to a certain vendor. That certain company has demonstrated the pricing power it has by [suddenly] changing its licensing model before.”

He said IBM customers who chose Linux rather than Windows as a replacement for OS/2 would get functionality comparable to Windows-based systems.

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