The oft-quoted maxim that trust is ‘hard to gain but easy to lose’ reverberates particularly strongly in the banking and insurance business these days.
Last week, the computer failure at NatWest prevented its customers from accessing their up to date online banking accounts. The state-owned bank, which has over 17 million customers, became an object of ridicule demonstrating the potential for technology mishaps to seriously damage trust between the customer and the institution.
Yet banks must continue to look for new ways to maintain or improve security and reliability whilst reducing costs and improving efficiency. Many are looking towards open source technology – software distributed free of charge together with its source code blueprint – as a means of escaping the rising costs and vendor dependency associated with traditional commercial software packages.
MySQL is an open source database, widely used in the financial services industry and generally reckoned to be the most popular open source database in the world. The open source nature of the MySQL database ensures that the technology remains freely available and free to use with a flourishing market in technical support and services. In times gone by, the use of open source software to store sensitive business data made IT managers in financial services uneasy as it could be perceived to be a soft target for hackers. However, this argument is increasingly being turned on its head. The NatWest outage was the result of a failed upgrade of a traditional ‘closed source’ software application. The nature of closed source software means that the number of developers who have access to the software source code is limited which inevitably limits the amount of testing which can be carried out.
In comparison, the open source MySQL database is constantly scrutinised by a community of thousands of enthusiastic developers, who live and breathe the database, and who stretch each new release of the software to breaking point. Additionally, companies such as SkySQL AB provide commercial support for the MySQL database 24 hours a day through a team of seasoned experts distributed around the world, offering users the best of both worlds.
SkySQL, which in addition to support offers consulting and a variety of MySQL tools and add-ons, has launched UK operations to deliver high quality, cost-effective services and support to end users. The company is expanding its reach after recently receiving €6million in primary funding. The funds will also be invested in product development to cater for a growing customer base of users of the MySQL database and MariaDB – an alternative, enhanced version of the MySQL database, which adheres very strictly to the open source model.
SkySQL was founded in 2010 by former MySQL AB executives after its billion dollar acquisition by Sun Microsystems. SkySQL aims to attract more customers by having the greatest depth of experience with the world’s most popular open source database. Long term users of the MySQL database will know that most of the talent which created the database and provided support for it has moved to SkySQL as well as to the team behind MariaDB.
Furthermore, the recent appointment of Patrik Sallner as new CEO initiates SkySQL on its journey towards the cloud.
After the summer break, SkySQL will introduce a new enterprise subscription package which will appeal to large database users. By the end of the year, it will launch new products which integrate open-source databases with the cloud. The cloud platform, which offers one environment and one configuration, is perfect for the mass production capabilities of open source. According to research, one IT person can service 65 servers in a traditional data centre whereas the cloud enables the same IT professional to service 850 servers at any given time.
In the near future, sheer economics will mean that storing data in the cloud will play an important role for financial services. To the global network of banking and financial institutions, the cloud offers scalability and convenience as software upgrades can be installed across a bank’s global portfolio instantaneously via the Internet. Alongside advantages in efficiency, businesses can save cost by moving databases to the cloud rather than maintaining them on internal servers, allowing an institution to make optimal use of its hardware resources. Many of the advantages of open source, together with the wide availability of talent in the market, make the MySQL database a natural fit for cloud deployment.
Kaj Arnö, Executive Vice President Products at SkySQL, believes businesses should be responsible for the protection of their own data and not rely on the security protocols available in the cloud. Arnö says: “The Financial Services Industry must look to the cloud for cost savings, however rather than being loyal to one provider, banks will often have a platform of services provided by multiple vendors. To stay in control, they must make sure they understand the capabilities of the cloud service they are using. To keep important business data safe in the cloud, it is important to limit access to key users and encrypt the data when it is in transit.”
The SkySQL UK team comprises of Anthony Flynn, UK Sales Director, who has joined from HP. His primary goal is to build awareness of SkySQL’s services in the UK market. Product and Engineering will be represented by CTO Ivan Zoratti and Senior Manager Engineering Mark Riddoch respectively. UK based customers include electronic trading solutions provider TradingScreen and Gamma Telecom, a communications software service.
With a focus on gaining mind-share in the booming MySQL market, predicted by analysts to be worth more than £400 million by 2015, SkySQL is using its size and agility to deliver innovative solutions where its competitors can’t. This has proved appealing in tough economic times and with the acquisition of 160 new customers in its first year of operation, some could say the sky is the limit for SkySQL.