Continuity Software plans to release software to detect weaknesses in the technology that connects data storage to servers, potentially spotting areas where payments data is at risk of being lost.

 Called AvailabilityGuard/SAN, Continuity's software detects downtime and data loss risk in an attempt to measure an issuer's compliance with its data protection and business continuity goals. SAN refers to "storage area network," or the rails that connect data storage to the systems that power different departments, such as the system at a bank that processes payments.

"In a payment transaction, you have lots of parties that interact. You have the person making the payment, the party receiving the payment, and some sort of exchange between them," says Gil Hecht, CEO of Continuity. The addition of new payments services can disrupt existing SAN configurations, which can lead to data loss, latency or processing interruptions, he says.

Continuity plans to release its new software on Aug. 26.

SANs are becoming more complex as institutions add technology to power new payments initiatives and other financial products. Banks leverage payments data for sales, marketing, risk management and customer service.

"Any time you increase the types of transactions that your system has to support, you increase the data elements that are flying back and forth and that will stress the legacy systems," says Julie Conroy, a research director for Aite Group. "And in many cases, these systems are being held together with chewing gum and bailing wire."

As banks add technology, they can adversely affect other parts of their network, Hecht says. "There's a complex network of wires and configuration elements in multiple layers that get changed on a daily basis, and the problem that a lot of organizations have is a lack of visibility into those connections," Hecht says.

AvailabilityGuard/SAN leverages Continuity's database of thousands of potential risks in an attempt to proactively detect issues. The software includes daily verification that a SAN is working properly, validation that changes in configuration do not introduce downtime or data loss risk, an impact review of configuration changes prior to deployment, and visibility into SAN configuration. The software also examines the impact of virtualization, or the creation of virtual servers that provide scale for cloud computing. Smaller card issuers favor virtualization as a means to add new mobile and online payments technology.

Continuity Software's technology "scans the database, at a macro level, so we don't go into the data itself. Anytime we see something in a scan that could create a risk of losing data or a performance issue, we create a [service] ticket so the customer can fix the problem and avoid an outage," says Bill Weber, cofounder and CEO of Markets Experts Distribution, a Madrid-based reseller for Continuity Software.

The software also helps determine the scope of the corrective response. "We can tell whether it's a local recovery, or a disaster recovery, for example, which would require a remote location," Hecht says.

The core banking IT vendors also supply technology that can be used to measure the impact of new applications on legacy IT networks, as do companies that produce heat maps to locate latency risks in a network. Computer Sciences Corp. also sells technology that scans IT networks to reduce data loss. And Adquira and Inetco are using cloud-delivered technology to track payments processing to reduce delays.

"Anytime you add more data that has to be processed in the same amount of time, that will stress the legacy systems," Conroy says.

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