APIs, Cloud Computing, Apple Pay, and Chaos Monkey: This article has it all!

by Tim Sloane 0

The battle for technological supremacy has reached a fever pitch in Australia and ANZ Bank has grabbed headlines using Amazon’s AWS to host dynamic content on its websites and mobile apps:

“ANZ Banking Group has upped the ante in its adoption of cloud-based services in order to pursue a more flexible technology strategy, with Netflix-developed software to stop outages and the door left open to collaborate more openly with emerging fintech start-ups.

The bank’s general manager of consumer digital technology Christian Venter told The Australian Financial Review it has significantly increased its use of cloud platforms – most notably the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud – to host more dynamic content on its websites and mobile apps, and was designing new systems that would allow access for data sharing with external organisations.

The move to open up systems comes amid a Productivity Commission inquiry into whether private sector organisations, including banks, should be compelled to share their data with outside organisations through a system of “open APIs” (application programming interfaces) in order to foster innovation.

It also comes as ANZ enters a new digital era under former Google Australia boss Maile Carnegie, who is in the midst of formulating her plans for the future of digital banking. Opening up APIs would mean banks allowing potential competitors to plug directly into data sets they hold, such as transaction account activity, in order to develop new products and services”.

Exposing a banks operational platforms to partners via APIs is not for the feint hearted, not only are there the security and business issues to be considered, but also performance issues that can arise from partners that utilize the APIs in unexpected ways, overloading middleware or core systems in the process.

Then there is the problem of Apple Pay. ANZ Bank has deployed Apple Pay while the other major Australian Banks have decided not to pay Apple the 15 basis points it demands:

“”You have seen that recently we were first to market with Apple Pay and Android Pay, and we have got a regular cadence of releases now on our mobile apps,” he said.

“Our internet banking apps have all been re-skinned with full responsive design, which enables customers to use them on the device of their choice, and all of that has been built effectively on modern digital technologies and architecture that sit on top of our existing core.”

Whereas ANZ’s big four rivals are trying to encourage the competition regulator to allow them to join forces and collectively negotiate with Apple to get their own digital wallets onto iPhones, Mr Venter said ANZ was clearly acting in its customers’ interests by choosing to work closely with the tech titan.

Banks have expressed frustration that their own existing apps do everything that Apple Pay promises, but feel customers are being unfairly pushed on to Apple’s own app.”

That last paragraph is a mystery, in that Apple Pay has many capabilities but the payment aspect is clearly the most important, and Banks are not able to implement payments on iOS because Apple has blocked access to NFC.

Then there is the discussion of what has to be the best named product in the world, Chaos Monkey, a malicious cloud diagnostic tool:

“Meanwhile, Mr Venter said ANZ’s cloud-heavy systems were able to take advantage of best-practice software from around the world.

This has included it adopting an automated system testing tool developed by engineers at TV streaming giant Netflix called Chaos Monkey, which runs on AWS, but can also run on cloud environments such as Microsoft Azure and IBM Bluemix, which ANZ also use significantly.

The Chaos Monkey tool essentially performs disaster recovery type tests on the network every 20 minutes, creating different problems and assessing the network’s ability to withstand them.

Theoretically its use reduces the amount of damaging banking outages that cause chaos when they hit banks.”

For those unfamiliar with Chaos Monkey which was developed by Netflix, here is an explanation pulled from an article published in 2012 on ARS Technica:

“Netflix’s Chaos Monkey is “a tool that randomly disables our production instances to make sure we can survive this common type of failure without any customer impact,” Netflix explained. “The name comes from the idea of unleashing a wild monkey with a weapon in your data center (or cloud region) to randomly shoot down instances and chew through cables—all the while we continue serving our customers without interruption.”

Specifically, the Chaos Monkey randomly terminates virtual machines Netflix operates in Amazon’s Auto Scaling service. In the past year, Netflix says its Chaos Monkey “has terminated over 65,000 instances running in our production and testing environments. Most of the time nobody notices, but we continue to find surprises caused by Chaos Monkey which allows us to isolate and resolve them so they don’t happen again.””

Overview by Tim Sloane, VP, Payments Innovation at Mercator Advisory Group

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