Android lands on Microsoft's money-machine island fortress

NCR hurls Google's Linux at Windows XP walls


Banks have a new option for finally unhitching from Windows XP on tens of thousands of ATMs – Google’s Android.

NCR, the country’s largest supplier of cash machines, was today due to unveil a Linux-powered cash-machine running Google’s smartphone operating system. Called Kalpana*, NCR has developed a secure, customised version of Android KitKat 4.4.4 with chip giant Intel.

Gone are phone staples such as notifications, keyboard and camera; in come improved security with a secure boot-loader used to validate the kernel and operating system and prevent hackers booting code not signed by NCR. NCR is also introducing a thin architecture for building ATM apps that potentially makes cash machines easier and cheaper to maintain.

The result is a skinnny Kalpana client of 256MB, versus gigabytes needed for ATM's stuffed with Windows XP and – increasingly – Windows 7. Kalpana apps are Webbified; built using HTML rather than using Microsoft-friendly tools and language. They are served to a WebKit-based UI from a back-end in a bank’s data centre, constructed using the Spring Framework and RESTful APIs.

This is NCR's first Linux and Android-powered ATM. The industry swung to Windows in the 1990s, ditching IBM's OS/2 for an operating system on the rise which offered rich features and greater opportunity for banks to build their own, unique banking apps for customers at the ATM end-point. Two decades later, however, banks are lumbered with a costly legacy. Windows XP runs tens of thousands of ATMs in the UK that have not been receiving security updates from Microsoft since April 2014.

Last year, NCR told The Reg that just a third of the UK’s 60,000 ATMS would be upgraded from Windows XP. This week, NCR said one third are now on Windows 7 – with the rest either still migrating or simply not moving. Even a basic ATM costs tens of thousands of pounds and banks are unhappy at needing to spend on upgrades simply for the sake of the operating system.

They must also navigate the growing uncertainty of Microsoft’s Windows roadmap too – the post Windows-XP future of Windows has passed in quick succession, from Windows Vista to Windows 8, 8.1 and now Windows X.

NCR reckons it went back to the drawing board, getting off the upgrades and support treadmill, concluding that a thin client using Android was the answer. NCR claimed that an “average” cash-only dispenser costs $20,000 a year to maintain but Kalpana would cost between $12,000 and $15,000. Other cost savings will be passed on to the banks in terms of not having to pay a Microsoft licensing fee for Windows on each cash machine they operate.

NCR global marketing director for enterprise software products in NCR’s financial services division, Robert Johnson, told The Reg: “Kalpana gives people more flexibility and choice on how they will navigate the next few years.”

“Even if Windows 7 wasn’t happening we’d have done this, but Windows 7 has ramped up the volume of people more open to this,” Johnson said. “But what it’s prompting in the industry is a lot of discussion of why are we still using Windows. We have been asking that as well, to the point where we sat down with a clean sheet of paper and asked with all that we know, would be build something radically different – and the answer is ‘Yes’.”

The challenge for NCR now, however, is convincing banks married to Windows and who have begun migrating to newer Windows incarnations to embrace Android. Johnson also told The Reg that NCR will continue to make Windows-based cash machines for a long time.

Meaanwhile, the company is talking to industry bodies to have cash-machine standards evolve to accommodate its Android and web-based architecture. Kalpana works with relational data, supporting Microsoft’s SQL Server and Oracle, and non-relational by working with MongoDB. Non-relational data will be captured on the machine’s performance.

The system runs on the Apache Web Server, although NCR said it is app-server agnostic and would work on a bank’s platform of choice.

NCR picked Android. it said, because this offered the clearest roadmap in Linux with support from Google – it evaluated Red Hat, CentOS and building its own, too. ®

Bootnote

* Readers with long memories should be aware that NCR's new OS has nothing to do with Ethernet switch maker Kalpana, which was based in Sunnyvale, California until it was acquired by Cisco Systems in 1994.


Other stories you might like

  • Florida's content-moderation law kept on ice, likely unconstitutional, court says
    So cool you're into free speech because that includes taking down misinformation

    While the US Supreme Court considers an emergency petition to reinstate a preliminary injunction against Texas' social media law HB 20, the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday partially upheld a similar injunction against Florida's social media law, SB 7072.

    Both Florida and Texas last year passed laws that impose content moderation restrictions, editorial disclosure obligations, and user-data access requirements on large online social networks. The Republican governors of both states justified the laws by claiming that social media sites have been trying to censor conservative voices, an allegation that has not been supported by evidence.

    Multiple studies addressing this issue say right-wing folk aren't being censored. They have found that social media sites try to take down or block misinformation, which researchers say is more common from right-leaning sources.

    Continue reading
  • US-APAC trade deal leaves out Taiwan, military defense not ruled out
    All fun and games until the chip factories are in the crosshairs

    US President Joe Biden has heralded an Indo-Pacific trade deal signed by several nations that do not include Taiwan. At the same time, Biden warned China that America would help defend Taiwan from attack; it is home to a critical slice of the global chip industry, after all. 

    The agreement, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), is still in its infancy, with today's announcement enabling the United States and the other 12 participating countries to begin negotiating "rules of the road that ensure [US businesses] can compete in the Indo-Pacific," the White House said. 

    Along with America, other IPEF signatories are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Combined, the White House said, the 13 countries participating in the IPEF make up 40 percent of the global economy. 

    Continue reading
  • 381,000-plus Kubernetes API servers 'exposed to internet'
    Firewall isn't a made-up word from the Hackers movie, people

    A large number of servers running the Kubernetes API have been left exposed to the internet, which is not great: they're potentially vulnerable to abuse.

    Nonprofit security organization The Shadowserver Foundation recently scanned 454,729 systems hosting the popular open-source platform for managing and orchestrating containers, finding that more than 381,645 – or about 84 percent – are accessible via the internet to varying degrees thus providing a cracked door into a corporate network.

    "While this does not mean that these instances are fully open or vulnerable to an attack, it is likely that this level of access was not intended and these instances are an unnecessarily exposed attack surface," Shadowserver's team stressed in a write-up. "They also allow for information leakage on version and build."

    Continue reading
  • A peek into Gigabyte's GPU Arm for AI, HPC shops
    High-performance platform choices are going beyond the ubiquitous x86 standard

    Arm-based servers continue to gain momentum with Gigabyte Technology introducing a system based on Ampere's Altra processors paired with Nvidia A100 GPUs, aimed at demanding workloads such as AI training and high-performance compute (HPC) applications.

    The G492-PD0 runs either an Ampere Altra or Altra Max processor, the latter delivering 128 64-bit cores that are compatible with the Armv8.2 architecture.

    It supports 16 DDR4 DIMM slots, which would be enough space for up to 4TB of memory if all slots were filled with 256GB memory modules. The chassis also has space for no fewer than eight Nvidia A100 GPUs, which would make for a costly but very powerful system for those workloads that benefit from GPU acceleration.

    Continue reading
  • GitLab version 15 goes big on visibility and observability
    GitOps fans can take a spin on the free tier for pull-based deployment

    One-stop DevOps shop GitLab has announced version 15 of its platform, hot on the heels of pull-based GitOps turning up on the platform's free tier.

    Version 15.0 marks the arrival of GitLab's next major iteration and attention this time around has turned to visibility and observability – hardly surprising considering the acquisition of OpsTrace as 2021 drew to a close, as well as workflow automation, security and compliance.

    GitLab puts out monthly releases –  hitting 15.1 on June 22 –  and we spoke to the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, about what will be added to version 15 as time goes by. During a chat with the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, The Register was told that this was more where dollars were being invested into the product.

    Continue reading
  • To multicloud, or not: Former PayPal head of engineering weighs in
    Not everyone needs it, but those who do need to consider 3 things, says Asim Razzaq

    The push is on to get every enterprise thinking they're missing out on the next big thing if they don't adopt a multicloud strategy.

    That shove in the multicloud direction appears to be working. More than 75 percent of businesses are now using multiple cloud providers, according to Gartner. That includes some big companies, like Boeing, which recently chose to spread its bets across AWS, Google Cloud and Azure as it continues to eliminate old legacy systems. 

    There are plenty of reasons to choose to go with multiple cloud providers, but Asim Razzaq, CEO and founder at cloud cost management company Yotascale, told The Register that choosing whether or not to invest in a multicloud architecture all comes down to three things: How many different compute needs a business has, budget, and the need for redundancy. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022