Bank finds stability in Linux, innovation in Agile

Tyro Payments is investing heavily in development, according to the bank's VP for operations

Linux, 'dual live' data centres and a collaborative relationship between development and IT operations have all helped play a role delivering infrastructure stability while driving rapid ongoing growth at Tyro Payments, according to Sascha Hess, the vice-president for operations at the acquiring bank.

In the half year to December 2013, Tyro reported $25.4 million in revenue — a 36 per cent increase in revenue over the previous corresponding period. The processor has been in the BRW Fast 100 for four consecutive years.

Tyro Payments, originally founded as MoneySwitch, is "basically a software development company with a banking licence and a sales arm", according to Hess. The company was founded just over a decade ago and is Australia's only independent EFTPOS provider.

It is essentially a product of the Reserve Bank of Australia's efforts to introduce more competition into the space, Hess says.

Tyro was founded in 2003 by a group of ex-Cisco employees who thought "look let's try to take up that licence [from the RBA] and build our own infrastructure and have a more competitive acquiring service out there with decent technology", Hess says.

The company now has more than 10,000 customers, mainly in the SME space. Hess says there has also been significant uptake among medical practices (the company has terminals that support Medicare Easyclaim). There are more than 15,000 Tyro credit card terminals in use and the company processes $5 billion in transactions annually.

In its early years the company distinguished itself by offering broadband-based credit card payments, at a time when most merchants had to rely on dial-up for transactions. The company's terminals still boast quick transaction times, Hess says.

But because the company is a technology company, it's not only transaction speed but the support for a wide range of point of sale systems that is also a competitive advantage, Hess says; Tyro terminals can be integrated with a variety of POSes to avoid double data entry.

"We're predominantly an IT company, a software development shop," Hess says.

A transparent fee structure, an absence lock-in contracts and real-time reporting are also areas where he feels Tyro has the edge over its bigger competitors.

The company is adding more employees almost every month, Hess says, with the increased headcount mainly going to its development team.

"We're an Agile development shop and we have now probably 40 developers. This is the department that grows crazily — that's what we're investing in," Hess says.

Tyro is a Java/Linux shop running out of two data centres, Hess says. "We have something we refer to as an 'active' or 'live-live' architecture" for the data centre setup, he says. "We don't have, like other banks, a disaster recovery site.

Read more: Agile: Empathy not velocity

Instead, the architecture is based around "disaster prevention", with both sites taking live loads (and redundant infrastructure within both sites). "If one has an issue, traffic just goes to the other one and it continues transacting," Hess says.

"If you look at the EFTPOS market you realise how availability is critical to our merchants — and not only the Christmas business where people have sometimes issues with capacity. It's the life of our merchants — they have to take transactions."

Tyro set out to build infrastructure offering non-stop acquiring and 100 per cent availability, Hess says. It is heavily virtualized infrastructure and it uses SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as the basis of its SOE.

"When we looked at redesigning our build, we wanted to have a commercially supported Linux and looked at what would make commercial sense. SUSE licensing was very favourable for our high density — we have lots of servers on one host and the SUSE licensing model was very well suited for that."

Along with pricing, customer support was a big driver; the company migrated away from RedHat, and during the changeover SUSE provided patches to support Tyro's servers that were still running the other distribution of Linux, Hess says.

Another important part of the Tyro story is the collaboration between development and operations at the acquiring bank, Hess says. Dev and ops have always worked closely together, he says. "We have always been like that and obviously now it's in vogue with this DevOps movement."

The payments processor has always valued having a 'no blame culture' and open dialogue.

"Developers constantly talk to the operations team. We have a function called 'operations interrupt' that rotates. That person is there to answer any questions from the dev team or will go over to the dev team and try to figure out why something is a problem. So it's a very, very close relationship."

"I learned the term [DevOps] later to be honest after I joined — 'Oh yes, we're actually doing that'," he says.

"It's a big term and it's a movement, and I guess not everyone is clear on what it is. The main point is that we're working together we have one goal. I think it's quite important to have a blame-free culture, and that's what we have in Tyro in general. It's in our DNA."

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Tags Linuxdata centresagilecredit cardssusebanksEftposPaymentsredhatTyro Payments

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