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The Electrum Console – giving clients a window on real-time transactions

January 11, 2019

Neil MacKellar

We’re proud to have developed the Electrum Console, an interface that gives our clients a clear view of transactions happening in real-time in their payments switch. Electrum’s Head of Product, Neil MacKellar, writes about its development, workings and benefits.

The core of the value that we provide our customers sits deep in the plumbing: server-side transaction processing software that connects our customers to a variety of value-added service providers. This back-end engine – which has become known as the Electrum Switch – abstracts much of the complexity required to reliably handle multiple transaction types.

"…we wanted to make this black box more transparent"

We expose an interface for a client to connect to and a whole lot of protocol translation, field mappings, routing, store-and-forward queues and multi-leg orchestration goes on under the hood. The only interaction our customers typically have with the Switch is to send a request in and wait for a response. But what if the response returns something unexpected? Given the internal complexity of the system – and the multiple third-party service providers with which the Switch communicates – how can we effectively determine where a potential issue lies?

To make the lives of both our own and our customers’ operations teams easier, we wanted to make this black box more transparent. We sought to empower users with an effective means of seeing the critical details of what is going on with their transactions in order to rapidly troubleshoot production issues. That’s why we developed the Electrum Console – it provides a user interface to query and view incoming and outgoing messages, and supplies various metrics about the overall status of their Electrum Switch.

"…from individual transactions to system-wide metrics…"

A big step toward improving the visibility for a support engineer is to show what a transaction looked like at each step of the processing, exactly as it entered and exited the Switch. This extends a customer’s operations team’s view, allowing them to examine not only what’s happening between the customer and Electrum but also between Electrum and a third party. This is especially useful in cases where the Switch transforms a single request from the client into multiple calls to third-party systems.

Zooming out from individual transactions to system-wide metrics, the ability to see at a glance if a particular service is experiencing persistent issues allows for operations teams to quickly mobilise an investigation. Loads of new functionality is in the pipeline to give customers even greater visibility and control over their environments.

"…an intuitive front-end interface to provide a great user experience…"

Building the Console has come with numerous technical challenges. In order to provide a consistent view and query functionality across a variety of different transaction message types, the data needs to be extracted and transformed into a standardised representation. Given that this needs to happen in real time on a database processing a high volume of transactions, this has considerable implications for performance, scalability and reliability.

Once the real-time processing has taken place, the data then needs to be accessible via optimised queries, presenting yet another performance challenge. All of this back-end work ultimately needs to link with an intuitive front-end interface to provide a great user experience – probably the biggest challenge of all!

"…a means to consolidate, view and manage all of these new services in one place…"

So how does the Electrum Console fit into the strategy of our blue-chip banking and retail customers? As the world of digital payment services rapidly expands, Electrum is perfectly positioned to be the link between these institutions and the multitude of new products and services that are emerging. By providing a means to consolidate, view and manage all of these new services in one place, we aim to greatly simplify the way our customers access the digital payments and value-added services landscape.

We believe the development of the Electrum Console is at the forefront of innovations in the payments software space. It provides opportunities to take an innovative approach to building transaction processing solutions and to leverage cloud infrastructure to enable the rapid and seamless deployment of these solutions.

If you’d like to talk about how your business can benefit from the Electrum Console and our other innovative Fintech solutions, get in touch with us.

Neil MacKellar

Neil MacKellar is a former climate scientist, turned java developer, turned product manager, turned business architect at Electrum.

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