Suriname is a small country with about 600,000 people in population located on the northeastern coast of South America. Credit cards are not widely accepted in the country so having access to cash is extremely important. Banking Network Suriname (BNETS) is the only payments switch in Suriname and operates many of the ATMs in the country.
We chatted with Andrew Jong, Chief Information Officer at BNETS, who is responsible for all IT and security-related issues at the company. During our conversation, we learned more about their plans to roll out more ATMs throughout Suriname and why they chose MariaDB Enterprise Server as its database of record.
What does BNETS do?
We are a payment switch company based in Suriname. A payment switch is a software system that enables the routing of electronic payments between different payment methods and financial institutions. It acts as a hub, connecting various payment methods, such as credit cards, debit cards, and online wallets, with multiple banks or payment providers. BNETS is the owner of this switch and the local debit card brand.
Currently, we have nine banks connected to our switch and through us, the bank’s customers can use POS and ATM devices of the other banks. In fact, we are the sole debit card network in Suriname and we also have partnerships with Visa and Mastercard.
How many transactions are you running on your network daily?
Typically, we’ve experienced 60,000 to 80,000 transactions per day, which is about 10 to 50 million transactions per year. We’ve seen an increase of roughly 10-15% YoY with ATM transactions, and up to a 30% increase with POS transactions.
What is the major project you’re currently working on?
At the moment, we operate the largest ATM fleet in our country. In 2021, we embarked on a mission to become the sole ATM provider for the entire country. There is a population of around 600,000 people in Suriname. Currently, there are 88 ATMs in Suriname but we plan to expand it to 100-150 ATMs to better serve the people of Suriname. The project entails the implementation of an ATM driving solution that can be robust and highly available, as to guarantee our customers 24/7 access to cash services.
What databases did you consider for the project?
We needed a database that could be used in combination with our payment switching software, meet our critical requirements as a banking network, and be easy to install and operate when we started our ATM project. We considered Oracle, IBM DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server as well as MariaDB Enterprise Server as we were familiar with these database vendors.
Why did you choose MariaDB Enterprise Server?
We had two important criteria when we started looking for a new database vendor. First, the database vendor had to be familiar with our complex business, which included all of our requirements, such as the ability to detect auto failures, high availability and zero downtime. Zero downtime has been the most important aspect for our business.
The second criteria was the cost. Because we serve a developing country with a small population, our budget is limited.
MariaDB Enterprise Server not only met our two criteria but they exceeded our expectations. In fact, when we compared Oracle’s original estimated costs to a MariaDB subscription, there was roughly a 50-80% cost difference.
Which database were you running on before MariaDB Enterprise Server?
The ATM project consists of building a completely new system. We are moving away from our legacy system, IBM AS400, that was on a monolith software and hardware architecture to a microservices architecture. While the DB2 database was very robust it had many drawbacks with regards to high availability and business continuity.
What can you do with MariaDB now that you couldn’t do before? What’s next for BNETS?
With MariaDB, we’ve had more capabilities such as automatic failover. We’re looking to expand our database from a cluster standpoint too. Right now, MariaDB is the database we have everything running on. We’ve piloted 1-2 ATMs at the moment and once we’ve completed our evaluation within the next couple of weeks, we plan to roll it out to all 88 ATMs we have before we gradually move towards rolling it out to a total of 100-150 ATMs for the entire Suriname country.