FinTP viewed from the inside

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Please take 3 minutes to watch this short video where 25 Allevo-ers share some quick thoughts on the FinTP ‪opensource‬ project.

 

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By Ioana Moldovan, 29 January 2014.

For the 6th year in a row, Allevo has been among the winners at the e-Finance Awards Gala. For the 11th edition, held yesterday, January 28, we have been awarded the e-initiative prize for our decision to publish the code of our financial transactions platform, FinTP, under GPL v3 license and for reshaping our business model to better accommodate the adoption of the open source one.

This year’s gala was under the mark of innovation. Everybody was talking about creative ideas, courage, fresh approaches. And of course, FinTP was one of them, a premiere on the financial market.

We thank e-Finance for this award and we congratulate all the winners.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Friday, January 24th: we successfully checked another box on the list of steps to take towards turning FinTP project into success. And that was publishing the FinTP code. Now the source code is available on GitHub and you can also find the releases on FINkers United community webpage fintp.org.

This called for a celebration event, so we organized one. The Athenée Palace Hilton’s Le Diplomate ballroom was filled with people on Friday. Partners, friends, people we met for the first time, numerous professionals from the financial, banking and IT industries, all gathered for our official announcement.

So I take this occasion to thank all the participants for joining us and making the FinTP launch a memorable moment. To see how memorable, check out the photos in our Facebook album or on our Events page.

We appreciated all the cheers, congratulations and good thoughts we have received, as well as all the advices and concerns. We hope we addressed all of the latter, though.

Now we are off to the next step, a very important one for the success of the FinTP project, the consolidation of the community around it, FINkers United. Friday’s event was a great occasion for the financial thinkers agora to gain more experienced members, as Corina Mihalache, our new CEO launched an open invitation for participants as well as all players in the financial and IT industries to join and help us develop an active community, one that will empower transparent and efficient collaboration, in a secure environment, with respect for business ethics. And all this for the ultimate goal to bring financial interoperability to a whole new standard.

I would like to renew that invitation here. Join FINkers United. Together we can create innovative platforms, share them with the world and inspire new generations.

For more information, please visit the community web page: fintp.org. And feel free to contribute.

Before I go, I just wanted to share a short video with you that we made here at Allevo: what our team involved in the project thinks about FinTP. Enjoy! … and after join FINkers United.

 

 

 

By Ioana Moldovan, 28 January 2014.

 

Friday, January 24th, Allevo made the official announcement for publishing the code of the first open source financial transactions processing platform, FinTP.

The event took place at Athenée Palace Hilton Bucharest and benefited from the participation of numerous professionals from the financial, banking and IT industries.

This event was the perfect occasion for FINkers United, the community around the FinTP project, to attract more specialists.

Thank you all for joining Allevo in this celebration. You can read more about it on the blog.

For more information on FinTP and FINkers United, please visit www.fintp.org.

 

 

 

January 24 – the big day, the D day for us at Allevo. It is the day we publish the FinTP source code, the first open source application for processing financial transactions, the day we launch the community to support this project, FINkers United.

We’ll make the official announcement during the celebration event we are organizing this Friday, at Athenée Palace Hilton Bucharest and we are looking forward to enjoy the participation of professionals from the financial, banking and IT industries, individuals and institutions we gladly welcome in this financial thinkers agora.

With only a couple of days left until the event, I believe a short recall of what FinTP stands for is due. The FinTP project emerged once we became aware that technological evolution has put its mark on the payments arena as well: the banking payment systems and the related financial transactions processing tools have become a commodity and they should no longer be a competitive differentiator. Therefore, we felt the need for a new business frame, one being able to address the continuous downsizing of IT budgets (by substantially decreasing the initial capital investment and the operational costs), as well as to provide free access to knowledge and promote collaboration. The final goal is to achieve a new semantic standard for financial transactions – to ensure interoperability between industries and geographical areas. This is what led to the development of the first open source platform for financial transactions processing – FinTP.

Two years after the FinTP project was initiated and after a process involving not only the migration to open source, but also the company’s reorganization to accommodate the new business model, we are publishing the first release of the FinTP code, under GPL v3 license.

As we stated all along, the success of the FinTP project is highly dependent on the consolidation of the FINkers United community, a community formed by members of the banking and financial ecosystem, open to diverse professional profiles and meant to support and develop this platform. FINkers United is governed by generous and motivating principles, like high business ethics, collaboration, security, openness, agility and efficiency. We want this community to be active, cohesive and capable to sustain and grow the product. And this January 24 is the perfect occasion for it to attract more specialists.

So let’s start to: Create. Share. Inspire.

 

by: Ioana Moldovan

Practice makes you less bad

My grandfather taught me how to play chess when I was around 7 years old. He started with the basics : allowed moves, win conditions and some strategy to improve board presence and pretty much stopped there. He was not an expert chess player, but he had great patience and let me win as much as needed so I don’t lose interest in the game and also seemed to really enjoy the time we spent during the summer holidays.

Casual chess players hit a wall at around 1200 elo rating and after that, just playing random games does not improve their skill any further, or does so at a very slow pace, so a more focused learning is required, such as reading a book or playing tournaments.

I believe there are similar obstacles in software development or other engineering practices and one can only get that far by circling the comfort zone. I was recently pushed out of one of my comfort zones when the company I work for decided to change its business model to an open source subscription based model and I was tasked to come up with a strategy for the development team to accommodate it.

One challenge was to allow and facilitate external contributions into our existing codebase. After some evaluation, we chose GitHub as a platform for managing the code and the associated artifacts (issues, documentation, releases…) and started to draft how this will work.

Managing code

First, the principles :

  • Community is the bleeding edge of development and new features are mainly developed there.
  • Some features may have to be developed on the enterprise version first, due to contractual obligations, but every change will eventually be pushed upstream.
  • Merging from the community branch to enterprise will occur at regular intervals ( 4-6 months ) and merging from the enterprise to the community branch will follow as soon as possible after an enterprise release.

There are two main branches ( development and master ) with an infinite lifetime for both the community and enterprise repositories. In order to keep things simple, merges are done in one direction only : dev->master. Development is done on the dev branch and merged to master as soon as the build reaches a state that is stable enough for production.

Support branches ( hotfix, feature ) have a shorter lifetime and will be merged and deleted as soon as they served their purpose. Their role is to accommodate parallel developments for multiple teams.

Managing releases

Principles again :

  • Every commit on master triggers an ( automated ) release.
  • Nightly builds are fully automated.
  • We’ll be using a form of semantic versioning : MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH
  • Major releases occur at regular intervals ( 1-2 years ) and feature releases at shorter intervals ( 4-6 months ).

There will be two versions of FinTP : the community edition and the enterprise edition. The main reason to offer an enterprise version is that we need to be able to offer support to our paying customers and for that we need to keep releases stable and controlled.

I’m taking a page from Joel’s book here and plan to automate the built process as much as possible. We want to enable a community of developers/users as much as possible, so we’re releasing precompiled binaries for the community edition on fintp.org and at the same time keep costs down, so it will have to happen with no human supervision.

 

Mistakes will be made

There is saying in chess that “a bad plan is better than no plan at all” and this is our plan to open our development efforts.

This is how we start and I can’t wait to see where the road will take us.

 

by: Horia Beschea

The period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840 marks a turning point in history. The entire world as it was known changed so drastically that today it is seen as the biggest leap forward taken by humanity. Day to day life, communication between individuals and society evolved in a few decades more than it had done in centuries. That leap was called the Industrial Revolution.

 

Today we are witnessing the dawn of a new revolution that again, rocks the very foundation of our technology. This Industrial Revolution v2.0 is also known as the Open Source revolution. But what is “Open Source”, a term very common today in tech blogs, magazines and forums? What does Linux, Android, Apache and other open source projects have in common? Although it’s a very strong presence in today’s news the concept of open source is not a new one. It started in academic circles during the beginning of the computer age as universities were the first ones to have access to the newest computers and had to write their own software. As one of the main principles of academic research is the sharing of information, programmers would write their applications and make them and their code available to everyone. Then, other programmers would pick the source code, modify it to their needs and share the modifications with everyone who had interest in the applications. This culture of sharing allowed applications to be developed and ported to almost every platform available. Even commercial entities who sold software offered the source code with the product and encouraged users to make modifications and send them back. Then, as it is now, security was an important aspect of software. Even though the notion of networks was still in its infancy programmers would read the source code and look for bugs, security holes or backdoors. This practice has evolved today into one of the strongest reasons to embrace open source software as due to the transparent nature of the development and the code itself any security concern can be found and fixed in a time frame so small that no proprietary software can compete with.

 

Over the years computers go beyond the academic area and slowly enter into our life. As more and more people gain access to computers and the communication means offered by the Internet the magnitude of open source projects grows exponentially. Today we have communities of tens of thousands of people working together at projects that shape the way we interact with technology. And the beauty of these collaborations is the idea behind them: democracy. Everyone can contribute to an open source project in every way they can and decisions are taken by the community for the community. And in the end if there is a minority of members in that community who don’t agree the decisions taken they can take the existing project and make a new community with a different vision and goals. As we dig deeper into the nature of open source we encounter this flexibility in almost every project. Even if a certain project is abandoned by its community and development ceases to exist in time someone else will pick the dead project or even parts of it to build something better. This way, with every iteration of the project the quality factor increases to a level that fits its users. Nowadays we find open source everywhere. From the Apache Web Server that powers 70% of the Internet to Android phones and tablets that account for 80% of the mobile device market. Even though most people don’t notice it or simply don’t care about the nature of the software in their devices, open source is a silent innovator that changes their life one day after another, version after version, one line of code at a time.

 

Embracing this current of innovation and willing to participate in this revolution Allevo is preparing the launch of a project that will change the way we look at financial transaction processing. With the launch of FinTP in January 2014 we bring the principles of open source to an area where proprietary software is the undisputed leader. Although there is a saying “If something ain’t broke, don’t fix it” we will try to go beyond it and bring new concepts as quality, security and the most important above all transparency and true democracy. Finkers United is the community built around FinTP and the one responsible for implementing the concepts mentioned above. Every decision regarding the development and direction which the project is taking will be made by the community in a transparent way and made available to everyone. Everyone is welcome to join either they are users of the application, students, developers or they are simply driven by curiosity. No mater the reason for joining every member’ opinion will have an influence on the shape the project. The main goal for this community will be to provide its members with the standards of quality they desire and offer them a direct involvement in the process. Due to the nature of the public availability of the code we will be able to set high standards for security as this is one of the most important aspects for the future users. This will allow not only members of our community but also security researchers and everyone who has interest to discover flaws in our project, to provide assistance in fixing them or even provide the patches directly in the shortest time possible.

 

This is the way WE plan to shape our future. This is the approach WE take to ensure our continuous innovation.

Who are WE?

We are a community.

We are open to members.

We are open to suggestions.

We are Open Source.

Join the Revolution.

 

by: Andrei Bogza

Thursday, January 09, 2014

by Mihai Guiman

I work for a private ISV and consultancy company focused on delivering software products for financial institutions. Three years ago my company decided to share our achievements and knowledge by publishing our application, FinTP, for processing financial transactions under an open source license.

Here, I will explore the changes a company has to undertake when embarking on the transition from a traditional business model to a business model that supports open source. This is based on nine years of experience with a once commercially-available solution. The motivation for a transition like this comes from our company’s ambition to be in a position of leadership in this changing and challenging industry.

The culture of sharing in open source is our way forward, because we believe that by collaborating with the brainpower of an entire community of professionals that share the same values as us, we can deliver the best results. Recent studies on the financial industry say that by using open source, companies are able to collaboratively develop non-differentiating software for processing transactions or regulatory compliance, which is the plumbing and framework that all financial institutions need.

First, we selected the principles that would guide the team and chose an open source license. Then, we established the right kind of environment around the project by encouraging positive conditions for both for the current client base and for the potential community and user base. This helped us begin to attract contributors and adopters to the project.

Publishing our application as an open platform has impacted the core business and operational workflow of the company, thus drastic changes had to be made. The FinTP project and the community built around it had to receive more attention than the commercially available product because of the need to invest in developing and maintaining the project as well as actively integrating new members into the community.

Here’s how we did it.

Adapt the proprietary solution

The requirements that an open source application has to satisfy are clear, but achieving them is thought-provoking. One of the most important changes than needs to be dealt with has to do with support for third party embedded products. Previously, only enterprise versions of prerequisites were supported so a rework was mandatory. The open source version supports the best open source alternatives for the enterprise database, message oriented middleware, and application server. All code included in the application must be compliant with the licensing requirements in order to be publishable. Also, open source alternatives for the internal developer tools, work item tracking, and source control systems have to be integrated.

In regards to product documentation and working procedure, the naming conventions, coding guidelines, and best practices implemented in the commercial version have to be adapted to address the specific needs of working within an open community. We found it necessary to include one more step in the preparation phase of publishing the product as open source: we shared FinTP on fintp.org, a platform with controlled access which allows us to fine-tune the community rules, processes, and product before posting it to an open source repository.

Build the open source community

When transitioning a closed-source product to an open source one, building a strong, vibrant community is the most important part. First, lets look at the differences between a closed community and an open one. An open community is comprised of reward-earning contributions made by anyone, from all community members. The code is open to inspection so anyone can fix problems, develop new features, and contribute code back, in a moderated form. For any given problem, there is the possibility of a large number of eyeballs viewing it. A closed community is comprised of the provider and the client base, and the maximum number of people looking at any given problem is always limited by the total number of employed developers.

In the early stages of our transition from a closed community to an open one, we were running a tight ship: we were the only ones responsible for keeping pace with the evolving standards of the financial industry, developing major new functionality, and reviewing contributed code. Over time, based on the value of contributions, new hierarchies emerged. Every member has these advantages in our open source community: the power to influence projects, attract and retain development talent, reduce development and maintenance cost.

Change the business model

A traditional business model is based on revenue through selling software licenses, maintenance fees, and professional services. This is disrupted when the decision is made to publish the main product as free and open source. We had the opportunity to benefit from a year-long consultancy program for FinTP, co-financed by a prestige International Financing Institution.

For the business, the goal was to establish a new business model and workflows, adapt internal processes, adapt organizational structure. For the community, the goal was to propose a governance structure, with legal aspects, working processes, and marketing materials.

The FinTP project is now setup to provide these building blocks for processing financial transactions for banks, corporations, public administrations, and micro-financing institutions:

  1. Help consolidate business work flows
  2. Create flexible interfaces for various market infrastructures
  3. Process various kinds of funds transfers (such as credit transfer, direct debit, debit instruments, treasury flows) while providing safe operations and duplicate detection
  4. Gain several operation functionalities (such as liquidity reporting, accounting reconciliation, AML transactions filtering, remittances management, and competitive reports)

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