In Case You Missed It: Celero’s Integration Vision and Roadmap for Credit Union Success
On January 12, leaders of Celero’s Integration Services, Barb MacLean (Director, Application Development) and Leon Glaz (IT Architect, Technology Services), along with Nelson Petracek (Advisor) spoke about the Celero Xchange™ platform and its plans for the future.
Why did Celero build an integration platform?
To start the session, Barb MacLean outlined the vision behind Celero’s integration platform. She explained that all credit unions and financial institutions, regardless of their size, need flexibility and agility in their digital strategies to meet changing customer and industry demands. This core principle led Celero to invest in a development team who created Celero Xchange, a robust, secure integration platform that went into production at the end of 2018.
The first integration at that time was with a small credit union, which connected their core banking system to a fintech partner via open API standards. Since that initial launch, the platform has expanded greatly and continues to evolve so it is ready for future modernized payment standards, open banking and other new initiatives. Our integration experts have designed the solution for scalability and performance today and has a detailed roadmap to ensure it is future ready to support the services required to stay ahead of quickly evolving expectations of credit unions members. Celero has been a leader in getting ahead of the curve through our integration strategy and platform execution, and we are well positioned for coming new integrations for modernized payment standards, open banking and new technologies.
Strategies differ at each financial institution, which is why Celero’s integration platform was designed to be vendor and platform agnostic and may be utilized regardless of the choice credit unions make on the partner and platform that provides core banking or digital banking services. Credit unions can build on a shared digital ecosystem and leverage Celero Xchange services to accelerate integration with new technologies and connect their existing systems.
The growth of Celero Xchange integration services
To highlight the growth of the platform, various metrics were shared:
- Six fintech companies have or are in the process of connecting
- 26 credit unions are at various stages in their journey to connect to the platform.
- Celero has onboarded the first payment type to the IBM Payment Centre of Canada (IPCC) system using ISO 20022 APIs on the Xchange platform.
- Celero hit a peak of one million requests on December 31, 2020.
The role of Celero Xchange agents
Leon Glaz shared in-depth examples of how transactions flow through the Celero Xchange integration services. Leon described the path of a typical “send money” request and shared how exceptions and compensating transactions are handled. He also shared details about Celero Xchange’s gateway services and highlighted how the integration platform offers low latency, high availability, and consistently high performance.
It was also noted that all transactions are securely logged in detail, so if issues or delays arise, these can be identified, addressed and shared with affected third parties. The Celero team can use this data to measure latency, identify bottlenecks, and help address concerns with specific transactions.
eTransfer within Xpress has been implemented using the latest Interac version 3.5 eTransfer specifications. In addition to being early adopter of the Interac version 3.5 specification Xpress customer where also the first users in production to leverage the IPCC Platform. During the initial launch of the IPCC Platform, Celero’s teams worked alongside the PPJV and IPCC teams to stabilize the platform as the volumes and adoption of the eTransfer feature grew. Leveraging the enhanced logging and auditing capabilities of the integration platform as well as Celero’s industry expertise, the Celero team was able to assist IPCC in the identification and resolution of these issues. In addition to assisting in the stabilization of the IPCC functionality, to align to updated IPCC timeout parameters, the Celero Xchange platform enhanced the Payments API to improve performance to reduce potential timeouts as well as improve resiliency by implementing internal transaction compensation logic when timeout scenarios were encountered. These enhancements will not only help Celero customers consuming payment services on the IPCC platform, but also will help to provide a well-architected foundation as other credit unions onboard to the platform. The current performance of the Celero Xchange platform positions credit unions to offer exciting new features such as Interac Instant.
Finally, Leon described the role of various key Celero Xchange software agents when processing a transaction. These agents include:
- Route Orchestrator: The Route Orchestrator pairs an incoming message with the route, which are the steps needed to process that incoming message.
- Cache Management: A good caching strategy is key to high performance APIs. With Celero Xchange, data that does not change frequently in the source system can be cached outside the source system. This allows for a reduction in the amount of traffic that gets sent back to the core banking system.
- Configuration Services: Configuration services are used to retrieve the configurations needed to run the overall platform. This information includes the route definitions for processed events, configuration data on how to connect with external systems, and any needed transformation information.
- Message Logging Service: At every step and on every action, this agent audits and logs the payload requests and responses as well as key metadata.
- Payment Event (Audit Service): At the end of every payment event, various metadata is collected and stored in a payments audit repository. This data can be used as needed to support troubleshooting for clients, and to enable timely support processes.
The Celero Xchange integration services are based on a series of key design principles, including the use of standard data models, reusability of components and loose coupling of systems for greater agility. To achieve these principles, the APIs are divided into the following domains:
- System APIs: System APIs connect to core systems of record. Creating these APIs involves a great deal of expertise on that source system, but shields other APIs from these details.
- Process APIs: Process APIs allow for the definition of common, shared processes, and provide reusable business logic and orchestration of the system APIs to perform a specific function or workflow.
- Standard/Experience APIs: Experience APIs allow data to be easily consumed in a standardized format by the intended audience. These APIs expose data in the “language” needed and known by API consumers.
The higher you move up the stack from System to Experience APIs, the less code you have to create and the faster new member experiences can be delivered.
Celero Xchange Roadmap
Nelson Petracek shared industry insights about the evolution of integration services, the benefits of developing a platform using cloud technologies, and the importance of selecting cloud providers to match your strategy. He reviewed the proven, foundational elements that Celero Xchange utilizes today, which allows it to support APIs in a number of formats and to deliver data with low latency. These services, as they evolve to meet the demands of the market, will utilize a cloud-native approach to development and execution. It was also highlighted that “a cloud is not a cloud”, as cloud services are not identical across providers. For example, when building and deploying solutions on a cloud platform, the cloud can be used in different ways:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) capabilities are typically used by organizations to replace current data center hardware deployments, and to facilitate the provisioning of machines and associated infrastructure. This may reduce infrastructure costs, and often reduces the amount of time needed to provision (or decommission) infrastructure services. However, users are expected to manually install, configure, manage, and upgrade any software components installed on this infrastructure.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) adds managed software capabilities on top of cloud infrastructure. Thus, not only is the infrastructure provisioned and managed by the cloud provider, but also various runtime and platform services that simplify application development and maintenance. Scalable, cost-effective, and feature-rich, a PaaS environment significantly reduces the amount of code needed for building a solution and allows for a greater focus to be placed on business logic creation instead of software installation, “glue” code, and maintenance.
Software as a Service (SaaS) offers full application services, with the entire application running on the cloud. The software is always current and vendors provide feature enhancements. These services are typically out-of-the-box applications, and fully hosted in the cloud.
The roadmap for Celero Xchange incorporates the use of an industry-leading PaaS cloud environment, while providing improved functionality over the course of 2021. The evolution will blend existing services with cloud-native services, thus accelerating the development and deployment of future APIs and other business functions. This transition will occur in three phases and provide a number of benefits, as highlighted below. Note, however, that certain capabilities or functions may be shifted to different phases as needed or requested, in order to best meet the needs of the financial community.
- Phase One – more capacity for high demand services to stay ahead of increased usage of new services by members: This phase involves transitioning Celero Xchange from its current on-premise model to a cloud model that utilizes PaaS technologies and approaches such as containers, API-led microservices, and API gateways. Additional API capabilities such as discovery and enhanced logging will be provided, and the entire environment will be managed using modern, cloud-native DevOps (CI/CD) processes. Phase one sets the stage for future development, improves developer productivity, simplifies infrastructure setup, and forms the basis upon which new business capabilities will be built.
- Phase Two - faster time to market: The second phase continues the shift to cloud-native services, including the incorporation of serverless and low-code approaches where feasible. When combined with the work in Phase One, the end result is a system that leverages the cloud for infrastructure and platform services, utilizes automation for configuration, testing, and deployment, and enables teams to focus on the creation of new or enhanced business logic as opposed to having to deal with platform software installations, upgrades, or infrastructure provisioning.
- Phase Three – responsive, real-time experiences and analytics to provide contextual, relevant and actionable information: The third phase leverages the work done in the previous phases to move beyond providing integration functions and APIs. Advanced analytical services, API portals / marketplaces, real-time event publication, and streaming are all possible, enabling users to provide enhanced services to themselves and to their members.
Celero’s support and use of integration standards will continue to evolve in 2021. For example, Celero is a member of the FDX working groups that are furthering the adoption of standards, while the integration platform already supports CUFX and ISO 20022 standards.
This roadmap and standards-based approach enables Celero to quickly offer new features like Interac Instant, where Celero Xchange’s low latency already meets requirements for processing times, or up and coming capabilities being discussed in other markets, such as requests to pay. Credit unions connected to this digital ecosystem are also able to support other use cases like identity validation and end-member consent for access to their information. This secure access to member data from approved third parties will be required as members start to leverage new capabilities through initiatives such as open banking. Watch for a subsequent post in this series for more information about the Integration Marketplace, which will enable trusted partners to create and publish new solutions built on top of Celero Xchange APIs.
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Celero is a leading provider of digital technology and integration solutions to credit unions and financial institutions across Canada. Clients trust Celero’s proven track record delivering innovative banking technologies, digital and payment solutions, cloud computing, outsourcing, IT and advisory services.
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