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Visa Tests Transaction-Processing System

Credit-card company gets set for increase in purchases during holiday season.

Steven Marlin

July 23, 2004

2 Min Read

Visa USA offered a peek last week into the capacity-planning process for a system that handles a huge chunk of the nation's retail transactions.

During the annual weeklong stress test, conducted at an IBM facility outside Washington, D.C., Visa ran the system at a processing load of 6,200 transaction messages per second, a 20% increase over last year's peak on Dec. 24 of 5,200 transaction messages per second. Each card purchase requires about two transaction messages.

A recent survey of retailers Visa conducted projects a 22% increase in holiday sales volume this year. The company generally expects its peak processing load to increase 15% to 20% a year.


Visa aims to cut maintenance costs, says John Partridge, president of Inovant, Visa's global IT subsidiary.


Visa aims to cut maintenance costs, says John Partridge, president of Inovant, Visa's global IT subsidiary.

Visa also plans to consolidate credit- and debit-card authorization systems onto one platform, called Base1 (as in Base One). Due to be completed early next year, the project will cut maintenance costs, says John Partridge, president of Inovant, Visa's global IT subsidiary.

Base1 is part of an effort to redesign VisaNet, the company's core system, around Web services, letting Visa offer services beyond authorizing and settling transactions between banks. New services could include providing retailers with stock numbers of items purchased and companies with information about purchasing-card usage. It also would allow Visa to settle transactions between banks in real time.

The centerpiece of the IBM facility, which is a backup site for Visa and other financial institutions, is a 105,000-square-foot room with rows of processors and storage devices. The Visa system included five high-performance processors, 65 terabytes of disk storage, and 2 Gbytes of router capacity. Visa engineers fed the system a week's worth of transactions and observed the effect of different levels of credit and debit transactions on processing volume. Debit transactions use more processing capacity because they require tracking the movement of funds in real time; credit transactions require a simple yes-or-no decision.

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