Unless you work in the industry you probably haven’t given a second thought to what happens in the seconds between swiping, dipping or waving your Visa card and seeing the word “accepted” appear on the terminal in front of you.
And that’s fine.
When I turn on a tap at my home in Sydney I expect water to come out. I don’t know exactly how it works but I’ve never really had the need to question it. Such is the convenience and reliability I’ve become accustomed to.
The same goes for electronic payments. This month however I was fortunate enough to get a behind the scenes view of how it really works, hosting a few Australian media on a visit to Visa’s Operations Center East (OCE) – one of the homes to our processing network VisaNet.
Our tour took us through the Network Operations Center (NOC), where a wall of screens shows a real time feed of transactions being processed, a world map shows the status of other Visa data centers around the globe, and another shows up to the second news and weather. There is also a team of people monitoring transactions and communicating with banks from around the world, alerting them to any irregularities.
We walked down the main corridor through the data center (about the length of three football fields) which links seven “pods”, each 20,000 square feet in size. The pods house Visa’s core payment processing systems and applications – the heart of VisaNet – with only one pod being required to run VisaNet.
As we stood in this room it was surreal to think of every transaction that was passing through there at that moment. Not to mention the number of my own transactions that have, and in future will, pass through here.
The next few rooms on our tour really demonstrated how self-sufficient the site is.
Each pod is supported by multiple power and cooling systems to ensure the data center continues processing Visa transactions even during a severe winter storm, hurricane or earthquake.
Four conduits bring electricity into the data center – if one is taken out, VisaNet will keep running. Diesel generators provide power in the event of utility power loss and enough diesel is kept on site to keep the center running for 10 days, and it will keep running as long as diesel can be brought on site.
The generators produce enough electricity to power a town of 25,000 households!
The facility has its own water well to provide cooling for the data center in the event of an emergency.
There’s also enough food and drink for the staff to keep them going for three months – should that be required.
Here are a couple more stats about VisaNet that really are quite phenomenal:
- Every day, VisaNet connects up to 2 billion Visa accounts, millions of acceptance locations, 2 million ATMs and more than 15,000 financial institutions around the world.
- On average more than 150 million transactions are processed and authorised in 175 currencies every day.
- During peak times VisaNet is dealing with more than 10,000 transaction messages per second, while stress testing of the network (an annual task) shows it has the capacity to handle in excess of 20,000 per second.
- Every transaction is viewed in real-time with fraud scoring and multiple layers of security to help keep cardholders safe.
- Transaction data is transformed into business intelligence to allow businesses to optimise processes; banks and merchants to offer personalised cardholder rewards; and governments and businesses to better manage expenditures.
After we left the OCE, I bought a coffee in the airport before our return flight. I watched people swiping their cards and taking their coffees with nonchalance. As I swiped my card and walked away I couldn’t help but think that VisaNet took that transaction from the coffee shop in the US, into that very room I was standing in only hours before, to my bank in Australia, and back again, for the retailer to approve it. And all in under two seconds.
Click here to view the story from A Current Affair following our visit to Visa’s OCE.
Posted by: Andrew Craig, Corporate Relations Manager, Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific on March 1, 2013 at 2:47 pm