By eweek  |  Posted 2003-10-13 Print this article Print

We are looking at all the other Web services standards and seeing where it makes sense to use them. You dont want to adopt a standard that forces you to invest again in something that is already working.

What percentage of your budget is dedicated to new initiatives, and what percentage is devoted to keeping your systems operational?

One-third of our continuing budget spend goes to new projects, and two-thirds goes to sustaining engineering, focusing on reliability and scale. Thats been the percentage breakdown now for the last two or three years, and, if anything, looking at 2004 and 2005, the trend line is a higher percent of overall budget on new projects and a decreasing amount on sustaining activity.

How fast is transaction volume growing?

Over the last several months, weve seen significant pickup in transactions in the American marketplace. Were about 15 to 16 percent higher in terms of transactions from a year ago this time.

As we hit peak season, well expect year-on-year to be even higher than the 15 percent you see today. Business is growing very rapidly, which I see as an encouraging sign for the economy.

How will grid computing change the way Visa is able to respond to volume growth?

We build ahead of the demand because we have to. During the course of the day, we run at very high volumes. But during the holidays, those transaction volumes are growing rapidly, and those peaks are what you build for.

Unfortunately, you also pay for those peaks when you have idle capacity.

We are very interested in the concept of utility computing being pitched by IBM and others because it provides us tremendous opportunity to "pay by the drink." It has certainly revolutionized the way technology is bought, deployed and delivered, and if its ever delivered the way its been described, it will certainly be very cost-effective for a business with our model.

Its still strategy and vision now, though, so well see.

How do you plan to handle the California Database Breach Security Notification law [SB 1386]? If you choose to encrypt your databases, how will you continue to maintain performance related to transaction processing?

When you think about Visa, you have to be clear regarding what we have and what we dont have. While we have your account number and information on the transactions you are making, we have no idea who you are. We have no ability to tie any of that information back to you.

Beyond that, the data warehouse infrastructure we have for storing information is enormous because it handles all the transactions we process. Historically, and this is true even today, our security over our systems has been really fortified around the edge of the network. And that includes security inside our organization. We have very tight security, and we continue to invest a terrific amount of money around the edge of the network to make sure were best in class as it relates to our security. This will always be our challenge.

Regarding the law itself, we are still looking at how we plan to proceed. Any data that goes outside of our organization, essentially anything that involves cardholder transactions, is encrypted. We encrypt the data if its leaving our facilities, even temporarily, from facility to facility. We are currently looking at our actions for encrypting certain data we store inside our organization. We want to extend the security model we have, to take care of that.

The challenge youre talking about, for us at least, is taking on a 100-terabyte data warehouse. The idea that youre going to encrypt that data and then try to use it for something is counterintuitive. But there are smart people everywhere that are trying to solve this type of problem for us. To store data and make it unusable is absolutely counterproductive. We just cannot do that.


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