Visa, Sun, Cisco Join Forces

SAN MATEO (07/19/2000) - Visa USA Inc., in partnership with Sun Microsystems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc., on Wednesday unveiled a new payment processing system called Visa DirectExchange, which Visa claimed will be the largest private financial payment network in the world -- with access to Internet technologies.

The network will facilitate universal commerce or "u-commerce," according to Visa, enabling the company to handle a whole range of payment, not just credit card processing.

Using Sun's computers and Cisco's routing technology, DirectExchange will be capable of processing all Visa credit and debit cards issued in the United States as well as other electronic payments such as payment via mobile phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants), and smart cards, said Sara Garrison, a senior vice president in Visa USA's technology department.

"We can clearly see future environments in which new payment information services will be desired," Garrison said. "It may take the form of cell phones, or PalmPilots, or other kinds [of devices]. We don't know what the future is specifically, but we know the future is going to be more than one thing as far as both devices and types of payments, and we will be ready."

The network will be capable of processing $60 million in payments per hour, equivalent to more than $1 trillion per year, Visa said. DirectExchange will also be capable of dealing with more than 100 billion transactions per year -- more than twice the volume handled currently.

Together with its 14,000 U.S. member financial institutions, Visa USA has more than 330 million Visa credit, commercial, and check cards in circulation, generating more than $720 billion in yearly transactions.

Visa and its partners have been working on DirectExchange for almost two years.

The network builds on, expands, and opens up the company's current proprietary VisaNet system to take account of Internet technologies, Visa said. The new network will use VisaNet's payment processing engine.

Over the next four to eight weeks, Visa will expand the DirectExchange pilot program to include more than the 10 banks currently participating, Garrison said. A rollout in the United States will begin this fall, she said, and will last about two years; after that, Visa will look to make similar technology available worldwide, Garrison said.

DirectExchange draws heavily on Sun technology, including the company's Enterprise servers, its StorEdge arrays, its Solaris Unix operating system, and its Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) platform. Inovant, Visa International's IT and processing services subsidiary, will manage and operate DirectExchange (the unit currently runs VisaNet).

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