Credit card company Visa has boasted that one of its US data centres possesses the ultimate security features. Many details of the site are reported by USA Today and Fast Company, which both seem to have been invited to the facility, the company’s Operations Centre East (OCE). Also The Register and ABC news have written about the site. This is my collection of information from those articles for all of my readers interested in secure data center technology.
Top secret Visa data center banks on security, even has moat article tells that the Visa’s OCE, or Operations Center East, the biggest, newest, and most advanced of its U.S. data centers, 8-acre facility looks like any other industrial park in a sleepy suburb. Inside the data center resembles a fortress, with dogged attention to detail.
OCE is a “Tier 4″ center, a certification from data center research organization Uptime Institute that requires that every mainframe, air conditioner and battery have a backup. If power goes out, banks of batteries kick in, followed by diesel generators that also have backups. If a water main bursts, there’s a 1.5-million-gallon water tank (if that runs dry, Visa dug three wells around the facility). Visa has poured hundreds of millions of dollars annually into developing state-of-the-art risk-management technology. Physical security is the foundation where you start.
The data center’s main corridor is about three football fields long, connecting seven 20,000-square-foot rooms called pods. EMC and Cisco are mentioned as the big winners in the data centre’s racks. Pods 4 and 5 are the brains of the network, a blur of hard drives spinning and fans whirring amid rows of IBM mainframes, Cisco Systems switches and EMC and Hitachi storage arrays. They’re all connected by 3,000 miles of cable — enough to traverse the country.
More than 200 million daily transactions processed here and at one other Visa data center in North America. This includes both credit card and mobile payments transactions. This OCE processes 150 million daily transactions. It is a data-security heaven — and Visa’s acknowledgment that hackers are increasingly savvy, that data is an ever-desirable black-market commodity.
How Visa Protects Your Data article tells that hackers are one thing, but enough network capacity is also essential. Visa and IBM routinely run tests at an off-site lab to simulate maximum network capacity–currently just over 24,000 transaction messages per second, about double what Visa expects for this year’s Christmas season. At some point over that 24,000-message limit, “the network doesn’t stop processing one message. It stops processing all of them,” Knight says. Transaction growth has averaged 7% to 17% annually. Visa expects the OCE to handle growth into the 2020s, but at some point, of course, something will give.
How Visa Protects Your Data article tells that the OCE’s 130 workers have two jobs: Keep hackers out and keep the network up, no matter what. Scrawled on a wallboard inside the OCE is the motto 7x24xforever. That’s why rule No. 1 for visitors is: Never reveal its location. “On the eastern seaboard” is as specific as Visa will allow.