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Visa exchange aims to fast-track e-commerce on IP-based system

Visa is rolling out a network capable of handling all forms of electronic payments in a move to fast-track e-commerce transactions.

The Direct Exchange project, a secure Internet protocol network, began two years ago in the US.

It uses point-of-sale terminals to link shops directly to the merchant's bank over the Visa network, speeding up the processing of payments. It will also allow consumers to exchange Visa payments directly over the network.

Visa's project seeks to build a scalable system to process all forms of electronic payment. It can process 10,000 messages per second, 100 billion transactions and $1trn (£66bn) per year in payments Visa claims.

Analysts have hailed the initiative as good news for consumers but added that its success would rely on retailers investing time and money to integrate their IT systems with the network.

A basic version of the Direct Exchange service was implemented in the USA last summer but Visa now plans to roll out a more advanced system based on messaging technology.

Although Visa will convert its global network to IP, its functionality, such as payment processing, may be implemented differently in each country or region.

Sara Garrison, senior vice-president for technology at Visa, acknowledged the need for the system to be 100% reliable and said it could grow 20-30% per year.

Visa is using a platform called Tuxedo from Bea as the middleware to link the clusters. "To achieve the high levels of reliability the service requires we are using a high availability cluster environment for messaging," Garrision said. It is based on Sun servers, EMC storage and an Oracle database.

Mark Simmons, senior analyst at Bloor Research said Visa's project was in line with services offered through the enhanced networks of other financial services companies. He added, however, "To integrate with the new Visa network you have to change the way your business operates."

Cliff Saran and Nick Huber

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