What You Lookin’ At?

In “Visa Seeks New Ways to Keep Data Secret“, the NYT takes a look at the challenges involved with securing data throughout the chain that brings information from the little swipe boxes through to the banks.

The story includes this photo of the Visa data center:
VISA data center, with plenty of monitors

Here’s what I’m wondering: what could possibly be displayed on those monitors? Seems they’ve got plenty of screens, but how do you even begin to monitor a system that entails “some 3,000 credit and debit card transactions swiped … every second”? After all:

On any given day, data about Visa cardholders courses through the computer networks of more than five million merchants, hundreds of data processors and 14,000 banks before it even reaches the machines at the Visa operations center. For online purchases, cardholder information can make additional pit stops at any one of the thousands of processing hubs in between.

According to the article, there are 1,000 servers in that data center, used for 35 billion transactions a year. I’m just wondering how you could even begin to decide what would make it to those monitors. Server statistics (temp, load averages, remaining storage)? Transaction details? Phone center traffic? Exceptions to averages? How do you determine when something’s gone wrong? What makes the cut and what doesn’t?

Basically, I’m just glad I don’t have to baby-sit those boxes.

4 Responses to “What You Lookin’ At?”

  1. The something Mr. Pech Says:

    I think it’s customary to display the missile trajectories superimposed on a world map along with the locations of the fighter jets and major naval battle groups. Then when the hero is almost about to be captured by the bad guys you switch to the impossible resolution satellite photos to watch horrified in real time as the evil dudes close in. Also an option is the video phone call with some foreign leader while they give you some key piece of information.

    Anyway after that you trick the computer into playing tic-tac-toe with itself and thereby save the world.

  2. jsp Says:

    Oh, how I’d love to actually have movie-style computers. Not the hideously ugly/simple e-mail ones with lots of 3-D envelopes, mind you, but the amazing imaging processing ones, where you can somehow take a crappy 320×240 b&w image, and — mere seconds after the hero says “Enhance!” — zoom way in to see the crisp edge of the last stamp in the bad guy’s passport, which he’s conveniently holding half-open.

    Sure, it’s a trifle obvious and micro-managing, the shouted “Enhance!” command. But when you think about it, it’s really quite succinct when compared to the more accurate “Put in data that was never there!”

  3. awarren Says:

    One of my favorite movie sound editing quirks is how nearly all movie computers, from mainframes to PCs, usually make the sound of an Apple II’s disk drive reading a disk. Even in scenes where there’s no diskette! There must be some sound playbook that says “need the audience to know the computer is working? play that Apple disk drive noise from 1984.”

  4. jsp Says:

    Yeah, and that same playbook says “always use a dot matrix printer noise, regardless of whether the printer on-screen is an inkjet, laser, or thermal…but not for too long, as all movie printers take just 2-3 seconds to produce a page.”

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