Hell's Kitchen Systems, Inc.

by Craig Knudsen

HKS is now shipping version 3.2 of CCVS (Credit Card Verification System) and has hundreds of customer sites that include stand-alone merchants, merchant hosts, merchant-application integrators and merchant-application service providers. HKS's goal is to embed an electronic payment processor on every computer.

CCVS uses a computer to perform the same function as a credit-card swipe box found in most retail stores. Acting independently or as a component of a larger system, CCVS can process multiple payment types (credit card, ACH, EFT) in either real time or batch mode.

The system can be used within an electronic storefront on the Internet, or it can help run a mail-order business with custom-built applications for telephone operators.

CCVS can be used within the United States or Canada. It can also be used in other countries with credit-card clearing institutions that support any one of the CCVS-supported protocols.

Currently, CCVS works with either a modem or a leased line to communicate with the same credit-card clearinghouses used by traditional credit-card processing. (HKS plans to support other means of directly contacting clearinghouses, such as TCP/IP.) This approach has a few benefits. There's no need to worry about Internet outages disrupting sales. Additionally, most systems that process credit cards through the Internet (such as CyberCash) charge a per-transaction fee, while HKS charges only for the CCVS software. If the system is not running on the Internet, there's no need for an Internet connection. This can reduce monthly costs and improve security.

The Linux Connection

HKS first began using Linux in 1995 and now uses it for product development and payment processing for its own customers, as well as testing and demonstration. HKS also makes use of Linux internally for its web server, mail gateway, database server, router, dial-in server and masquerading proxy firewall.

HKS chose Linux as its primary operating system because it liked Linux's versatility, flexibility, open-source code, hardware independence, platform support and low cost. The low cost of Linux allows HKS to run on inexpensive hardware, while compatibility with UNIX systems made Linux an ideal development platform. Access to the Linux kernel source code, especially for serial drivers, made Linux even more attractive. Linux's conformance to the POSIX standard also makes porting to other systems very easy.

Supported Linux Platforms

HKS is committed to supporting as many versions of Linux as possible. This includes distributions from Red Hat, SuSE, Debian, Caldera, Yellow Dog, NetWinder and Cobalt. In addition to Linux, CCVS runs on a variety of other operating systems including BSDI, AIX, FreeBSD, Digital UNIX, SCO OpenServer and SPARC Solaris.

CCVS can be integrated into almost any application because of the wide variety of languages supported. Developers can choose from C, Tcl, Perl5, Python, Java and PHP3.

HKS customers agree that Linux makes good business sense. Approximately 70 to 80% of HKS customers are Linux users (followed by Solaris and FreeBSD users). In fact, many customers choose CCVS because it is the only payment-processing system designed to operate under Linux.

As the first company to develop a commercial credit-card processing system for Linux, HKS is committed to the Open Source movement and plans to sponsor various open-source projects.

HKS provides a downloadable demo of CCVS. Pricing starts at $995 for Linux or OpenBSD and $1295 for commercial UNIX.


Craig Knudsen (cknudsen@radix.net) lives in Fairfax, VA and telecommutes full-time as a web engineer for ePresence, Inc. of Red Bank, NJ. When he's not working, he and his wife Kim relax with their two Yorkies, Buster and Baloo.
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