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Cloud Computing: Article

Vertical Cloud Targets Needs of Wall Street

Learn why success greets NYSE Euronext's Community Platform for Capital Markets cloud

Our next VMworld case study interview revisits a unique vertical industry cloud -- NYSE Euronext's Capital Markets Community Platform -- to take stock of how mission-critical cloud services are being delivered.

We'll learn about how this innovative cloud and groundbreaking business model targets the needs of Wall Street IT leaders, how the business of the financial services industry has received them, and explore how providing cloud services as a business has evolved.

This story comes as part of a special BriefingsDirect podcast series from the 2012 VMworld Conference in San Francisco the week of August 27. The series explores the latest in cloud computing and software-defined datacenter infrastructure developments.

Our guest is Feargal O'Sullivan, the Global Head of Alliances at NYSE Technologies. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: VMware is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: How have things progressed over the past year?

O'Sullivan: We've been very happy with the progress we've made. When we announced at VMworld last year, we had just gone into early access for our first clients in our data center in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut tri-state area, where we have all of our US-based markets running the New York Stock Exchange Markets, the Arca Electronic Markets, and AMEX.

That has since gone into production, has a number of clients on it, is being perceived very well by the community, and is really driving as a lynchpin of our strategy of building a global capital markets community.

Since the success of that, we've actually progressed further, to the point of having deployed the same environment in a second data center that we own and run just outside of London, in a town called Basildon, which is where we run all of our European markets, the Euronext side of NYSE Euronext.

We now have an equivalent VMware-based cloud environment and a range of ancillary services for the capital markets industry available in that location. Clients can now access, as a service, both infrastructure and platform capabilities in both of those facilities.

Furthermore, we've extended to two other financial centers in the world, one in Toronto and one in Tokyo. That's a slightly more stripped-down version of the community platform, but it's very useful for clients who are really expanding the business and gone globally.

Four locations

Now, we have those four locations up and running in production with production clients, so we are very happy with that progress.

Gardner: What is it about the way that we're doing things now -- the whole software-defined datacenter model -- that's allowed you to build out so quickly?

O'Sullivan: Clearly, the technology has advanced significantly from the old days. The capability around virtualization on the the hardware server level with the VMware hypervisors, and in particular the vCloud service suite, gives clients their own control over their environment.

Also on the networking side, it's become much more viable for clients to actually deploy into shared environment, still maintaining confidence that they're going to get both the security profile that they're looking for, as well as the performance capability.

We use the EMC VNX array with the FAST Cache capability to give a very stable performance profile based on demand. It allows different workloads, and yet each gets very good performance and response time. So there are many components along the way. Also, management and monitoring of these types of infrastructures have improved.

Our clients have certainly seen that enhancement in the technology. The financial services industry is unique in the way it leverages technology on two aspects.

One, security profile is absolutely critical. Security isn't just around customer data, but around application development and tools of the trade, intellectual property that firms might have, trading strategies, different analysis, analytics, and other types of components that they develop and build,. They feel they're highly proprietary in nature and don't want to allow anybody to get access to them. So they place security extremely high on the list.

The other unique aspect is performance aspect. It's a slightly different performance model from your typical sort of three-tier web store type of environment. Financial services, first of all, push very high volumes of content through their applications. They need to do so in microseconds, or at least milliseconds, of response time and latency measurements, and they also most importantly need to do so predictably.

With a big batch job of some kind, say a genetic folding job, you drop off a job, go away for 12 hours, and you come back. A little bit of clearly inefficient processing time is not great, because that drags out the whole thing over time, but there is no sort of critical "need it here," "need it now" requirement. So latency spikes are less of a problem.

Latency spikes

But in our industry, latency spikes are a real problem. People look for predictive latency, so we had to make sure that we applied a very tight security profile to our cloud, and a very high performance profile as well.

Gardner: How have you been able to build on this cloud in terms of those value-added services that you deliver specifically to a financial clientele?

O'Sullivan: That's why we built our cloud, because there are many service providers who offer very valuable cloud capabilities that are based on core infrastructure and core computing capabilities, and they do so very well. However, we consider ourselves a vertical industry community. We're specifically focused on capital markets participants. We try to support and make it cheaper, more cost-effective, and more readily accessible to a wider range of participants to be able to get access to the markets.

So in our cloud and our community, we provide a range of platform and services that we have added. The core is "Come into our vCloud Director environment and access your compute infrastructure." By the way, we have a Compute On Demand Virtual Edition, we also have a Compute On Demand Physical Edition for those cases where that latency issue is of the utmost importance.

Then, we provide clients with the value-added features that we know they need, because they're in the capital markets business. The key one is market data. This is something that is absolutely critical in financial services, because every trade, no matter what you are buying or selling, always starts with a quote. Even if you walk into the shop and you ask how much it would it be for a can of soda, they say it's $1 or $1.20, whatever it is, and then you decide if you want to buy.

So in the financial services industry market data is the starting point, the driver of all the business. And the volumes on this, the sheer size of the content that comes down, is really outstanding. It's at the point now that even if you were to just subscribe to all North American equities and options, you'd need a 10-gigabit Ethernet pipe, and at points during the day, you're probably using upwards of 8 gigabits of that pipe just to get all that content.

Obviously, we can provide raw content, but we've added a range of services into our cloud and into the community. We can say, "We can offer you a nice filtered market data feed, where you just present us with the list of instruments you want, and we can add value-added calculations, do analytics, and provide that to you."

We've also developed an historical market-data access service. So if you want to go back and test your strategies against previous days of trading, back for many, many years, we have a database that's deployed in the cloud. So you can query the database, load it into your virtual environment, and analyze and back-test your strategies.

We've added order-routing capabilities, so when you are ready to send your orders to the market, if you are a market maker yourself, you might go direct to our gateway. If you're a sponsored participant, you might go through our risk-managed gateway, which would be sponsored by a broker.

Or if you are just a regular buy-side firm, a money manager, you might use our routing network and ask us to write your orders to the different brokers or the different markets, and we can handle that. Those are either ends of the trade.

Integration pieces

On Thursday, Aug. 30, I'm going to be presenting with VMware and EMC in one of the breakout sessions about us moving up the stack to start offering more of the integration pieces of this. We're using the Spring environment and a range of other VMware tools, GemFire, and so on, to demonstrate a full trading system deployed in the virtual environment with the integration tools -- all running hosted in our environment.

It's more of a framework that we're showing, but it provides platform as a service (PaaS), not just the market data in, which is our specialty, and the order routing out. Once you're within your environment, the range of additional tools makes it easy for you to develop and customize your own trading tools and your own trading strategies. That's something I will be talking about on Thursday.

Gardner: How has the reception in the market?

O'Sullivan: The good news is that we've definitely had great progress here. We have a number of clients in all of the locations I mentioned. We're continuing to grow. It's a tough environment, as you can imagine, both just in the general economy and in particular in the financial services industry. So we expect to continue to grow this significantly further.

We have been certainly very happy with the uptake so far. We knew that we were going out well ahead of everybody else and we were very keen to do so, because we see and understand the vision that VMware and EMC in particular have been promoting over the past few years. We agree with it fully. We feel like we're uniquely positioned within the capital markets industry as the neutral party.

Remember, we're just a place where people go to trade. We don't decide what you buy or what you sell or how much it should be. We just provide the facility, the rules, and the oversight to ensure an orderly market. We wanted to make it easier and more cost-effective for firms to get access to that environment.

So by providing all of this capability, we think we're in a fantastic position now, that as more and more firms continue to explore virtualization and outsourcing of non-business critical functions, which for a while used to be running on your own servers, but which are now nothing but overhead.

We see them moving more and more into the cloud. We expect over the next two or three years, that this is really going to explode. We intend to be there, established, fully in production, tried and tested, and leading the industry from the front, as we think we should be with the a name like the New York Stock Exchange.

Well-known brand

That’s a brand that's so well-known globally. It's the best place to trade. It's the most reliable and most secure place to trade stocks, with the best oversight, and we want to apply that model to all of the services that we offer our clients.

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At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.