LSE-Microsoft: what was meant to happen happened

Unfortunately, I didn't had this blog when back in 2005-2006, but I had bet with my friends that what happened today would just happen.

When the London Stock Exchange publicly announced they were ditching their good old Unix systems for new Windows 2003 Server and .Net platform, Microsoft started a huge "Get The Facts" campaign, explaining how much better Windows was compared to Linux.

I knew this would end in tears, as history keeps on repeating itself as the same had happened with a publicly traded French company (LDLC.com) and probably many more which I missed. At that time, Microsoft published many Success Stories about the switch from a Linux and Open Source software platform to Microsoft platform. Given the massive failure of their system, the LDLC lost many many clients and their price collapsed. Microsoft removed the success stories from their web site, but obviously, they didn't published any Failure Story.

Here's the storyline:
(Source) London Stock Exchange 10/27/2006
London Stock Exchange Cuts Information Dissemination Time from 30 to 2 Milliseconds
As part of its strategy to win more trading business and new customers, the London Stock Exchange needed a scalable, reliable, high-performance stock exchange ticker plant to replace its earlier system. Roughly 40 percent of the Exchange's revenues are generated by the sale of real-time information about stock prices. Using the Microsoft® .NET Framework in Windows Server® 2003 and the Microsoft SQL Server™ 2000 database, the new Infolect® system has been built to achieve unprecedented levels of performance, availability, and business agility. Launched in September 2005, it is maintaining the London Stock Exchange's world-leading service reliability record while reducing latency by a factor of 15. Its successful implementation, with support from Microsoft and Accenture, shows the London Stock Exchange's leadership in developing next-generation trading systems.
Then the unavoidable disaster occurred:
(Source) September 9, 2008 9:32 AM PDT
London Stock Exchange outage blamed on Microsoft

The WSJ reports that yesterday's 7 hour outage at the LSE is due to a proprietary platform based on Microsoft technologies.
At the heart of the problem appears to be super-fast technology that has become critical to LSE and other exchanges. Traders experienced problems connecting to TradElect, a 15-month-old proprietary LSE platform developed with Microsoft Corp. technology that the LSE has touted as allowing it to expand and speed up its capacity for trades. "Microsoft is working with the London Stock Exchange to understand the root cause of the outage," said a Microsoft spokesman.
Realistically, this could have happened with any technology choice, but it's amazing to me that the LSE is not all *nix. Details are fuzzy, so maybe this is just a desktop as opposed to a core trading system.
As Julian Goldsmith reports, this month was also the deadline for TradElect to reach 10,000 continuous messages per second. That's a pretty significant number and I can't point to a Microsoft success story processing that kind of volume.
And it took them about a year to draw the conclusion:
(Source) July 1, 2009 - 1:20 P.M. London Stock Exchange to abandon failed Windows platform
Anyone who was ever fool enough to believe that Microsoft software was good enough to be used for a mission-critical operation had their face slapped this September when the LSE (London Stock Exchange)'s Windows-based TradElect system brought the market to a standstill for almost an entire day. While the LSE denied that the collapse was TradElect's fault, they also refused to explain what the problem really wa. Sources at the LSE tell me to this day that the problem was with TradElect.

Since then, the CEO that brought TradElect to the LSE, Clara Furse, has left without saying why she was leaving. Sources in the City-London's equivalent of New York City's Wall Street--tell me that TradElect's failure was the final straw for her tenure. The new CEO, Xavier Rolet, is reported to have immediately decided to put an end to TradElect.

TradElect runs on HP ProLiant servers running, in turn, Windows Server 2003. The TradElect software itself is a custom blend of C# and .NET programs, which was created by Microsoft and Accenture, the global consulting firm. On the back-end, it relied on Microsoft SQL Server 2000. Its goal was to maintain sub-ten millisecond response times, real-time system speeds, for stock trades.

It never, ever came close to achieving these performance goals. Worse still, the LSE's competition, such as its main rival Chi-X with its MarketPrizm trading platform software, was able to deliver that level of performance and in general it was running rings about TradElect. Three guesses what MarketPrizm runs on and the first two don't count. The answer is Linux.

It's not often that you see a major company dump its infrastructure software the way the LSE is about to do. But, then, it's not often you see enterprise software fail quite so badly and publicly as was the case with the LSE. I can only wonder how many other Windows enterprise software failures are kept hidden away within IT departments by companies unwilling to reveal just how foolish their decisions to rely on archaic, cranky Windows software solutions have proven to be.

I'm sure the LSE management couldn't tell Linux from Windows without a techie at hand. They can tell, however, when their business comes to a complete stop in front of the entire world.

So, might I suggest to the LSE that they consider Linux as the foundation for their next stock software infrastructure? After all, besides working well for Chi-X, Linux seems to be doing quite nicely for the CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange), the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange), etc., etc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice.. NYse is running full swing on Linux..
But the disaster happened even there.. without any explanation
aug 2009 Nyse down..
what was ment to happen, happened ;)

sadly btw every technology will fail, it's taking the right precautions that matters here.