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Common Sense Advice for High Availability IP Trading Communications

Thursday, 9. June 2011 13:36

Time for a brief review for those trading floor technologists who may be preparing for a migration from TDM to IP trading communications platforms.

As more and more trading floors begin to deploy Internet Protocol (IP) based trading communications infrastructure and reap the rewards that these  systems and networks offer, it is an opportune time to talk about the major differences between TDM and IP platforms and how to ensure that your traders enjoy the same reliability and performance they have been accustomed to.

Out of the Voice Silo | TDM-based turret systems exist in their own world. This “quarantine” of static trader voice systems is inefficient, inconvenient and expensive but has an upside. It can contribute to maintaining a high level of reliability, quality and consistency of the user experience because voice services cannot be compromised “competing” with other applications on a converged network. In the brave, new world of IP, trader voice systems are almost inevitably going to be deployed on a converged network.

Key | Creating a redundant, resilient LAN infrastructure with logical separation using a virtual local area network vLAN and Quality of Service (QoS) is standard procedure and helps to assure that the latency-sensitive voice application maintains priority on the network and that network availability meets trading floor standards.

Resilient System Control | In TDM world only the largest financial trading enterprises have the money, staff and infrastructure to deploy resilient trading communications systems. It is safe to say that beyond say, a UPS, a majority of firms deployed the “strategy of hope” when it came to business continuity for trading turret systems. IP technology has reduced the “big iron” to standard servers and inherent networking capability enables these servers to be not only installed in a data center but networked. This has eliminated the three major hurdles to a truly resilient trading communications infrastructure.

IP networks (shared) and technologies offer tremendous benefits but do not have the same characteristics of TDM-based (dedicated) environments. Availability, resilience and flexibility all have the potential to actually increase in an IP world, but the design of the network and platforms is critical to making this happen.

Key | Create resilient, high-availability trading communications environments by taking advantage of the native networking and failover capabilities of IP platforms and their ability to be deployed in a distributed topology.

Alternative/Resilient Network Connectivity| Now that you have a bullet-proof LAN and resilient trading communications platform don’t get tripped up on the third pillar of a bullet-proof infrastructure. The same lessons apply to PSTN and ring down connectivity. Most carriers offer  dynamic rerouting services for T1 PRI as well as fault-tolerant SIP Trunking and ringdown services. These services enable vital trading connections to be rerouted to a back-up platform or at the very least forwarded to mobile devices in the event of an outage or dreaded cable cut. Another basic approach is to have some POTS lines and single-line phones to receive incoming calls to the main number and make critical outgoing calls in the event of  PRI or SIP trunks become unavailable.

Key | Work with carriers that have a demonstrated track record and domain expertise in providing highly available network services backed-up with premium service level agreements for real-time trading environments.

Summary | IP-based technologies are now the standard offering for voice trading communications suppliers. All research & development resources are being spent in this area and with each passing day, customers can expect TDM-based platform support will be phased out. By following some simple guidelines, IP trading communications platforms should match or exceed the high availability and performance standards of TDM-based solutions and at much lower life-cycle costs.

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The Importance of Escaping the Turret Silo

Saturday, 5. March 2011 9:58

When we think of  traditional trading turret system control planes (the “back room”) the image that comes to mind  is refrigerator-size cabinets populated with racks of proprietary printed circuit boards (PCB).

In other words, “big iron.” There is no real excuse for it in this day and age but in and of itself a huge system footprint is not a mortal sin. That designation should, we think, be reserved for any system that is not enabling customers to deploy a software-based call control application on industry standard servers (ISS).

And why is this?

Well, the first reason has to do with a system life cycle and Moore’s Law. If a customer expects to keep a voice trading platform for ten years (not unusual as we salespeople in the industry know only too well) and computing power is doubling every 12 months (it used to be 18 months) that means after only 20% of the expected life of the system it is antiquated in terms of MIPS.

The next thing that comes to mind is increased operational costs (OpEx) that go hand-in-hand with proprietary systems and which, it is well-documented consumes 7-out-of-10 budget dollars spent on IT. Once an enterprise can deploy their voice systems as normalized applications they should expect to reap massive economies through streamlined implementation and ongoing support. Things like user management, authentication, common server hardware, OS, speed and ease of deployment and moves, adds and changes, reduced space, power requirements and training costs and in finance, security and compliance policy adherence, and integration and extensibility to enterprise applications like Active Directory, Lync UC, Silverlight, et al. or for example make the case at least compelling if not mandated.

If you add in the ability to deploy voice in a virtualized (please see previous post) environment the benefits increase even more significantly and increased resilience, availability and simplified maintenance come into play.

And we have not even begun to talk about the cloud. That is, with most every enterprise either already deploying or in the stage of evaluating deployment of IT applications in remote data centers the standardization proposition is front and center.

How you respond to these trends will dictate what your voice trading environment looks like, how easy it is to manage, how flexible it is in terms of accommodating future needs and of course, what it ultimately costs. At WCS we have seen the benefits the ISS model  brings customers through our partnership with Mitel and their award-winning innovations in the move toward industry-standard hardware and more and more we are seeing this become the preferred deployment scenario rather than the exception.

The question today is not whether this approach makes sense but can your company afford not to do it if so many of your competitors are? An interesting article with more information relating to the move to Data Center-oriented deployments for voice applications can be found at http://unified-communications.tmcnet.com/unified-communications/columns/articles/114509-will-uc-pbx-functionality-reside-the-data-center.htm

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IT’s Nice to Have Options

Thursday, 13. January 2011 10:20

As commutes go, mine is not bad. A combination of walking and subway (NYC’s 1/2/3 Line that runs North-South on Seventh Avenue) is less than 30 minutes door-to-door.

Last night though, there was a problem  (a train stuck at 110th Street) so I had to figure out an alternative way to get home. Having already boarded the express train at Times Square I started churning through my options:
1) Walk across the platform and hope I could squeeze on the local subway (easy but crowded and slow)
2) Go up to the street and catch the M7 bus up Amsterdam Avenue (easy but crowded and really slow)
3) Go up to the street and trudge (through the cold and snow) to the B train that runs up Sixth Avenue (did I mention cold and snow?)

It all worked out, I made my way across the platform and positioned myself to get on the local train and instead of seven minutes journey it cost me about 18. The beauty of the situation was, once I was armed with information about why there was a delay I had several options to choose from.

Because the unexpected can be expected to rear its ugly head from time to time we find that we are continually stressing the value of having flexibility and options available  in information technology platforms and devices.  One of Internet Protocol (IP) technology’s primary benefits is its’ flexibility in enabling companies to adapt their platforms to changing business needs with minimal disruption, delay or cost without compromising quality or features.

We see this with our customers almost everyday: a new employee starts and the IT team was not told until five minutes after said employee walks onto the trading floor; the company acquires a team of traders in a distant city that they want “turned up” immediately; a big shot trader or traders want to be able to work out of an office near their home occasionally; a snow storm disables mass transit systems so staff need to work from home; the company decides to expand and open a branch office in another country and time zone and on and on.

If the average life-cycle of a voice platform is five-ten years the probability that, as an IT manager, you will encounter each of these situations and may be even a few more. Your ability to deal with the unexpected and meet or exceed the expectations of “the business” (and thus maintain or improve your standing in their eyes) will depend to some degree on the flexibility and options available in the IT platforms at your disposal as well as the flexibility and responsiveness of your service provider.

To learn more about disaster preparedness and business continuity planning for the capital markets please visit: http://www.finra.org/Industry/Issues/BusinessContinuity/

To learn more about flexibility and options associated with WCS IP communications platforms please visit us at http://www.wesleycloversolutions.com/solutions_ip_voice.htm

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