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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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Saying Goodbye to $10K Per Position

Friday, 29. April 2011 15:58

Certain measurements in life take root and become a reference point. For example, 12 inches equals one foot or four quarts equal a gallon.

In trader voice,  for as long as I have been doing it, the baseline metric for price-per-position (total purchase price/number of end users) has been $10,000 per position. Of course, this can change based on factors such as system size, configuration and negotiated discount, but, as a rule of thumb, this is as good as any. Note that with traditional turret suppliers this is an “after discount” figure as list prices can be as much as double, especially for small numbers of users.

Since WCS’s founding, one of our fundamental goals has been to put paid to that measurement through innovation. It started with the recognition that the vast majority of traders use a fraction of the capacity of their turret (the average sell-side turret user has 4-5 unique ring down circuits, a small handful of DID, some speed dials and another handful of lines that they may cover for other traders in their group; adding up to a need of somewhere between 20-100 virtual button appearances; the typical buy-side trader needs even fewer).

We also new from experience that a related bugbear for financial trading firms has always been that traditional turrets could not share line appearances with regular PBX phones. This necessitates the investment in a $10,000 turret for anyone who might need to have even a few ring down circuits or trading lines on their telephone. In addition, since traditional turrets do not offer many of the convenience of an office telephone (voice mail comes to mind), this might result in users having a turret and a telephone on their desk.

WCS has really changed all of this. With the introduction of a single platform system we eliminated the limitations associated with sharing lines among turret devices and phones. On our system, all devices are created equal(ly) and have access to lines in the system as well all of the turret and “PBX” features associated with the system.

By introducing a system that gives firms the option to offer dial tone (analog, PRI, SIP trunking) as well as trading turret capabilities in the same platform, WCS eliminated the requirement to purchase, integrate and support two voice systems.

Finally, The Crossover Series, our IP Trading Desktop portfolio, further disrupts the status quo by offering customers a choice of trading devices in various form factors, capacities and prices. Any of these  devices can support dial tone, ring downs, speed dials and pagination/floating answer keys while sharing lines with the 5560 IP Turret.

The price range of the Crossover Series desktop is $750-$2,750. This means that once you determine the mix of desktops and add in the back room elements and services the per position price for our system comes in drastically less than the old metric. And this is compounded to the positive for the customer when calculating total system life-cycle costs as annual operating costs are generally derived from the list price of the system purchased.

Brings to mind the old adage that “change can be  good.”

Category:Buying A New System, The Turret Market | Comments Off on Saying Goodbye to $10K Per Position | Author:

Shopping for IT Like You Are Big & Tall

Tuesday, 19. April 2011 14:34

Some stories just stay with you over the years. Like the one when my brother, who is somewhere between 6’3″ and 6’4″, told me he went to buy a suit in a Big & Tall store and they told him he wasn’t “big & tall” enough.

I have been thinking about this as it relates to our customers. Many are really small-medium size businesses (SMB = 10-500 employees) who traffic in very high dollar volumes and sophisticated securities instruments either as an broker-dealer or investment manager.

It is true that they often compete with the big boys and many of their employees have worked at bulge bracket firms but in reality they are truly SMB.

There is nothing wrong, per se, with thinking like a big guy, but if you aren’t one and you decide to shop at the Big & Tall shop you may not be getting the best fit.

What are the implications for firms like these across the continuum of evaluating, sourcing, deploying and supporting hardware, software and applications  that are critical to the mission of their business?

SMB lack the depth and breadth of resources that larger firms possess. This can affect their ability to stay abreast of the latest innovations and trends in the vendor ecosystem and can lead to knee-jerk, least path of resistance buying decisions. This might mean they:

  • Make the “going with what I know choice” by going with the next generation solution from their current vendor
  • Make the “default choice” by opting to go with what the big guys use
  • Make the “safe choice” by going with the current market leader

In the case of communications systems, this can mean living with the solution, service provider and cost structure for a decade or longer. Going with what the big guys use seems like it makes sense. After all, one might argue that he is piggy backing on the due diligence process of a large firm. The unfortunate thing is that SMB buying criteria should differ markedly from bulge bracket buying criteria.

What may compound this error is that when bulge bracket firms buy from industry behemoths they often do so because the market leader’s product (and support orientation) is optimized for their very largest customers. So you might be buying something meant for a different size customer and you may end up at the back of the line when it comes to that vendor’s priorities for providing service.

SMB, especially multi-location firms, need to be mindful of how they can efficiently roll out and support staff in branch locations and offer high availability, resilient systems for all users at reasonable costs. If a system is designed to be supported by highly trained, local IT staff you may have a lot of headaches dealing with the six person office in another city where the receptionist doubles at the IT resource.

At WCS, our products and service orientation are optimized for multi-site SMB financial trading enterprises who require high-performance, high-availability voice trading communications solutions that are scalable, flexible and manageable.

 

Category:Buying A New System, The Turret Market, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Shopping for IT Like You Are Big & Tall | Author: