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Larry Greenemeier, InformationWeek
Larry Greenemeier, InformationWeek
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Boston Stock Exchange Moves Ticker App to Linux

For the Boston Stock Exchange to remain competitive, its ticker-processing software must provide brokers with a constant feed of data. If this flow of information wavers, traders lose out.

For the Boston Stock Exchange to remain a competitive forum for buying and selling the shares of publicly owned companies, its ticker-processing software must provide brokers with a constant feed of data that can be used to price stock orders. If this flow of information wavers, traders lose out -- a fact not lost on the exchange as it prepares to migrate its ticker-processing application to a Linux platform in April.

The exchange's Market Access ticker-processing software from Market Systems Technology takes a feed of consolidated data from the Securities Industry Automation Corp., which supports order processing, trading, market-data reporting, trade comparison, surveillance, clearance and settlement for a range of securities. The software is the underpinning of a critical information service the exchange offers to its brokers, says Tom Targonski, project management office VP for the Boston Stock Exchange, the United States' fastest-growing stock exchange. "If it went down, they couldn't trade effectively," he says.

The migration of Market Access from a fault-tolerant Continuum server from Stratus Technologies, its home for more than a decade, to a newer Stratus ftServer T Series might sound like a move to fix something that's not broken. However, the migration will put the ticker-processing software on a lower-cost platform that runs on Intel rather than RISC processors and on the Linux open-source operating system rather than Stratus' proprietary virtual operating system (VOS). A smaller system running industry-standard microprocessors and an open-source operating system cuts the up-front and maintenance costs for the hardware and eliminates any operating-system licensing fees, says Targonski, who declined to cite specific cost savings for the exchange.

Stratus offers a variation on the basic Linux kernel that the company calls "ft Linux," which adds to the base 2.4 kernel a layer of software for managing storage, memory and redundant-processing components in a fault-tolerant environment. Since the end result is a modified version of Linux, Stratus provides support for the operating system. The company says it has been contributing code to the Linux community that will let future versions of the kernel provide better support for fault tolerance. Stratus hopes, by the end of the year, to build its ftLinux on top of a standard Linux distribution such as Red Hat or SuSE Linux, says Denny Lane, director of product marketing.

The moves by Stratus and Market Systems Technology to incorporate Linux into their products encouraged the Boston Stock Exchange to give the operating system a try. "The move has been relatively easy in terms of porting the [ticker-processing] application to Linux because Market Systems had already done that," Targonski says. "We wanted this to be transparent to the traders on the floor."

The exchange isn't considering moving any of its other systems, including its order-routing network, to Linux. The exchange developed that system -- Beacon, or Boston Exchange Automated Communication and Order-Routing Network -- in 1986 to integrate exchange trading and information systems. Subsequent developments to the Beacon system, which also runs on a fault-tolerant Stratus server, have made it possible to eliminate the use of paper order tickets on the floor by using Sun Microsystems workstations.

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