Running trading infrastructure in large sell-side firms is a tough gig. Not only are you responsible for perhaps the most business-critical part of your organisation, but even the smallest outage or change management error is highly visible to your clients. Dropping the ball can have significant economic consequences, not least thanks to an increasingly stringent regulatory environment. The fact that your internal users only speak to you when something goes wrong is the least of your worries!
Now try managing this in the new world of remote working.
The capital markets industry is dynamic, constantly evolving due to competitive tension and new regulations. Trading technology teams face a never-ending cycle of change management workload driven by trading venues, customer requests, new client onboarding, capacity management, and many other factors. Increasingly over recent years, the scramble to implement new regulatory requirements has trumped business driven initiatives, jumping to the top of an already unmanageable queue. The challenge is compounded by the fact that trading tech teams often need to manage multiple platforms where business units within the bank have opted for different solutions or legacy technology prevails from previous acquisitions. Adding a geographical dimension, managing across multiple regions and time zones, is yet another complexity.
How do firms escape from survival mode and refocus on winning?
Rapid Addition has been working with some of our largest customers to help address these challenging dynamics, incorporating a number of enhancements within RA Platform 3.0 that remove friction and make managing and controlling trading infrastructure significantly easier and more efficient.
Central to this is the interoperability of geographically disperse instances of the core trading platform. The RA message bus enables seamless electronic message exchange across complex, multi-region deployments (we can also achieve the same using 3rd party solutions such as Solace). This makes the Platform ideal for firms looking to standardise on a global technology or who want a single, multi-asset trading solution. Duplicating instances of the Platform across data centres optimises for disaster recovery and ensures high availability. The RA Platform enables state replication both within and between datacentres and regions, so systems monitoring is never interrupted even in the case of hardware or software failure.
In day to day operations one of the biggest challenges is the high volume of changes, configuration updates, and upgrades that need to be deployed across large, dispersed server estates. For many organisations this work is highly manual, involves endless testing, and is prone to errors that can be extremely costly. This prevents firms from moving at pace, putting IT teams under massive pressure to hit deadlines, limiting the number of projects they can deploy, and ultimately holding back enhancements that might improve business performance. The RA Discovery Service dramatically simplifies platform deployment and infrastructure management by connecting the internal components by service or cluster names rather than by individual IP addresses and ports. This avoids having to manage hundreds of discrete IP addresses and port combination entries in configuration files as the mapping is automatically updated when changes are made. The Discovery Service component of the RA Platform makes it much easier for teams to manager large, complex environments or cloud deployments, removing a significant operational burden from support staff.
In parallel, full integration with the Git versioning-control system creates a single source of truth, structing and storing all configuration files, scripts, and workflow diagrams so they are easily retrievable. This addresses a couple of issues, firstly helping with MiFID II compliance by generating a full audit trail of changes, while also supporting customer defined change review and approval processes. And secondly, making it easy to quickly roll-back to exact prior configurations if an anomaly becomes apparent that was not picked up during testing.
By leveraging the full Git capabilities, internal development teams should be able to avoid such errors in the first place – by defining customer specific workflows between Development, UAT and Production branches, technology teams have complete control over the change management lifecycle. Coupled to this is support for fully automated Continuous Integration deployment, with auto-execution of testing at each stage of the change request pipeline. Importantly, testing can be performed in the Platform’s Virtual Environment, validating that proposed changes behave correctly under real-world scenarios before propagating to Production. Tests can be automatically generated using both historical data and user defined scenarios, making it easy for dev teams to create highly comprehensive testing regimes.
The RA Platform takes change request risk mitigation to a new level, reducing the likelihood of errors while also providing the safety net of simplified trouble shooting and seamless roll-back. This significantly improves service quality for a firm’s clients and addresses regulatory compliance requirements. At the same time, automation removes development bottlenecks, giving firms both the capacity and confidence to move faster and do more, responding quicker to client needs and refocusing on business success rather than just survival. Along with eroding one of the barriers to leveraging the benefits of cloud, achieving this level of process automation and control will help firms reduce operational costs, remove complexity and become increasingly agile.