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The London Stock Exchange moves its trading to Linux

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Jul. 2, 2009

Last September, right at the very start of one of the biggest market meltdowns in history since the October 1929 crash, the London Stock Exchange's entire IT system brought the whole exchange to a complete standstill for almost a whole trading day. It was the first, and also the last time such an event would happen.

Since December 2007, the London Stock Exchange had been using a Windows-based system called TradElect. There had been some problems and a few snags with TradElect, but it never had failed like it did on that terrible September day.

And while the exchange totally denied that the collapse was TradElect's fault, putting fuel on the fire, they also categorically refused to explain where the problem really was and who was to blame for the huge fiasco.

Reliable sources at the stock exchange highly suggest that the problem was with the TradElect software.

Meanwhile, the CEO that brought TradElect to the LSE, Clara Furse, has left without saying why she was leaving. Sources in London suggest that TradElect's failure was the final straw that broke the camel's back as far as her career is concerned.

The exchange's new CEO, Xavier Rolet, is reported to have immediately decided to cancel all trading using the TradElect system, and to scrap the whole project.

The TradElect system runs on HP ProLiant servers and are based on the Windows Server 2003 operating system.

The TradElect software itself is a custom blend of C# and .Net programs, which was created in 2007 by Microsoft and Accenture, the global consulting firm.

For the database and on the back-end, TradElect relied on Microsoft SQL Server 2000. Its goal was to maintain sub-ten millisecond response times for all stock trades performed on the exchange. It never even came close to achieving those performance goals, far from it in fact.

Worse, the LSE's competition, such as its main rival Chi-X with its MarketPrizm trading platform software was able to deliver such a fast level of performance and in general it was running many circles around TradElect-- enough to make any exchange administrator dizzy!

Since then, the London Stock Exchange has moved all its trading to the Linux platform and has never looked back since.

As can be expected, the LSE senior management team couldn't tell the difference between Linux or Windows without a technician at hand, but they can certainly tell when their whole business comes to a full and screeching halt in front of Wall Street and the rest of the world.

Also, it's one thing to lose millions in a typical trading day's revenues, but what about the huge negative PR the event created at the same time?

It's not everyday that you see a major corporate entity or an important public organization such as the LSE throw out its entire infrastructure the way that the exchange is about to do in the coming weeks.

Then again, it's not everyday that you see enterprise software fail quite so miserably and publicly as was the case with the LSE last September.

You 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 were at the time to rely on unstable and insecure Windows software solutions.

The rest as they say, is history (pun intended)...

Besides working very well for Chi-X, Linux seems to also be doing quite nicely for the CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange), the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) and many more exchanges all over the world, large or small.

Source: The London Stock Exchange.

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