Server 2003 Aids Trading Firm

UNX taps system for stability, reliability.

Randy Abernathy
While Linux and other open-source technologies gain momentum in the financial services industry, at least one company is staying close to Microsoft Corp. platforms for stability and reliability concerns.

Universal Network Exchange Inc., or UNX, is a provider of electronic equities trading solutions to institutional investors and an early adopter of Windows Server 2003. Primarily, its using the platform to improve time to market with new products.

"We are building technology that shores up the issues of the market for our clients," said UNX CEO Randy Abernathy (pictured). "We have to do so very quickly because the changes happen very rapidly. One of my greatest concerns is the time to market for those products that add value to our customers businesses."

The Burbank, Calif., company, which trades about $1 billion in principal every two to three days, has a core technology group to build superfast products such as trading servers and tactics engines. It also has a number of products that need a far shorter time to market, for which it uses the .Net Framework platform.

But the company was looking for more.

It wanted to alleviate some of its data center pressures by being able to more effectively utilize the bandwidth of its servers through better clustering technologies. UNX also wanted to expand its existing data center, not for performance issues but for availability, and was hoping Windows Server 2003 would help.

Abernathy said he was not disappointed, as he found new ways to create availability, such as with the Network Load Balancing feature.

Because of the softwares virtual network load balancers, UNX was able to cut the server count in half in one area of its production environments.

"[It] was a big deal for us," Abernathy said.

The company also last year built out a single stock trading terminal that had real-time market data and access to all its algorithms. By using a Web services API, the company had enabled its trading terminal to make use of its platform.

But even that was not enough. The network infrastructure and all the trading logic and sweeping algorithms also needed to be deployed to clients in myriad ways. One way to rapidly deploy them was through Web services, something Server 2003 could handle.

"The IIS [Internet Information Services] kernel mode driver component is just blazing; it really moves fast," Abernathy said.

Clients could now also build proprietary models and systems on top of its platform.

UNX, which has been testing the Windows Server 2003 code since last year, said it expects to have migrated all its servers to 2003 by June. The trading system and its U.S. equity trading platform have been running on Server 2003 via terminal services for its electronic trade support staff since the beginning of the year.

"We also have all our demo systems up and running on 2003, which means theres a complete version of our platform there for clients to do development on and build things against our Web services," Abernathy said.

All UNXs quality assurance environments have been turned over to Server 2003.

Abernathy said he believes Windows Server 2003 has so far lived up to what Microsoft has promised. "Basically, everything that we had been using in the past is at least as good or better in Server 2003," he said.

For more on Windows Server 2003, see our special section.