NYBOT Reclaims Roots

Two years after 9/11, New York Board of Trade trades Queens for financial district.

The New York Board of Trade has come home.

Two years after losing its trading floor and primary computer facilities to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the NYBOT, the commodities exchange that specializes in coffee, sugar, cocoa and other soft goods, has returned to its old neighborhood of lower Manhattan.

The official opening of the trading floor last week placed a period at the end of a two-year chapter of displacement. It also was a milestone in the effort to get major financial services institutions to take up residence again in the most important center of finance in the United States. For IT, it marked the latest implementation of a highly resilient triangulated data architecture.

NYBOTs period of exile began in the cataclysmic moments following the impact of hijacked airliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Located at Four World Trade Center, NYBOTs headquarters was destroyed when the towers collapsed. Within a week, however, NYBOT was trading contracts in orange juice, cotton, coffee, cocoa and sugar at a backup facility in Queens, N.Y., which remained the exchanges home until last week.

"Seeing this historic New York institution resume trading within a week of the attacks was another affirmation of the American resilience and courage," said former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, in prepared remarks at the opening last week.

The Queens facility was established in a disaster-recovery plan formulated by Pat Gambaro, now NYBOT vice president and chief operating officer, in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Because all data at NYBOTs lower Manhattan trading floor was mirrored at the Queens facility (owned by Comdisco Inc., now SunGard Data Systems Inc.), and the facility included trading pits, video monitors, booths and offices, NYBOT was able to shift its work entirely to the backup facility.

Now, NYBOT is implementing an even more reliable architecture: The trading floor at World Financial Center—adjacent to Ground Zero—which is shared with the New York Mercantile Exchange, is the nerve center for trading, although the processing, clearing and archiving of data is done elsewhere.

The primary data center is located at 39 Broadway, a few blocks from World Financial Center. The Queens facility, meanwhile, returns to a backup role, mirroring in real time the data at 39 Broadway. The three nodes of the triangle are linked by a Synchronous Optical Network ring.

If disaster should strike again in lower Manhattan, "we could go live [in Queens] in 1 hour," Gambaro said.

The plans to implement the new architecture were in place for many months, but the cutover to 39 Broadway took place on Sept. 1. The first trades were executed on the new trading floor two days later. "It was a seamless transition. There is no better word," Gambaro said.

The two-year hiatus did not derail progress in IT at NYBOT. At the Queens site, the exchange upgraded its servers to new Hewlett-Packard Co. ServerNet S7200 systems (the successors to the Compaq-Tandem Himalaya line) and has brought those over to 39 Broadway. NYBOT also implemented a wireless network in Queens and introduced handheld trading terminals, which were moved to the new trading floor.

"This is a state-of-the-art facility. Its definitely ahead of the curve," Gambaro said. NYBOTs trading volume also increased, growing 17 percent in 2002 and 15 percent in 2003.

In addition, NYBOT began piloting eCOPS (Commodities Operating Processing System), a Web-based system designed to provide NYBOT members with detailed information about such things as the coffee-grading process, in which experts determine the quality of beans, before commodities come to market.

The return to lower Manhattan could not have been accomplished without financial aid. The U.S. government provided $23.3 million, through the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. NYBOT also received an insurance settlement of $23 million. "We couldnt have done it without that," said Fred Schoenhut, NYBOT chairman.

NYBOT has signed a 10-year lease at World Financial Center and a 12-year lease at 39 Broadway. The institution plans to continue cooperating closely with the stock exchange and could combine clearing systems. NYBOT is piloting a new clearing system of its own, called Extensible Clearing System, provided by OnExchange Inc., a securities technology vendor based in Lexington, Mass.

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