Forty-seven hours after the impact at the World Trade Centers North Tower took the lives of 733 Cantor Fitzgerald LP staff, including 150 IT workers, the industry-leading bond company was once again taking orders for U.S. Treasury bonds.
The reason: a well-conceived disaster recovery plan and skillful, round-the-clock execution on the part of eSpeed Inc., a Cantor Fitzgerald spinoff that handles all the companys IT infrastructure.
“We were working on adrenaline and reacting on instincts,” Joe Noviello, executive vice president and CIO at eSpeed, said last week from his office at the companys Rochelle Park, N.J., data center and temporary headquarters for Cantor Fitzgerald. “The first week people slept in cots, sleeping bags and minivans in the parking lot [of the data center].”
“All the data and software was mirrored to Rochelle Park,” said Noviello, adding that the facility was established as a full-fledged data center, not just a recovery site, in February. Many Rochelle Park systems are primary, as well as backup.
Like many companies in the WTC towers, the recovery activity was not confined to the United States. At Cantor Fitzgerald and eSpeeds London offices, IT staff was similarly flat-out.
“We stayed here [in our offices] till Friday night,” said Kara Kiewel, a spokeswoman for Cantor Fitzgerald and eSpeed in London. “People were sleeping on the floor. Then we all came back on Saturday. We wouldnt go; we couldnt go.”
A triangular architecture, with points at the WTC, Rochelle Park and London connected by DS 3 pipes, worked exactly as planned.
“When one corner went down, we never stopped trading,” Kiewel said. “The system kept functioning in Europe and Asia.”
However, tasks that were handled in New York had to be carried out elsewhere—mainly in London. The clearing and settlement of trades was the main process. Whats more, many of Cantor Fitzgeralds New York-based clients had their own infrastructures knocked out, either in the WTC or the neighboring financial district. These customers, which normally communicated with Cantor Fitzgerald through its global private network, switched to Internet access instead, Kiewel said.
The north tower impact took out eSpeeds operations on the 103rd floor, which included some 250 Compaq Computer Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. servers running Windows NT, Alpha/OpenVMS and Solaris.
Noviello estimated that 1,000 workstations were destroyed. The floor was also the center of software development activity, and many developers used more than one desktop system, all of which were lost.
Contrary to what one might expect, eSpeed is not on a hiring binge. “We have very good depth for the products we maintain. We will continue to grow as our business needs require,” said Noviello.
eSpeed has 500 employees around the world, centered mainly in 23 hub locations. About 75 work in Rochelle Park.
eSpeed has resumed trading in all the products handled by Cantor Fitzgerald and sister company Tradespark LP, a joint venture that specializes in energy-based trading products. In fact, eSpeed is getting back to work to bring some new trading instruments online, Kiewel said.
But after such dramatic events, Cantor Fitzgerald will never be the same. For instance, the company will rely even more on eSpeed going forward.
“The company is going to look different,” Kiewel said. “Its going to have more technology; the U.S. Treasury market has shifted to become dominantly electronic.”
“Were getting away from voice brokers. The way the technology held up in this situation has only reinforced our belief in this direction,” Kiewel added.
Before Sept. 11, eSpeed was handling $250 billion worth of trades per day. That total has not fully rebounded, but Kiewel said Cantor Fitzgerald is still dominant in its key market, U.S. Treasury bills.
Noviello advanced from chief technology officer to executive vice president and CIO upon the death of Fred Varacchi in the disaster. Varacchi was president and chief operating officer of eSpeed.
That Noviello is alive today is a matter of pure chance. He was set to go on a deep-sea fishing trip with some colleagues. It was canceled because of a hurricane but not in time for him to go to work at the usual hour.
He was lucky, but theres no luck to Cantor Fitzgeralds being in business today. It was a matter of planning and hard work. “People plan for disaster recovery. No one ever plans for the loss of equipment, facilities and resources. To bring up our systems in 47 hours demonstrates our planning toward building concurrent systems,” said Noviello, adding, “we did not lose any data.”