Financial exchange cuts fail-overs with Cisco technology

CME Group plans to deploy new virtual switching to minimize downtime and improve response in e-trade business

CME Group in Chicago plans to deploy new virtual switching technology from Cisco Systems to minimize downtime and improve response times in its electronic trading business.

Created through the July merger of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, CME Group calls itself the world's largest financial exchange. But despite its size, it wants to increase its electronic transactions, which today constitute less than 20% of its business. Those electronic trades grew by 28% in October, and CME Group wants to capitalize further on that healthy rate of growth.

"In order to keep attracting electronic trading business, we need to continue to deliver networks that minimize downtime and [offer] fast response times," said Jim Messer, director of network services at CME Group, in an interview.

Messer said CME has tested two prerelease versions of Cisco's new Virtual Switching System 1440, which was announced this week, and it plans to deploy VSS in at least some of its 300 Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series switches. "The VSS feature will enable us to cut hardware fail-overs from 50 seconds down to two to three seconds, which is the difference between impacting customers and keeping a hardware failure from reaching the end user," Messer explained.

For electronic trades, even 50 milliseconds of delay can have a significant effect on customers, he said.

The VSS technology leverages Cisco's Virtual Switching Supervisor Engine 720, which has integrated 10 Gigabit Ethernet uplinks; it can make two Cisco 6500s look and act like one, thereby doubling bandwidth capacity, Cisco officials said. It is shipping now, starting at US$31,500.

The installed base of Catalyst 6500 chassis that numbers in the hundreds of thousands globally, and the VSS technology could reduce upgrade costs for many customers that are trying to improve network bandwidth for critical applications, including new multimedia systems, said Ben Goldman, director of network systems at Cisco.

In addition to drastically reducing fail-over speeds, CME Group's VSS upgrade will also improve the scalability of the exchange's networks, thanks to the 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections. Having those uplinks will free up connections that can be used to connect to as many as 96 more devices per access switch, Messer said.

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