NYSE builds business around resilient infrastructure services

The 9/11 terrorist attacks allowed the NYSE to build its dream resilient network from scratch

After the terrorist strikes of Sept. 11, 2001, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) learned some valuable lessons in keeping a time-sensitive financial trading network alive during a time of crisis.

"We found that during 9/11, carrier point-of-presence facilities went down, a lot of firms in the industry were not able to trade. So we made a decision to build a resilient network for the industry," said Vince Lanzillo, who is head of co-location for the Americas for NYSE Technologies (NYXT), a commercial subsidiary of NYSE Euronext that offers infrastructure, content and liquidity services to the financial industry.

So, when Hurricane Sandy struck last year, NYXT was prepared to continue operations, though the NYSE itself decided to halt trading, citing concerns with employee safety and other factors.

NYXT built and now operates the SFTI (Secure Financial Transactional Infrastructure -- pronounced "Safety"), which is used by financial firms and by the NYSE itself for its primary and backup exchanges. SFTI has access centers in most major markets in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

"Customers can leverage a network we built for the industry. They can transact business among themselves, or use it to access the exchanges for trading," Lanzillo said.

SFTI is a fully resilient Layer 3 network engineered to have no single points of failure. Each customer can connect via multiple distributed access center locations and use the network to get to the NYSE exchange, other exchanges and to content providers as well.

NYXT can also offer server hosting and co-location, for those organizations that wish to locate their own operations adjacent to the NYSE Euronext's own exchanges. Customers can lease servers in the Mahwah, New Jersey, data center -- approximately 30 miles from the Wall Street district in New York -- and in the Basildon, U.K., facility, as well as in other locations.

After 9/11, the NYSE decided to consolidate all the markets, then running in different co-locational facilities, to the Mahwah data center. Today, Mahwah hosts all the NYSE Euronext's U.S. markets, including the NYSE itself.

NYXT markets the benefits of consolidation to its potential customers as well.

"Customers could co-locate in Mahwah and access all the markets with a single set of connections, as opposed to taking a presence in multiple data centers," Lanzillo said.

For a trading firm, co-locating a server within NYSE's own facility can be advantageous, given that it ensures the shortest possible communication path between that server and the NYSE exchange. The company also offers a set of network services to facilitate regulated high-speed trading. "We support our co-location community ... such that no one customer has a trading or market data advantage over another," Lanzillo said.

Resilience was a big factor in the design of SFTI and its data centers.

"The way Mahwah is architected, we deployed it in what we call a pod configuration. Mahwah acts almost like multiple data centers at once," Lanzillo said. NYSE markets operate out of two of these pods.

Pods are 20,000 square feet each. Each pod is electrically and mechanically independent. Mahwah sits on multiple power grids and resides outside of the 100-year flood plane.

Nonetheless, should some cataclysmic event, such as a 1,000-year flood, render Mahwah inoperable, NYXT can automatically switch all operations to the backup site, which now resides in a Chicago data center.

Because SFTI is a Layer 3 service, "customers can use existing connections at the access centers and be pointed to the backup systems. That's a big win for the customers, who in the past needed to connect by point-to-point connectivity. The Layer 3 network intelligently routes their connections to the site where the services are operational," Lanzillo said.

But will NYXT's customers' own systems be able to automatically switch over as well?

"Each customer is a little different. For the most part it is transparent. Some customers with unique configurations may have to do some manual changes in their network," Lanzillo said.

"From the NYXT systems standpoint, we've architected our systems to be transparent and operational. Every customer has a unique configuration and in some cases it may be easier than others to fail over to the disaster recovery site, but it is all manageable," Lanzillo said.

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