"We're getting a new integrated trading platform, and we want to ensure the network we put in place will accommodate much greater expansion in the future," said Jeff Olsson, group executive technology with the ASX.
Network demands are expected to increase dramatically when the new CLICK XT platform is rolled out next year. The package will replace the SEATS trading software first introduced by the ASX in 1987.
Recent changes to trading practice, such as the introduction of broker anonymity on trades and increased DMA (direct market access) activity, also had the potential to increase network demand, Olsson said. "We have been upgrading and future-proofing the trading and backup networks. We've increased the capacity between the [operations and backup] sites quite dramatically." Data between the sites is carried via a virtual private network, with immediate failover in the event of a systems outage.
The upgrade, using equipment from Nortel and network design advice from Telstra, began in late 2004 and was completed in November this year. "To upgrade a network, it just doesn't happen overnight," Olsson said. "We have a very comprehensive test lab. We subject this sort of equipment to very intensive test loads. We've always been very concerned about reliability."
Much of the changeover had to be completed outside of trading hours, with major elements of the implementation taking place on weekends. "A major part of an upgrade is to have a backup plan," Olsson said. "When our customers start using the system on a Monday, they need to either see the whole new system or exactly what they saw the previous week. There's no half measures."
Despite the expanded capacity, Olsson says that maintenance of network bandwidth is an ongoing project. "We're always looking to enhance it," he said. One early target may be the ASX Web site, which attracts more than two million page views a day.
The shift away from SEATS will represent the most radical change in the ASX' customer-facing technology since the introduction of the Internet, but it has been carefully planned for, Olsson said. "We've had a policy of continuous improvement over 20 years, and when we put things in place its for the improvement of the business, not just for technology's sake. We want to use new technology for our benefit, and getting the balance right is a challenge."