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Cloud Transaction Synchronicity

Without single-source timing, financial transactions running in clouds are as random as raindrops

High-Frequency Trading (HFT) and secret algorithms have become the new competitive strategy in today's global financial industry. The faster traders can turn around trades, the faster they can get in and out of quick markets and short time pockets of opportunity.

Having accurate records of when a transaction occurs is critical as to processing the trade and valuating the transaction.

There are many articles and white papers discussing cloud computing and shared services. New services that are being touted are things like SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service).

What is missing is the ability to sync up transactions coming from various outbound originations. What is necessary is the ability to provide Timing as a Service (TaaS).

A Master Clock Is Needed
This TaaS type of service is the ability to have every transaction synched up off of one Master Clock. Just like the timing of the public switched telephone network (PSTN) itself is based on one Master clock (the Atomic clock), the applications needing timing should also be provided with timing. This timing could be a whole new network service for the carrier to provide.

"Timing as a Service"© (TaaS©) needs to be implemented and offered as a network services offering for financial institutions and related firms using any Cloud technologies. HFT needs TaaS© for accuracy.

Without synchronized timing coming from one source, high-speed financial transactions running through various financial networks cannot be as accurate as they should be.

Synchronized Financial Services Framework
Synchronized timing that is transaction-centric should be a mandatory service for all financial transactions that are being transmitted to all the exchanges. A well-defined timing definition for financial services (trading, transaction processing) should be developed and accepted by the various financial trading organizations because it would provide a more accurate layer of processing and oversight for all transactions being processed. A Synchronized Financial Services Framework would go down into a level of granularity of nanoseconds in order to ensure trades being done in microseconds could be easily sequenced into proper order.

Why is this so important? Financial transactions have to be processed in a very orderly fashion. Each transaction has a very precise value assigned to it based on the timing of the trade.

In the old days when everything was done manually, each order had to be time-stamped on the floor so that its value could be recorded based on the time of trade. Now, that time of trade has gone from a tenth of a second to a microsecond. (See Chart)

Financial Transactions Timing Chart

SPEED of TRANSACTIONS

(in seconds)

SECONDS

TIMING FROM

OBSERVATION

Hundredth

1/100

MULTIPLE

SERVERS

Where regulators are today

Millisecond

1/ 1,000

MULTIPLE SERVERS

Latency (30-40 milliseconds)

Microsecond

1/10,000

MULTIPLE

SERVERS

Where traders are today

Nanosecond

1/1,000,000

ONE ATOMIC CLOCK

Where regulators should be

Source: James Carlini, 2012

The safeguards and regulatory oversight have not gotten down to that level of granularity. If it had, the explanation of the 2010 Dow Flash Crash (the 1,000 Point Drop) would have been more accurate.

20th Century Solutions Cannot Be Applied to 21st Century Challenges
New services mean new revenues to network carriers. Each network circuit being used by financial organizations would have to provide timing for all transactions being sent through the network carriers.

It's too bad the carriers don't have the visionaries on staff anymore to dream up these new network services. They should have been offering this type of service already. If they did, mission-critical applications using cloud computing services would be an easier decision than it is today.

Network carriers seem to be stuck in the 1960s in their monopolistic telephony approach because this is a service clearly needed to facilitate cloud applications and opportunities in the 21st century.

•   •   •

Copyright 2012 - James Carlini

More Stories By James Carlini

James Carlini, MBA, a certified Infrastructure Consultant, keynote speaker and former award-winning Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, has advised on mission-critical networks. Clients include the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, GLOBEX, and City of Chicago’s 911 Center. An expert witness in civil and federal courts on network infrastructure, he has worked with AT&T, Sprint and others.

Follow daily Carlini-isms at www.twitter.com/JAMESCARLINI

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