Monday, April 27, 2015

About News

This week we worked on an article for an upcoming May / June, 2015, issue of The Connection magazine – Richard and I chose the title Data ain’t Data – a case for mission-critical data on NonStop. The title came as an analogy to a very successful advertisement campaign when Castrol Oil created the punchline, “Oils ain’t Oils!” See the article to read more about it!

The point we were making was that there is some data that is of critical importance; in fact we pointed out that such data could be as mission critical as are some transactions or applications. We also asserted that the source of some of this critically important data could be social media. To illustrate that point I started with: “When you watch news…” and stopped! Who watches news?

 Sometimes, when engaging in the mindless activity of applying makeup, I listen to the radio to get the news. So the sentence was intended to show how social media content can be critical data, so important for example to the police in crime prevention, or to those needing proof of errant police brutality … But the change in the ways we obtain the daily, or even hourly, updates on what is happening in the world, got me off tangent!

Well, I do when I try to walk my 2 miles, like a hamster, in my 24/7 Fitness gym but other than that I try to stay current reading the really short version of the news, using InkaBinka.

Which brings me back to what I wanted to address – in all three ways (watching, reading and listening) the news arrived, last Friday, about the big Bloomberg terminal outage. Oh, my! All around the world! An article in, by Karl Flinders, made the stunningly obvious remark, “In the trading sector, where systems complete trades in microseconds, even seemingly insignificant glitches can have huge ramifications.”

Bloomberg terminals? CNBC reported after the service was restored, “Bloomberg terminals—also known as Bloomberg Professional—are vital to many traders' day. As well monitoring and analyzing real-time financial data, traders can also execute trades using the terminal. Bloomberg has previously stated that it has more than 315,000 subscribers worldwide.” Well, sounds like a pretty critical service no matter what metric you might use to gauge business critical operations.  

Wikipedia provides following information on the Bloomberg Terminal, “The terminal implements a client-server architecture with the server running on a multiprocessor Unix platform. The client, used by end users to interact with the system, is a Windows application that typically connects "direct" through a router provided by Bloomberg and installed on-site. End users can also make use of an extra service (Bloomberg Anywhere) to allow the Windows application to connect via internet / IP, or Web access via a Citrix client. There are also applications that allow mobile access via Android, BlackBerry, and iOS.”

I wonder…The speed of processing, or lack thereof, was the reason NASDAQ switched from Tandem Computers that had been in production since 1981 to Unix machines. According to the December 25, 2008, article in Forbes, Company of the Year: Nasdaq “Within months Robert Greifeld (a former computer salesman who took over at Nasdaq in 2003) scrapped Nasdaq’s expensive Tandem computers in a Connecticut data center and moved Nasdaq to off-the-shelf servers.” It didn’t take long before the integrity, indeed robustness, of off-the-shelf solutions began generating news leading to the infamous headline in Time magazine of August 23, 2013, Computer Glitch Forces NASDAQ to Halt Trading.

This raised the ire of the Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White, who said in a statement that Thursday’s “interruption in trading, while resolved before the end of the day, was nonetheless serious and should reinforce our collective commitment to addressing technological vulnerabilities of exchanges and other market participants.” White said she will be meeting with leaders of the top exchanges to “accelerate ongoing efforts to further strengthen our markets.” So, if off-the-shelf, industry-standard, technology and solutions are that important to businesses including NASDAQ, with the arrival of the NonStop X, is there really any justification in utilizing platforms that continue to fail? I don’t think so…

Well, back to the Connection article. Some data is more critical than others, and when you think of critical data, life and death come to mind. Having two prematurely born identical grandsons in incubators, hooked to all sorts of sensors, with monitor displays all around them, makes me realize that indeed, there is some data that just ain’t data!

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