Nasdaq's CIO looks to streamline systems

In an effort to whittle down the number of IT platforms it needs to support, The Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. is looking to consolidate systems and networks through a series of moves that will include shifting some applications from Unix servers to Linux boxes.

In an interview last month, Nasdaq CIO Steve Randich said he also wants to eliminate the company's Unisys Corp. mainframes and migrate the trading-floor functions that run on those machines to its year-old SuperMontage order display and execution system. SuperMontage is based on a combination of fault-tolerant systems made by Hewlett-Packard Co. and Stratus Technologies Inc., plus Dell Computer Corp. Windows servers.

In addition, New York-based Nasdaq is consolidating 15 market data, stock trading and corporate e-mail networks onto a single IP-based WAN backbone. That project will cost US$50 million, Randich said.

Nasdaq currently uses about 300 Unix servers that run a mix of HP's Tru64 and HP-UX operating systems as well as Sun Solaris. Randich declined to specify how many of those servers he expects to replace with Linux systems or say when conversions to the open-source software will take place. But he added that Linux will be his first choice for migrations, despite the existing use of Wintel systems inside Nasdaq.

"Going from Linux to Unix tends to be the most compatible and easiest decision," Randich said. "I don't want to bifurcate myself across Linux and Windows Server 2003. But I do think Linux will play a role at Nasdaq in helping us minimize our Unix platforms going forward."

The network consolidation project is under way, but Randich declined to disclose a rollout schedule. Nasdaq's 15 networks are all run by WorldCom Inc., which now operates under the name MCI. Randich said the stock market has yet to pick a services provider for the unified Nasdaq Intelligent Network, which will be built around Cisco Systems Inc. routers that support the Multiprotocol Label Switching standard.

Despite the heavy investment in networking hardware and software that the new network will require, Randich said he expects to get a rapid return on investment. "It will require some recabling, but more importantly, we're going to be able to take a lot of circuits out of our network and save costs," he said.

On-demand Computing

Another likely cost saver is a plan to move toward more of an on-demand computing approach that would let Nasdaq add server or storage capacity as needed. Randich said he has been putting pressure on his hardware vendors to support on-demand computing and is seeing "more and more willingness" on their part to do so.

But Jamie Gruener, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, said some vendors are struggling to create policy-based software that can automatically order additional equipment for users or turn on unused servers and storage devices when specified capacity thresholds are reached. "We're not there yet and may not be for some time," Gruener said.

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