High-availability server strategies at NCDEX

India's leading commodity exchange believes in a heterogeneous server strategy using VOS, AIX, Linux and Windows platforms for high-availability trading.

By Anil Patrick R, Chief Editor, SearchDataCenter.in

The National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Ltd. (NCDEX) has come a long way since its commodities trading platform rollout in 2004. NCDEX's core business is to facilitate trading of agricultural commodities, metals, energy and carbon credits. At present, NCDEX provides trading of 57 commodities. Located in Mumbai, NCDEX has a presence of 550 centers across India, and plans to add more centers during fiscal year 2009-10.

The need for IT to drive the business was clearly outlined at NCDEX's inception. When NCDEX was incorporated in April 2003, its core business objective was to set up a professionally managed online commodity exchange. It had to provide a world-class commodity exchange platform for market participants to trade in commodity derivatives.

Critical design factors

According to Nirmalendu Jajodia, the chief of technology and operations for NCDEX, the exchange's IT infrastructure is focused on providing high availability along with transaction speeds. "Our complete IT environment has been designed for 99.99% of uptime. Specific components may have five nines of uptime, but the overall system availability is 99.99%," Jajodia says.

Nirmalendu Jajodia
Nirmalendu Jajodia

High availability is critical from NCDEX's very large trading window as well, due to trading in commodities which have links with international exchanges. "We have trading hours from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. during summer, and till 11:55 p.m. during winter. The matching engine starts matching trades from 10 a.m. onwards. So high availability is critical since trading is on for almost 14 hours," Jajodia says.

The core trading application

As a commodities exchange, NCDEX is powered by OMX Technology's core commodities trading application. This application is the backbone of the exchange, and has been in place since its start in 2003.

Rolled out in December 2003, the core commodities trading application has been implemented on a single fault-tolerant duplex Stratus Continuum server, which runs the Stratus VOS operating system. NSE.IT Ltd. was the systems integrator for this application. According to Jajodia, the server has an uptime expectation of 99.999%. It has been sized to handle up to 20,000 terminals at a time.

Users connect to NCDEX's core commodities trading application through a trading proxy. IPSec virtual private networks over channels such as Very Small Aperature Terminal, Multiprotocol Label Switching and leased lines provide secure connectivity for users to NCDEX's infrastructure.

Supporting applications landscape

Apart from the core commodities trading application, NCDEX has more than 100 IBM servers in its Mumbai data center for nontrading applications. These include applications such as market watch, risk surveillance, index calculation, risk management and NCDEX's data warehouse. While almost all of NCDEX's technical applications are on Red Hat Inc.'s Linux, other applications run on AIX and Windows.

This section of NCDEX's server infrastructure has been sized and implemented keeping high availability in mind. High-availability clusters have been implemented using clustering on AIX, Veritas and Windows for the same. Server virtualization is in use for only development efforts.

NCDEX's server strategy
Server platforms in use: Stratus VOS, AIX, Red Hat Linux and Windows servers.
Servers in primary data center: More than 100.
Servers in disaster recovery site: 30 servers.
Trading application: Core commodities trading application from OMX Technology of Stockholm, Sweden, on a fault-tolerant Stratus Continuum server running VOS.
Sizing parameters for trading server: Uptime expectation of 99.999%. Capability to handle up to 20,000 connected terminals.
Platform for technical applications: Red Hat Linux
Platform for other applications: AIX and Windows.
Server clustering for high availability: Uses AIX clustering, Veritas clustering solution and Windows clustering.
Server virtualization: Only for development efforts.
Server management: IBM Tivoli.
Patch management: IBM Tivoli and HP OpenView.

Disaster recovery (DR) capabilities have been ensured with a server setup of 30 servers at 3i Infotech Ltd.'s hosted facility in Chennai. The DR facility is claimed to provide instantaneous availability without any data loss in case the primary site becomes unavailable.

Server and security management

NCDEX has automated infrastructure and patch management using a mix of IBM Tivoli and HP OpenView. Server management is undertaken using Tivoli, whereas a mix of OpenView and Tivoli is used for patch management. OpenView is used for patch management of NCDEX's large number of managed network devices.

On the security front, NCDEX has measures such as a perimeter firewall and an intrusion detection system in place. Log monitoring is performed by internal as well as third-party service providers.

The road ahead

According to NCDEX, its server setup helped the organization become the first commodity exchange to permit direct connections for brokers over the Internet. Its high-availability infrastructure has ensured smooth system changes and upgrades without any issues on the trading front.

NCDEX's IT team is now looking at standardizing all the nontrading applications on Unix and Linux. Since the VOS server has a capacity to scale up to 10 times, NCDEX plans to stay with the platform for its core commodities trading application.

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