The UK and European Union are deeply interconnected when it comes to capital markets, with 80% of EU capital markets activity managed and conducted out of the UK. With Brexit proceedings commencing at the end of March, financial firms in the UK are starting to prepare for the considerable impact on their operations, including market volatility, relocation of headquarters and staff, trade disruption, and changes to regulatory mandates.
Particularly with the issues of relocation and compliance, now is the time for European firms to re-evaluate their trading technology.
Headquarters and Staff Relocation
One of the primary risks of the Brexit is the loss of passporting rights, which allow institutions established and regulated in any country within the EU to do business in another member country without having to secure authorization. The UK is the most active country currently using these rights, with UK-based firms accounting for over 75% of all passporting activity in the EU. UK firms would need to maintain a local presence in the EU to continue enjoying passporting rights.
The loss of passporting rights as well as the loss of the ability to clear the Euro in London has many financial firms evaluating if they want to retain their European headquarters in the UK. While many predict a small movement at first, a chain reaction will likely occur as banks follow their clients, and vice versa. In addition, many UK-based firms will likely face regulatory pressure to develop a more significant presence in continental Europe to effectively conduct business. For now, a UK firm may only need 5 people staffed in the EU, but in a few years, that number may increase to 50 or 100 employees.
In addition to disrupting business operations and the lives of employees, the cost of a move for a financial firm is substantial. Rerouting trader voice communication lines alone can cost firms tens of thousands and can take weeks to properly implement.
For firms considering a move, this period of transition provides best time to re-evaluate current technology for solutions that will cut costs and reduce the disruption caused by relocation.
The UK’s transition away from the EU will take at least two years, with some experts projecting it could last up to a decade, and will involve negotiating everything from customs to energy policy. During this time, the UK will be an acting member of the EU, meaning that all current legislation will be implemented in full – including the upcoming MiFID II regulations, set to take effect in January 2018.
While it is likely that the UK will need to maintain equivalency with EU regulations in order to continue doing business, the UK will have to establish their own set of regulatory mandates for financial industry. With frequently changing sets of regulations in their future, financial firms have the burden of keeping their systems and technology updated, often a costly task.
Now is the time for firms to make the necessary equipment upgrades and replacements for systems that are more adaptable to changing compliance regulations.
Moving your trading floor? Cloud9 can help. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a demo.
Set the stage for smart growth by reducing manual processes and championing automation on your DevOps team
As your business grows, it’s increasingly important to understand how to scale engineering processes and methodologies. The amount of time spent on setup, deployment and manually testing code is often ignored by technology teams and managers. Manual server configuration and code quality tests are not only error prone, but they ultimately result wasted time and money.
3 steps to automate software development
Introducing automation into your Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) and infrastructure scaling projects is the most effective way to improve code quality and deployment velocity. These three steps will help you do that:
Implement a continuous integration strategy
Continuous integration (CI) is a development practice where code is checked into a code repository, tested and verified in an automated process. By regularly integrating changes into a centralized repository that is automatically tested for code quality, syntax errors and unit/integration test issues, errors can be detected and located more easily.
There are various continuous integration tools available—the most popular being Jenkins, Travis and TeamCity—and each offers benefits for different organizational use cases.
At Cloud9, we’ve adopted Jenkins as our continuous integration (CI) platform. All changes to shared code repositories are automatically picked up by Jenkins, which we’ve configured to run quality, syntax and unit tests on any new code that is committed. Builds that fail these tests will automatically notify the person who was responsible for the failed build and include the reason why it failed. This automated testing and deployment structure helps developers and engineers focus on creating exceptional code and sets the stage for smart technological growth.
Make code testing a shared responsibility
Developers and quality assurance (QA) share the same goal in the SDLC: delivering a quality product on time and on/under budget. To ensure cooperation and alignment towards this goal, developers should share the responsibility of quality testing.
Following the agile methodology, all members of my team (including development and QA) are responsible for testing code. Before a build even reaches the QA department for black-box testing, it has already been thoroughly tested, including unit and integration testing via a CI process. Load tests are performed to ensure race conditions are caught and mitigated, and smoke testing is performed automatically before the QA department is even involved.
From the moment a sprint is started to the time QA receives a qualified build, a constant stream of communication has already been established, ensuring QA knows exactly what to test, how to test it and what can go wrong.
Adopting a mentality of shared responsibility for testing reduces the number of obvious functional bugs that make it to QA, and it decreases the time to market for builds.
Implement the concept of infrastructure as code
Infrastructure as code (IAC) means writing code using a high-level language to manage the configuration and provisioning of infrastructure. This allows for quick and repeatable deployments of new application or web servers in your environment.
The concept of scripting infrastructure is not new, but IAC goes beyond basic scripting. By using a configuration management tool such as Puppet, Chef, Saltstack, or Ansible, changes in infrastructure can be written in a language that is consistent with the SDLC process at your company.
These tools enable teams to provision a server and spin up a new environment in minutes and also foster an environment of cooperation and innovation. Rather than leaving the process of server provisioning and configuration management to system administrators, any engineer can easily write infrastructure code and engage in the activities of the DevOps team
Implementing an IAC strategy eliminates infrastructure and configuration sprawl, decreases chances of outage-causing production changes, and ultimately saves your company time and money.
Going through these steps should make your company a lean, mean, rapidly scaling machine. But remember DevOps automation isn’t a one-shot effort—the whole process requires continuous monitoring and improvement. By continuously reevaluating your processes, you’ll be able to introduce additional automation over time.
See the original article on Network World.
Success of a company is often a double-edged sword for technology teams. Enthusiastic customers, positive sales numbers and increased opportunity generally mean only one thing for a CTO—the need to scale.
For start-ups, determining how and when to scale can be a challenge. Just when you hire your first set of developers and build the product, you’re faced with the need to grow your team and ensure that technology can accommodate an expanding number of users.
Resource management is also key—and technology and process, in addition to people, can help you to scale wisely without having to rebuild your product. After managing the challenge of scaling at a number of companies, I’ve narrowed it down to three elements of scaling to keep in mind when it comes to people.
Flat structures vs. well-defined units
As you grow, your goal as a leader should be to create just enough process and structure that enables people to complete projects independently—but not so much that you lose oversight. Here at Cloud9, we’ve gone from a flat structure on the development team to small stable teams, each with a defined leader.
As the team grew, we realized a flat structure became challenging to manage. It was similar to going to a networking event and trying to talk with everyone in the room at the same time—it became too overwhelming to focus on the tasks at hand. Smaller teams helped me manage better and helped everyone focus and communicate better.
When your start-up enters a growth stage, team alignment is also important. Everyone needs to be on the same page about the mission, even if they don’t all agree on how to get there. Getting others to buy into your mindset is so important. I encourage engineers to make suggestions for changes that they could brag about to their friends and family.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of encouraging innovation from within. It empowers teams by reinforcing the belief that everyone should be moving fast and making an impact. That impact is what takes a team from zero to 60 when it comes to growth.
Part of scaling is also finding out what behaviors can be defined as valuable to the organization and encouraging those behaviors to spread throughout. The best way to do this is to make people feel accountable for the success of your start-up’s growth. When teams have structure and a mission, and individuals are properly recognized for accomplishments, you can create a sense of ownership that reinforces itself and can spread across employees.
Adam Pisoni, founder of Yammer, exemplified a lot of these concepts when it came to preparing his organization and employees for scaling. While growing his company, one of his engineers brought up the idea of Conway’s Law, which says: Companies create products and services that are a reflection of themselves—the way they’re organized, communicate and work. Establishing roles, defining a clear mission and creating accountability can help your team be productive while maintaining ownership and focus on building great products.
Putting the pieces together—poised for growth
With the right amount of structure, alignment and accountability, your organization will have the right foundation to not only scale, but to go faster and maintain agility as your company grows. Even if you’re not sure where to start, there are a lot of great takeaways that you can learn from companies that have scaled successfully, such as Google and Facebook, and you can incorporate them into your own team.
Original Article in Network World.
See article in No Jitter.
As users of WebRTC, we’re in great company, with tech-giants such as Facebook, Slack, Snapchat, and WhatsApp utilizing it in their services. In fact, Blacc Spot Media recently reported that over $2.7 Billion in funding went to WebRTC companies in 2016.
Use of WebRTC, a versatile technology, is growing rapidly. WebRTC is being applied in many different ways, for many different audiences. As technologists, we always want more, so recently I sat down with my chief architect, Andy Pappas, and we came up with our WebRTC wish lists for the holidays.
An Enterprise-Grade Managed STUN/TURN Server
With traditional SIP, there are Session Border Controllers (SBC’s) that exert control over signaling. However, in the WebRTC world, since we don’t have standard signaling, we need to get as close as we can to establishing an SBC. The solution would be an enterprise STUN/TURN server. STUN, formally Session Traversal Utilities for NAT (network address translation), basically echoes a public IP address back to the endpoint. TURN, Traversal Using Relays around NAT, acts like a lightweight media relay when a peer-to-peer connection cannot be established.
Some solutions have a STUN/TURN server for the enterprise but come with too many built-in features and require you to lock onto specific app’s servers. A simple STUN/TURN server with the management features needed by enterprises doesn’t exist today.
Support For RETURN
Since enterprises will continue to use symmetric firewalls, a STUN/TURN server will still be needed in the cloud. For the above process to work, the WebRTC stack must support RETURN to help avoid call failure. Recursively Encapsulated TURN or RETURN allows the browser to encapsulate two TURN servers in one.
More Efficient Peer Connection
In peer to peer networking, it would be great to have a more efficient Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE) when multiple STUN/TURN servers are available. In this scenario, WebRTC can take a relatively long time and consume high CPU and memory when a user needs to connect to many peers in a mesh configuration.
A more efficient solution would be to cache or test a connection to a TURN server or list of TURN servers, have the call connect to those, and then later switch to a STUN server or continue with TURN. Right now we’ve customized how we connect to alleviate this delay and load, but there is a lot of room for improvement in this area.
Microphone and Audio Level Alerts and Limits
The detection of and alerts letting users know that they are too close to or have applied too much gain to their microphones would be helpful. If speech/noise statistics were collected over time, this could translate to an API that would signal users if they are operating the microphone incorrectly or were in an environment requiring a different gain level or microphone. Being able to add configurable microphone loss and boost within audio processing would be nice, as well.
An auto level or hard limit on incoming speech at the channel level would also help cases where multiple users are speaking at the same time, which is frequent in the financial services industry.
Reverberation is a very common problem for a typical home or office user and can be a huge degradation to speech intelligibility on a communication platform. This is solvable with selection of appropriate microphone hardware, however a better, or complimentary, solution is to add a de-reverberation algorithm on the microphone. It might even be possible to characterize the environment by using the speaker-to-microphone acoustic path or model from the acoustic echo canceler.
What’s on your WebRTC wish list this holiday season?
For more insight on the future of WebRTC, we highly recommend these blogs:
BlogGeek.Me, run by Tsahi Levent-Levi: https://bloggeek.me/
Chris Kranky, run by Chris Koehncke: https://www.chriskranky.com/
Blacc Spot Media: https://www.blaccspot.com/blog/
Click here to learn more about how Cloud9 uses WebRTC to transform communications in the financial industry.
Cloud9 recently hosted a webinar with executives from Point 72 Asset Management and Amazon Web Services titled “The Cloud Catalyst: Driving Competitive Edge in the Financial Markets.”
- Seetharam Gorre: CIO of Point 72 Asset Management
- Nitin Gupta: Global Head of Financial Services Partners for Amazon Web Services
- Greg Kenepp: President of Cloud9 Technologies
Watch the Recorded Webinar Here.
The panelists contributed to an engaging conversation that touched on how the cloud creates competitive advantage for financial institutions. The also discussed where and how firms can integrate cloud into their environments, and touched on key industry concerns related to security and compliance when migrating to the cloud.
The audience, which consisted of brokers, traders, and IT managers from a number of top-tier financial institutions, also shared their views on how they currently use cloud solutions as well as how the cloud is viewed at their firms.
During the call, three key insights emerged:
- Firms are most likely to implement cloud for data processing and voice services.
- Security and performance are top concerns among firms in the capital markets when migrating services to the cloud.
- Key drivers in terms of cloud adoption include driving shareholder value.
Voice is Second Behind Data in Terms of Cloud Implementation
Out of the audience surveyed, 52% said that they were most likely to implement cloud for data processing, with 33% saying they would consider the cloud for for communications services.
As Nitin Gupta commented, many firms are turning to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to manage analytics dashboards and databases as well as large business intelligence processes. For firms in the financial markets, the ability to process this data using cloud technology revolutionizes their workflows.
In addition, firms are already shifting to cloud-based platforms as modern, reliable, cost-effective voice communications become necessary in today’s enterprise environment.
To make the full shift to the cloud in the financial markets, fintech firms often have to compete against established mindsets, a challenge that Gupta spoke about during the webinar.
“When we talk about transformation, it is less about technology, and more about change in philosophy and change in culture in an organization,” said Gupta. “I would even say it’s 20% about technology and 80% about how to drive agility and automation, how to change the governance structure, how to get in a devops mindset, and even how to change the revenue model.”
Seetharam Gorre emphasized the overall digital transformation in both the enterprise and consumer space as a motivator for financial services firms to transition to the cloud: “So much transformation has happened in the last 5-10 years in the cloud and the open source community. That is driving culture and that what is driving digital.”
Security and Performance Were Key Concerns
40% of attendees considered Security as the biggest concern when moving key processes to the cloud, followed by Performance, at 24%.
It’s no surprise that security is top of mind for financial services firms, but reliable cloud providers like Amazon Web Services mitigate the risk through advanced security practices as well as the benefit of a robust community. With over 2 million customers in a wide variety of industries, AWS customers receive the same degree of security as any other user on the platform.
As Gupta explained, “When a customer moves to AWS they inherit all the best practices of AWS policies, architecture, and operational processes built to satisfy the requirements of our most security-sensitive customers, whether it is FINRA, NASDAQ, Capitol One, the CIA, or the SEC – all of these customers are on AWS.”
Another security benefit of AWS is the shared responsibility model, in which AWS is responsible for the security of the cloud – including infrastructure and storage – and the customer is responsible for security in the cloud – including customer data, access management, and network configuration. This model enables fintech firms as well as financial firms using cloud solutions to focus on building better products.
This is something that the Cloud9 team has certainly benefited from in getting our products to market. As Greg Kenepp commented, “When you think about it [in terms of shared responsibility] I think the sky’s the limit on what you’re able to achieve and the type of service that you can deliver to your customer base.”
The Main Advantage of Cloud Lies in Expanding Shareholder Value
85% of attendees responded that cloud was essential to maintaining competitive edge. As the panelists explored throughout the webinar, key to this competitive edge is creating value for shareholders.
Cloud enables firms to build solutions quickly, get to market faster, and at a low cost. By lowering the barriers to innovation, firms that use the cloud are able to deliver a better customer experience, a better product, and deliver more value for their shareholders.
“If you have a new strategy and it’s going to take 6 weeks to procure hardware and test, total time to market is going to be two months,” said Gorre. “With the cloud it should only be a few weeks. At that rate we can test new strategies, deploy it sooner, and generate more money for the firm.”
By reducing the time it takes to get to market, as well as the time it takes to deploy, financial services firms are able to reap the rewards from cloud services much faster and without significant business interruption.
Kenepp commented on this experience from the perspective of Cloud9 customers: “When you think about traditional deployment cycles for communications equipment [in financial services], it could take up to a year from the time you decide to move to a new floor to installment. We can do that in a matter of hours now, which has been a remarkable change for our business and a real eye-opening change for our customers.”
Watch the full recording of the webinar to learn more.
There are many ways for for modern CTOs to ensure they’re forging the right path for their team and company. Start by asking the right questions.
Original Article in Network World.
I’ve built my career in a field where trader voice technology has only improved incrementally over the past 40 years. After decades of building legacy technology, my co-founders and I set out to disrupt the industry we had helped build.
Despite years of leading technology teams and large-scale product launches, I was presented with a unique opportunity to start from the ground up. I had to start from scratch with a new set of technology, build a team, create architecture that was future-proof, scalable, secure and compliant, and take on the task of educating our customers and my team about why WebRTC and the Amazon Cloud was the right technology for our stack. It was daunting task, but also a common set of circumstances for a modern startup CTO.
The Building Blocks
In the early days of Cloud9 Technologies, we knew what we wanted to build: a communication technology that eliminated the complexity and hassle of dealing with legacy systems. Our team drew its inspiration from modern communications solutions, that were hosted in the cloud, mobile-first and easy to use—such as WhatsApp.
The challenge was layering in capabilities that could support the deployment of solutions on trading floors and creating technology that could handle the communication complexities of that environment. In addition, the financial services industry is highly regulated, with unique security requirements, strict compliance mandates, and no room for error when it comes to communication. We had to ask ourselves three important questions:
1. What cloud provider do we choose? Will it evolve with us and allow us to scale efficiently?
2. Should we work with a technology stack we are familiar with or attempt something new?
3. How much of the technology will we have to build up versus leveraging an open source technology that we can build on top of?
The CTO as Evangelist
If you’re embarking on a journey to displace incumbent technology, you’ll quickly find yourself in the role of both CTO and evangelist. It is important in terms of driving new technology that both your customers and your developer team view you as a resource and a thought leader.
I’ve spent a lot of time listening and engaging with customers via support calls in the early days, as well as interacting through social media, speaking engagements and sales calls. Developing a sense of trust and understanding between you and your customer helps open them to the possibility of adopting your solution. Also, once you begin to see your product from the perspective of your customers, you’ll be better able to address their needs and bring value.
It’s also important to show off the accomplishments of your team and share how you’re adapting certain technologies to build your product. Early on, we participated in a thought leadership forum with Amazon, discussing why the cloud was ready to handle critical operations such as communication. We chose the technology we’re using for a reason, so it’s important to stand next to other thought leaders and validate your technology story.
We also empower our employees to do the same. It’s important to encourage them to complete new certifications, attend conferences and participate in local meetups. It serves as a great reminder that what they’re doing has impact and meaning on the world outside of the company.
The role of the modern CTO comes with more hats and responsibilities than ever before. But by asking the right questions and setting up the right building blocks for your company, you’ll provide a solid foundation on which to build a successful and scalable product. Use that foundation to empower and promote the accomplishments of your team. By establishing your team as a thought leader, you attract the trust of current and future customers who will support and advocate for your company.
Follow Leo’s Column on Network World.