Reuters technical development chronology 1995-1998
Wednesday 26 April 2017
- The year starts on a positive note with double digit revenue growth reported for transactions, information and media products. Cost growth is still an issue. However it is clear that unless the laws of physics can be altered in some way IDN capacity will once again figure high in the technical problems to be addressed. An IDN renewal programme is proposed which as a minimum will upgrade older VAX-based components to the latest DEC Alpha generation and increase the speed of client site connections and use IP protocols instead of HDLC. Numbers contemplated include a global throughput of 6,000 updates per second and storage of 10 million items at the average data centre. The idea also surfaces at this point to split IDN into two separate networks. The first is a core network carrying every update for top tier clients and for those systems requiring every tick, e.g. time & sales. The second category comprises distribution sub-networks which deal with a subset of the data and use techniques such as conflation of ticks at peak times to reduce the traffic loads. Unfortunately the company has been brought up on a diet of all traffic everywhere and it will take another five years before the ideas are implemented in any form at all. Geographies are the main stumbling block and valuable time is lost in bringing costs under control.
- Reuters provides 24-hour international news coverage to Sky News and Fox-affiliated stations.
- The corporate actions database (e.g. dividends, stock splits, mergers and acquisitions) is now sourced by Reuters data analysts rather than by Extel Financial.
- Six strategic company programmes are set up to provide a focus for the delivery of key projects. This follows the perceived success of the Armstrong model. They are defined with precise statements of purpose as well as measurable targets. Each programme has a leader, a business sponsor and an FLBU team of managers. They are: Information infrastructure renewal (Apollo) which is just a restatement of IDN Renewal; Armstrong, which already exists; Transactions; Financial Television; Operational Efficiency and News/Media. It is a way of controlling the validity of the myriad of projects which are appearing.
- The company’s global electronic internal information base, VTX, celebrates its third birthday and now shows the Daily Briefing, Job Vacancies as well as basic reference material such as the Project directory, and all in glorious colour for those with the capability to see it. A lot of the company still has to view it in basic paginated text form.
- A new version of the RT, RT3, is released. It is the first release to benefit from the efforts of the usability lab which involved clients directly in the design of the user interface. The RT3 introduces cut and paste to define customisable displays as well as the ability to move between functions for the same instrument, e.g. display to a graphic. Right-clicking on a RIC opens up a pop-up menu containing relevant functions such as news headlines, quotes, charts, graphs, etc. Multi-language support is also offered. A subtle enhancement is that the RT moves from being applications centred to being data centred. Thus the RT assists in offering the most appropriate applications to handle a data item. This all comes about thanks to a new internal facility known as the Reuters Application Environment (RACE) which permits fast and efficient message passing between different applications. Finally, RT3 offers access to 380 days of searchable stories and headlines. All looks very good for the RT though the comic strip internal user guide raises some hackles. In a coincidental marking of the occasion, a member of the RT team is recognised by Microsoft as one of seven global Windows pioneers.
PHOTO: Reuter Terminal comic strip internal user guide
- Technical HQ in Asia moves from Tokyo to Singapore. Tokyo was originally chosen because of its superior communication infrastructure. However, Singapore has made much progress in this area and at a lower cost. Given the lack of an earthquake threat in Singapore, the cost argument means a transfer is inevitable.
- Singapore technical staff attain ISO9002 certification - the first in the region.
- A proposal is issued to likely vendors for a next generation very high speed network to complement HPSN which is already showing its age.
- West Coast technology is courted, an example being the partnership with Netscape. Development groups with successful products in the field start to be pushed from the limelight in favour of initiatives such as REDUX.
- Reuters’ agreement with AAP comes to an end after 30 years. Reuters is now free to distribute information and news independently in Australia and AAP no longer has automatic rights to Reuters technology.
- The Armstrong database, RDB, continues to make progress with the Master Reference Database being one of the first to be transferred. Initially RDB is built in "cache" mode. In other words, the home of the data remains where it currently resides, e.g. Toronto. This neatly avoids a huge migration issue and the cost of providing the database maintenance tools on RDB itself. It doesn’t yet attack the cost of maintaining such locations as Toronto. It will be an awfully long time before those costs are attacked, in fact.
- Dealing reaches Iceland but behind the scenes the PDP-8 swap programme reaches Cuba. All a bit tricky as Intel kit could not be exported there. Non-standard, non-US manufactured kit is eventually sourced and used.
- Risk management enters the lexicon. The collapse of Barings focuses the mind. There is a client demand for more sophisticated analytic tools to understand financial positions and manage the associated risks. Regulatory changes are also in the air. Two existing Reuter products are in the mix: Deal Manager and Kondor+ and a new acquisition, Sailfish systems. Kondor+ is on the advanced Trader workstation and Deal Manager runs on the RT environment. Both are designed to manage credit and market risk and are fully integrated with Reuters products such as Transactions. Features include the monitoring of the client portfolio and watching for any unexpected change in returns. Also establishing the value of the portfolio, looking at the effect of change in a range of different ways, especially factors such as interest rates and any breakdown in stable relationships between instruments. It is seen as a good opportunity with the popularity of derivative instruments which are much more complex and risks harder to recognise. All are well received but they are a complicated sell and support proposition.
- Reuters Business Alert demonstrates the perils of selling products into a huge range of client site configurations. Greater than expected data downloads and unexpected client site software environments are amongst the problems encountered. Additionally the central systems behind the RBB products are in a sorry state and are still using the highly parallel processor from Cambridge Technology for searches. Plans are put in place for a massive upgrade of the central systems and conversion to DEC’s Alta Vista search engine. Further, the client site end is proving unreliable. One curious question is that, in spite of the large user base why no-one seems to use the service much?
- Bahrain swaps out the last of its Monitor sites and removes the last of its Monitor concentrators.
- The biggest Triarch installation so far, at 650 workstations, is sold to Prudential.
- The Internet browsers of the day are Mosaic and Netscape with SUN promising Java as the silver bullet for developing in Internet time. It allows applications to be downloaded and run locally and within the PC itself is a complete development environment. However, trying to view data on the Internet from a home PC is at best extremely tedious and often impossible.
- Development acquire a rather expensive environment for the testing and development of the RDB database.
- A new title of Development Fellow is created to recognise those who have made an outstanding contribution to matters technical in the company. At the same time the huge diversity of development activities in the company is recognised as an issue and the concept of the Development Federation is created. The idea is to promote the cause of architecture, software process improvement, staff development, usability, operability and re-use, and any other abilities you can think of across all the development entities in the company. The newly created Development Federation members retreat to Palm Springs, California to discuss all this and the technological future of Reuters. Quite a logistical feat to bring such a diverse group together in that location. (Pause for a thought for the many talented secretaries of the day who dealt with this kind of stuff effortlessly). The conference included presentations from senior developers from Intel, Microsoft, IBM, HP, SUN and MIT discussing emerging hardware and software threats, trends and opportunities. Reuters persons responded with presentations on the obstacles or challenges awaiting the main product networks, new initiatives such as REDUX or the wonderful things being done in subsidiaries. In a way it is a celebration of the technical achievements that brought the company to where it is in the mid-1990s. With hindsight it is the first strong evidence of external developments, particularly in browser technology, that will soon disrupt some of the technical assumptions that Reuters’ competitive advantages relies on. Priorities are still fairly modest in the context of the turbulent world outside, and are: upgrading IDN in terms of capacity and performance; delivering Project Armstrong; ensuring a total open architecture at the client site; and bringing a transactions dimension to as many Reuters products as possible. Finally, customer-centric design of products via the newly created usability labs. A reminder also that decentralisation can mean multiple systems doing the same thing which in turn can paralyse upgrades and enhancements. A global architecture committee will help apparently. One far-sighted idea is for Reuters to create a “financial Internet" with the advantages of the Internet without the inherent security risks and response time problems”. Underlying all this is the need to increase software productivity by orders of magnitude. No-one knows how though.
- Dealing 2000-2 reaches 20,000 daily matches, from 1,000 in 1992 and 5,000 in 1993. A new target is set at 40,000. It leads EBS and Minex but has not dealt the knockout blow hoped for.
- IDN access for the D2000 range of terminals is still being put off. Deadlines for close down of Monitor and News Retrieval do eventually catch the attention of D2000 persons and developments are authorised five years after they should have been.
- The whole area of contributions is still caught between the old world of pages and the new logical world. Many contributors still contribute to Monitor pages. This data is then logicised and distributed in that form. This is a clear doubling of update load as well as an antique user interface. Bond contributions is a good example where market share is steadily being eroded by substandard data capture and presentation.
- New corporate objectives are announced which are all worthy re-statements but a surprise to many is “the building of a third global business supplying information and related technology to managers and to professionals outside finance and the media”. Efforts in the health sector will prove this to be a difficult path.
- FX Option is launched and introduces butterflies, straddles and strangles as well as plain vanilla - all dialects of derivative contracts.
- The usability group announces a new initiative in the deployment of virtual teams. The idea is to form and dissolve teams comprised of experts, mostly external, to attack problems. Straight from a management textbook of the day but, guess what: it was all too expensive as consultants racked up the hours.
- Richards Computer Products, consultants to Dealing, are national programming champions for the third time in five years.
- Internal communications continue to make progress with the development of VTX for Windows, the company-wide information system which includes delivery of the Daily Briefing to all staff. This is made available to most staff, alongside the Teamlinks e-mail system. The content is maintained by a team of “homeworkers”. RAM still uses Lotus Notes as their document management system. The systems are interconnected with a gateway. Internet connectivity for all is seen as a step too far. Editorial are mysteriously left out of this revolution and have to await the delivery of a new system known as FLEET.
- Armstrong breaks cover and is formally announced as a project to increase revenue and market share in both the buy and sell sides of the capital market, i.e. equity and fixed income markets. It signals the first time that Reuters has had to face being a serious data company with all the understanding, organisation, collecting, correcting and polishing that it entails. (With Monitor, IDN and Transactions Reuters did not need to get involved too much with the detail of the content.). Data promised includes complete price and yield histories for all instruments, company fundamental data such as profit and loss accounts, earnings forecasts, economic data and time series and terms and conditions for fixed income instruments. However, coming late to the fixed income party is going to be an uphill battle no matter how good Armstrong turns out to be.
- A real demonstration of progress on the Armstrong product so far is given to senior management in May with a subset of the database and the Equation product-based terminal access. However behind the scenes the reality is that the interface between the client applications and the RDB is very slow. One of the problems is that the design of the relational database using the Teradata infrastructure is not optimal for certain queries on certain data types (but contrary to the opinion of some authors, it could do SQL joins!). There is the further difficulty of integrating three applications at the client site (RT, Equation and ESL) into a coherent customer experience. A SWAT team is pulled together to identify improvements to such issues as inefficient SQL requests and manages to achieve much more acceptable performance for the moment. Other recommendations are about to be scheduled (postponed) into Phase 2 when some bright spark remembers what generally happens to Phase 2 developments (they never happen) and develops the concept of Waves, i.e. a series of incremental improvements.
- Global alpha testing of Securities 3000 is announced for Q1 1996. This product combines IDN-delivered data, historical and reference data from Armstrong, and also offers the new Reutermail. Plans are also announced to provide an Open Access Interface enabling clients to access data to run their own applications. However this is implemented with subset SQL access to RDB from client spreadsheets and the classic error is committed of embedding the database design in the spreadsheets. This is fine until RDB is phased out.
- For many clients contributing data to Monitor has remained more or less unchanged for 15 years. Monitor data is entered on a command line at the bottom of the screen with the page name, row and column offsets and the data. This continued with the RT platform although a revised interface enabled data to be entered directly onto the page rather than via the command line. A better application, Insertlink, now takes this a stage further and allows inserts to be transmitted via the IDN line to the MCD on 80x25 pages. Inserts can also be delivered directly from Excel. As the value of an Excel cell changes, the change is delivered to IDN automatically. Multi-language support is also provided permitting Chinese and Japanese updating.
- The IDN value added systems now comprise three systems:
- The Logiciser, which creates logical data items from text based data
- The Value Added System, which creates new records according to pre-determined rules such as latest quote from a contributor
- The Intra Day Processor, which samples IDN-sourced updates to provide history for selected instruments.
- Teknekron announce in their in-house magazine that their TIB technology is to be used in Reuters core systems, distributing information and transactions services. This is all news to Reuters. Clearly some overselling of the experimental REDUX project within their organisation. TIB continues to compete with Triarch in the trading room.
- A new project is set up to bridge the worlds of information (IDN) and client site systems (IMS). It provides a platform for a new generation of client site products using the latest Microsoft technology. Known as Eagle (catch all the moon-landing references), it will form the basis of the REDUX client interface and enable fast introduction of new desktop projects. The essential idea is to ensure that the best graphics, display, analytics, etc applications are built once and once only for integration into a consistent desktop environment. The Eagle store becomes a repository for reusable components for all the Microsoft-based desktops. The challenge is to get the development groups from around the world; Sydney to Colchester, Paris to Hauppauge and London to Chicago to cooperate and work together. The prize is the embedding of Reuters applications in the majority of front office desktops. Of course this is attempted against a changing technology landscape and evolving client needs. It proves to be extremely challenging and demonstrates how the acceptance of open systems and the competition between development groups (my app is better than yours) are not easily overcome.
- REDUX is still to find a business sponsor although one idea is a generic trading application.
- By this time it proposes maximum use of web standards with Reuters value-adding components employing JAVA technology. A similar idea surfaces five years later with the Gazelle initiative. The proposition is to be able to distribute/publish continuously updating contributions of complex datatypes efficiently to clients connected through HPSN, the global IP network. So not just numbers and text but also graphics, spreadsheets, audio video, etc. A small blemish is that the way that session services over HPSN works will restrict full REDUX capability. Anyway, Beta testing is mooted for mid-1996. Unsurprisingly the name REDUX is seen as unglamorous for a new product family. It is after all just a project name reflecting its origins as an IDN renewal project.
- Reuter Bond Mail proposes use of a message-based trading facility which is added to the list of Reuter Mail enhancements. Once again, too late to the party.
- Moneyview delivers corporate treasury product to small corporates via satellite.
- The debate about the Internet gets into full swing. Is it a fad with its hype and stratospheric stock valuations and general scramble to get into the game or is there more to it? Anyway, by the end of the year many FLBUs are offering modest web-based domestic products over the Internet and REDUX promises a mainstream web-based transactions product. As an example of what is possible, Transactions demonstrate a browser-based world map showing in near real time the D2000-1 conversations taking place across the world. It remains in the closet with other undisclosed assets.
- Whilst there is understandable focus on the world of PC Windows, there is continuing evidence that the Unix-based workstations from Reuters and Effix offer a much better base for the resource-hungry analytics which are increasingly the norm.
- The 3000 product range is unveiled at Infoworld. Announced as Reuters’ biggest ever development programme and enabled with prolific use of Internet technologies to combine real time data and news with databases of historical information and analytics. Peter Job is quoted as saying “No competitor now has the breadth that we do. We do not believe that there is anything they have that we don’t”.
- The REDUX project, which is now firmly focussed on a bond trading application for a specific client, is faltering. The development spend by Reuters has more than doubled but with not a great deal to show for the 18 months of work. It is now very apparent that the standard Teknekron infrastructure used in the project would have to be modified considerably, and this would compete with the “business as usual” activities in the rest of that company. The project is also caught between the attraction of delivering a very short term glossy application and the longer term needs of a difficult customer (Reuters) who requires sophisticated operability and reliability criteria over a global client base and all that 24/7. There is a general feeling of extreme dissatisfaction and frustration that the project could not be made to work in any reasonable timeframe but both sides learn a great deal from the experience.
- The term Reutersweb is coined to describe the use of web technology over HPSN to provide new products and services. Sources of information, typically with multi-media content, are provided to client browsers on a retrieve basis. Early demonstrations show a company annual report database and multimedia news services. Netscape’s Navigator browser is bundled with Securities 3000 to facilitate the roll out. At the same time Triarch development produce a web toolkit so that data sourced through Triarch can be redistributed over a customer’s own internal network or used by FLBUs for local products. Finally, internal communications get in on the act and organise the internal web to which VTX information will be transferred over time. Web sites include individual groups like usability and a development sub-network known as I-Web. The internal web is not yet accessible to all and so the old and new run in parallel for the moment.
- Treasury 3000 is announced comprising Treasury 2000 features, graphics package, ReuterMail and access to relevant parts of the new Armstrong (3000) database.
- Reuters sponsors a Unicode conference. It emphasises the need to make the emerging world wide web support multiple languages and offers expertise on relaying Unicode text efficiently. Unicode was first used by Reuters in 1993 to deliver local services in Japanese, Chinese and Russian.
- London developers sign up for the BCS model for professional development.
- Reuters is now responsible for the independent marketing of real time and transactional products in Australia and the Pacific Islands. AAP had previously marketed them alongside its own domestic products with Reuters limited to editorial, information management systems and business information products. The partnership is dissolved at the end of 1995 and an infrastructure is built by Reuters to deliver and support its own products. Issues that were negotiated and resolved in record time include transfer of staff, sharing of contributed data, transfer of assets and customer files and records.
- Monitor News Retrieval close down is announced as end 1996. The era of news alert page AAMM, etc comes to a close. Only Dealing subscribers will continue to be able to access news in this form. Others will have to wrestle with the wonders of News2000.
- The Millennium Compliance Programme is announced. A familiar area for panic at the time was the likelihood that many computer applications only process the last two digits of the year. The year 1999 might be incremented to 1900 rather than 2000. Similarly there are worries that the year 2000 may not be handled correctly as a leap year. Satellite-based global positioning systems are cited as a potential disaster area. Anyway planning begins for every system in Reuters to be checked and a compliance statement made to clients.
- Another large company restructure is announced. Development are largely unaffected apart from a slight change of staff on the bridge. It continues to separate transactions and information product development as well as editorial/news/media. Major decisions regarding these product areas continue to have to be taken where management ends - at executive committee level. Conway’s rule, that computer architecture mirrors organisational structure, is still relevant.
- Money3000 is launched integrating historical data with the real time price information from Money2000. Analytical functions are added together with better graphics.
PHOTO: Money3000 display
- Teknekron is renamed TIBCO Software and splits from Reuters in order to penetrate markets outside finance. Tibco finance continues under the Reuters umbrella.
- A major software improvement Initiative starts with the goal of introducing a culture of continuous improvement within every development organisation. It starts with assessments of individual development organisations and establishes baseline metrics against which improvements can be measured. The aspiration is better predictability of software delivery and shortening time scales by improving processes and re-use of software. It soon adopts the software Capability Maturity Model (CMM) from the Software Engineering Institute (SEI). This model proposes five steps in improving a development group’s processes. Initial (where you start, perhaps mildly chaotic); repeatable (capturing the processes used which can be repeated in a single programme of work); defined (an organisational standard exists for all projects backed up with a library of process assets); managed (you are aware of how good/bad you are through metrics captured in previous phases); and optimising (where metrics can actually identify improvements in the process itself).
- Session Services 2 is announced. All major new developments are by now Internet protocol based and key existing products such as IDN, D2/1 and D2/2 are migrating over time from the original Reuters custom protocols. Additionally the major objective of single line delivery to a client site is in hand to reduce to one the number of connections that Reuters has to maintain. Session Services 2 addresses the problem of guaranteeing a level of service to each product delivered down a single line. Conventionally constructed IP-based networks at this point are about connectivity and not quality of service. Another issue is scalability for the forthcoming multimedia world. Meanwhile the first generation Session Services is deployed to support Armstrong and messaging.
- A developers' conference held in Orlando, Florida features speakers from IBM (e-commerce), Sun (Internet maturity), Netscape (development tools), Oracle (network computers), Digital (Alta Vista search), NCR (data warehousing), NeXT (web objects) and HP (managing technical change). There is also a presentation from Reuters Newmedia on threats and opportunities from the Internet.
- Alongside the Eagle initiative for workstations, another large undertaking, Columbia, is under way in the development of a new generation of servers. It is a cooperative venture between the Hong Kong and Oakbrook development groups to leverage the expertise in those groups on server design and development and to test the feasibility of common global development. It certainly tests communication paths to breaking point as there are no overlapping core working hours. Early deliverables promised include a replacement Marketfeed 2000 datafeed which has soldiered on since the late 1980s squirting raw data at a handful of the largest clients. Further hopes are that it will provide a completely generic framework which can replace the myriad of systems developed over the last ten years for IDN.
- A specific target is the first generation of market data filtering or congestion control systems. It represents the first step in the process of subdividing the IDN network into a fast core network and a series of delivery sub networks that can be configured to make different cost/product quality trade-offs by filtering out certain classes of data.
- Hauppauge development expands again to include a new 100-person facility at 140 Adams Avenue.
- Business information now has a large range of client-facing products via software-only applications which deliver information directly to the client PC (typically news, pictures, financial information) and allow interactive searching. It is also possible to deliver information to corporate networks.
- Reuters Broker Research is announced and is yet another example of a continuing trend to look outside for new products.
- Another experiment is undertaken with BondMail where a slumbering inactive project is awoken and subjected to rapid development techniques of the day including rapid prototyping or iterative development using the latest software development approaches such as JAVA. Within three months a working product is delivered for bonds. Contributors input prices and a closed user group of clients can enter into a buy or sell transaction. In another thread a development is undertaken so that multimedia research reports can also be distributed through the network. It has all arisen from the ashes of REDUX which was intended for just this kind of product. The argument is still to be had as to whether this kind of activity produces genuinely reusable components. One useful output is a research publishing tool for marketing to clients but the Bondmail application is not marketed and the product goes back to sleep for a while.
- Finally confronting the design issue from 1991/92 that RDB was never designed for Armstrong, Oracle systems are deployed to front end the Teradata warehouse to improve the speed of routine fixed income retrievals. Known as Tardis (bigger than they look) they were cheaper than any Teradata solution and even replaced Teradata for fixed income retrievals.
- The NCR and Teradata systems continue to be upgraded to meet Armstrong growth. They are denominated RDBa through RDBe as the various upgrades are added from 1993 to 1996. RDBa, at a cost of £10 million, never actually goes live as it proves far too small for the projected workload. The architecture is flexible and allows data to be retrieved without the client device knowing exactly where it is located through the use of the NCR product TopEnd. TopEnd handles scaling issues and the mixing of build and retrieval work on the single database. A generic search engine developed by Reuters isolates the client systems from the complexities of the data sources by providing standard SQL like ways of accessing the data. It proves to be a secret sauce that masks many database complexities from the user.
- The battle of the UNIX workstations concludes with Effix selected as the preferred Unix workstation and the TIW phased out. Confusingly the Effix product Kobra is also expanded into the PC world and offers the same benefit as the Eagle project with the addition of an object oriented environment. Duplication and acquisitions.
- Intel ships its 250,000th PC to Reuters. The relationship reaches seven years and the current standard offering is the Pentium Pro.
PHOTO: David Ure (R) receives a plaque in recognition of the 250,000th PC shipped to Reuters by Intel
- 3000 series installations reach 14,700 with 85 per cent being upgrades. The objective of establishing a version with an open systems connection to the client is slowing progress on installations. Integration with the customer’s own dealing room technology is a significant factor. Gaps in product features are being addressed in the data and analytics areas for certain market segments. Another major activity is addressing poor performance. One initiative identified is the upgrade of applications to the Windows 32-bit standard. Other problems are of a deeper nature and involve how the various applications interact.
- GLOBEX is announced as unlikely to continue. Matif announces that it will replace GLOBEX with an alternative electronic trading system after the contract with the CME and Reuters runs out in April 1998. Peter Job refers to the system as obsolescent, a failure and a project which should never have been undertaken, all of which must have overjoyed the developers. However it was clear at the project inception that it would be very high risk indeed and lead Reuters into the unknown territory of being a systems and software services supplier. The CME and the New York Mercantile Exchange decide to adopt the NSC system developed by SBF-Paris Bourse and Matif.
- The internal web continues to evolve with Daily Briefing widely available. However the company continues to labour with two different e-mail systems; Lotus Notes in the US and Teamlinks elsewhere. Whilst they are interconnected it is an irritant for travellers between the US and the UK to have to log in to home base to retrieve e-mail.
- TIBCO markets its publish and subscribe technology as an Internet toolkit as well as a specialised technology for trading rooms. Rightly pointing out that the old model of constantly re-requesting information from the source as a means of keeping displays updated is causing internet highway congestion. Monitor implemented automatic updating of displays in 1973 so IP technology still has a way to go. TIBCO splits into two separate organisations with TIBCO Software and TIBCO Finance with TIBCO Software marketing the publish-subscribe middleware to markets outside the finance sector.
- Reuters Business Briefing (RBB) hosts are upgraded at last with the latest DEC Alpha cluster technology with a configuration said to be one of the biggest in Europe. It is coupled to a massively parallel search engine, soon to be converted to DEC Alta Vista. This all replaces the original Textline system which is honourably retired. The RBB database is backed up by a growing network of editorial and coding staff who add the necessary intelligence to the basic information. Company background information is added for 22,000 companies with five years profit and loss and balance sheet history.
- The off trading floor product line is launched. The servers provide news and market data for corporate intranets who only require such information on an hourly basis or similar.
- The Reuters Greenhouse initiative gets off the ground with minority investments in a range of start-ups including Yahoo! The major objective is to identify technologies that may prove useful to Reuters rather than seek speculative gain.
- Dealing 2000-2 is enhanced with the launch of a forwards dealing capability in the Deutschmark. EBS, the main competitor launched in 1994, still trades larger volumes than the Reuters product. A new feature, Deal Tracker, is added which allows traders to view and analyse Dealing 2000-1 conversations taking place on their trading floor and branches.
- Risk management now includes products from Effix Paris, Sailfish systems in New York and the Global Limit system from Chessington UK which is a further development of the position keeping system. Effix develops Kondor+, a front and middle office system providing deal capture, position keeping, portfolio evaluation and risk management across a range of financial instruments. Sailfish systems develops risk measurement methodologies. The Global Limits System provides real time risk management and control. Deal manager clients are slowly being migrated to Kondor+. Tailoring the products to the clients preferred way of implementation is a challenge.
- The last PDP-11 based Dealing 2000-1 concentrator is removed from the network and replaced with a VAX-based system. Dealing started with six concentrators in 1981, each an 11/34 with 124k memory, supporting a maximum of 48 subscribers. Although planned as a live/standby arrangement, early cost saving measures reduced this to a 3:1 arrangement which continued though the life of the systems. The cpu was upgraded over the years culminating in an 11/94. The replacement VAX project started in 1992 and completed in 1994 when the swap out commenced at which point the number of PDP-11 systems concentrators numbered over 100.
- The central technology group and the financial information product group are by now very distinct organisations and whilst technical and product architectures are to some extent separate problems the complete distinction is not a good thing at this point.
- The Equisoft financial analytics are ported to Windows 32-bit to speed up the more complex page displays. The design and writing of tablet pages is a very complex process involving taking an abstract requirement such as comparing the costs and sensitivities of a bond against others and developing or re-using scripts to achieve this and display the outcome.
- Effix release the latest version of their Kobra workstations with an impressive range of applications and technology. It is to be available on Windows NT as well as UNIX so there is clear duplication with other Windows development activities. It will evolve into the 3000 workstation of choice.
PHOTO: Kobra display
- London editorial progressively move away from System 55 to a VAX-based alternative developed in Europe known as FLEET. It is based on a VAX/VMS platform and developed by a company called Typlan. The system is popular but difficulties are experienced with the supplier who can give six months notice of intention to terminate the contract. As the system is live in London, Dublin, Paris and Singapore this could be tricky.
- Development groups are now relying predominantly on supplier partnerships as a source of innovation and leading edge expertise. Microsoft is a good example. Similarly Teradata/NCR, Intel and Digital. Clearly using standards reduces costs but an over-eager embrace only places Reuters on the same technical footing as others and reduces the technical barriers to entry, leaving only the commercial ones. Internal research efforts continue on connectivity and interworking with efforts on Unicode, XML, Metadata and Digital rights (how news might be protected in an open world).
- Reuters Plus launches in the US to increase market share among institutional investors. Based on Securities 3000 with a raft of additional features and data for the US market.
- 3000 Xtra is demonstrated at Infoworld. It is based on the Kobra platform and is an improvement for the user in comparison with the RT, Equation, ESL combination. It presents data and functionality in a coherent manner without any obvious switching between applications. It also contains Euro specific displays.
- The Euro programme gets under way in time for the scheduled launch of the Euro on 1 January 1999.
- Another attempt is made to launch a bond trading service. First mooted earlier in the decade as part of the REDUX initiative, it now returns as a Reuter web-based development and does indeed incorporate many of the ideas and concepts developed by the REDUX project.
- Dealweb is announced to automate the dealing process between banks and their customers.
- A large reorganisation is announced which is designed to be product-driven rather than the area/geography structure introduced by Glen Renfrew in 1982. Two main business divisions, Reuters Information and Reuters Trading Systems, drive development with a distribution group managing sales, installations, delivery and operation. Transactions maintains its separate identity and organisation. A technology authority is created to ensure some conformance across these divisions and to act as a global focus for technical policy, strategy and suppliers.
- Order routing is announced as a new focus. It concerns the routing of orders, managing them and entering them into electronic markets. This all ends up in a new division known as securities transaction systems. The vision of straight-through processing (STP) is adopted with the electronic connection of all the elements involved in an investor buying or selling order to the final settlement of the contract. Two acquisitions are made as building blocks. More spaghetti to police and integrate.
- The next generation HPSN is slowly rolled out to replace the existing network with the latest network technology. It offers significant increases in throughput and connectivity.
- Huge amounts of technical management and development effort are now going into improving the processes by which software is developed and tested. The usual discussions ensue regarding striking the right balance between process improvement (jam tomorrow) and product improvements needed today.
So at this point things seem relatively satisfactory.
- IDN has kept up with market data and functionality demands in a relatively cost effective way.
- Monitor is on course for an orderly close down (in 1999) and most functionality has been migrated to IDN.
- A new generation of high speed networking technology is being rolled out.
- Conversational dealing continues to flourish.
- Matching is holding its own against the competition.
- Trading room systems has a new focus in risk management software with the Kobra offering (Kondor) and sales continue for bread and butter Triarch/TIBCO finance systems.
- The Armstrong programme successfully morphs into 3000Xtra with all the data and functionality necessary for a competitive offering.
- Order routing looks a promising area for revenue as does business information.
- Internet technology based products are coming thick and fast from the regions.
- A new product-driven organisation is starting to make its presence felt.
What could possibly go wrong? ■