LAS VEGAS - Hurricane Irene mattered not to NYSE Euronext's large data center, which is built on land high enough to avoid 100-year floods and just about everything else.
This 400,000-square foot data center, completed a year ago, is located in Mahwah, New Jersey, and is a fortress designed to look ordinary. In a photo, shown on a screen here at VMware's large annual user conference, it appeared like a corporate campus office building. Inside are 100,000 square feet of raised floor space.
The data center is surrounded by water, a river on one side and a moat around the rest of it, to prevent cars from coming in, and where cars are allowed, there are car traps.
There are bomb-sniffing dogs in use, and the building has an exoskeleton, or a building within a building, for additional protection. It has access to multiple networks and two power grids and back-up generation.
The data center plays a major role in the U.S. economy. Feargal O'Sullivan, vice president of platform development for NYSE Technologies, said the New York Stock Exchange uses this data center as well as some other markets, representing about 40% of equities and options trading in North America.
"The Internet does not go into that building," said O'Sullivan. It uses a private network instead. O'Sullivan won't talk about the security, other than to say it is hardware based.
This data center is also being used to operate the just launched Capital Markets Community Platform, a "community cloud," limited to financial services firms and designed to meet their specific needs.
One need is speed. Financial services invest heavily in technology, in part, so they can act as fast as possible to market data.
The NYSE's community cloud platform is design to ensure that its customers are treated fairly, and it ensures them that the maximum latency that any user will experience in this data center is 70 microseconds (one millionth of a second) round-trip for any message, O'Sullivan said.
"We guarantee that nobody will have an advantage on the network," said O'Sullivan. "It's designed to be a level playing field for trading."
With planned network improvements, the aim is to soon get that response time down to single-digit microseconds, he said.
The cloud platform was announced in June with two customers, and now has four, O'Sullivan said. He believes the cloud platform offers significant cost savings for users now running their own high-performance trading systems.
In this cloud model, the user brings an application that can either run on Windows or Red Hat. The entire operation uses VMware tools, O'Sullivan said.
Michael Versace, global risk director at IDC Financial Insights, doesn't see any major downside risks to the cloud approach being used by the NYSE. "I would trust that the NYSE gets it right; they have a better chance of getting right than anyone else," Versace said.
He believes the demand for this type of service will be there, particularly from hedge funds which may see a service that they can buy as a tremendous option.
Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.