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Q&A: Thomson Reuters' Peter Moss on Elektron at Age Two

Launched a little over two years ago, Elektron is Thomson Reuters' strategic offering for delivery of data services and applications. IntelligentTradingTechnology.com caught up with Peter Moss, managing director for Trading in Thomson Reuters Financial & Risk group, to get some background on its roll out to date.

Q: To begin with, what are the main services or components that make up Elektron?

A: Elektron is our enterprise infrastructure, connecting financial institutions and trading venues across the globe and delivering real-time data to human traders via desktops and to machines for high frequency and algorithmic trading.

Elektron services are split into two key areas - Elektron Hosting and Managed Services and Elektron Real Time.

1) In terms of the components that make up each of these services, Elektron Hosting and Managed Services is supported from exchange co-location and proximity hosting facilities in key financial centres around the globe, along with a choice of network connectivity options - ranging from 10gE down to Internet VPN connectivity - and a full range of our own proprietary and third party data and trading application solutions.

2) Elektron Real Time is our next generation consolidated feed, which leverages:

* A completely distributed global architecture that allows for local turnaround of data, which provides a true step change in latency.
* A unified, logical and extensible data model that makes it much easier to integrate our content into downstream applications, and allows us to carry a broader range of content.
* A binary transport protocol that is much more efficient both in terms of bandwidth utilisation and processing overheads.

Q: Where has Elektron hosting now been rolled out?

A: We currently have Elektron facilities up and running in Chicago, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, New York, Sao Paolo, Singapore, Stockholm, Tokyo and Toronto.

Q: Is Elektron being rolled out leveraging TR premises, exchange premises, or at any third party data centres?  What drives decisions re. what premises to use?

A: Elektron is data centere and carrier agnostic - we choose the best sites (and comms providers) in each financial centre, primarily based on business requirements,  such as proximity to key liquidity pools and client concentrations, but also considering other technical factors, such as available power, space, comms, security etc.  In many cities we will support multiple sites, both for resilience and because different sites provide unique business benefits.

Q: How much commonality is there between implementations of Elektron at different sites?  What might be the differences beyond local market feeds and interfaces?

A: Elektron Real Time is completely consistent across each implementation in that it provides access to all of our global real-time data via a consistent set of APIs, as well as a common message model and transport protocol.

With Elektron Hosting and Managed Services we partner with a lot of different datacentre providers, but there is a lot of commonality in the way we build out our services within each facility.  When it comes to offering our own products as managed services, we typically follow a set formula, including everything from our choice of hardware and network infrastructure, through to systems testing, quality assurance and support processes.  Having that level of commonality allows us to support our customers with services that benefit from economies-of-scale, faster time-to-market and dependable levels of service and support.

To complement our own core products and capabilities, we also recognise the need to deliver customised solutions that incorporate third-party applications and content, which is where our open architecture and the strength of our development community really comes into its own.

Q: How is TR leveraging Elektron to deliver its own 'traditional' data and transactional services.  Are all available via Elektron, or is that the goal?

A: The ultimate goal is to make all of our core data and transactional products available as managed services from every Elektron Hosting facility, providing our customers with a complete choice of service delivery options.

Q: What are the key reasons that clients have chosen to adopt Elektron vs installing and managing systems/software/feeds themselves? 

A: Hundreds of client firms are already using Elektron services, and we are seeing broad uptake across every type of customer including those that have traditionally focused on in-house deployments.  With regards to what’s driving adoption, I would say that each customer derives unique benefits that satisfy their specific requirements.  However, if we were to generalise, the benefits we deliver typically include lower total cost of ownership, improved performance, simplified operations and faster time to market.

To give some specific examples, our managed services include everything from hosting algo trading apps and direct feeds within exchange co-lo environments on behalf of Tier 1 banks (where performance has been the key driver), down to delivering hosted feed services via a VPN connection to power in-house portfolio analytics on behalf of regional private banks (where simplification and cost have been the key drivers).

Q: How much are you seeing the 'community effect' as a driver for Elektron adoption vs. lower/lowest latency and cost reduction?  How is TR working to expand this community?

A: There are a number of factors that contribute to the strength of the Elektron community.

Q: First, as the leading provider of feed services we connect the vast majority of the world’s leading financial institutions (96 of the top 100 banks; 19 of the top 20 asset managers; 8 of the top 10 hedge funds), marketplaces (350+ exchange and OTC markets), and other third party content providers.

Second, as a pioneer in providing open market data systems we have the strongest community of vendor partners in the industry, including third-party vendors and user firms, with a well-established global pool of talent with expertise in using our APIs.

Finally, in terms of helping to cultivate intra-data centre communities, we are fortunate in that we can select facilities where there is already a strong concentration of financial market participants.

Q: Are there any plans to offer IaaS services along the lines of NYSE's Community Platform?  Or do you expect customer equipment to stay the realm/responsibility of customers?

A: We offer a complete range of service delivery models via Elektron and customers can select depending on their requirements, everything from customer owned and managed, dedicated infrastructure, through to virtualised environments supported by either private or public cloud infrastructure. However, not every application is suitable for deployment in a virtualised environment, and for now, we see dedicated infrastructure still offering performance benefits in terms of latency.

Q: Elektron was announced about 2 years ago.  What do you expect the next 2 years to bring?

A: Over the next two years you can expect Elektron to move from strength to strength.  We will continue to migrate more of our global connections and distribution infrastructure onto our next generation Elektron Real Time feed architecture, while also building out more Elektron Hosting facilities across the globe, and providing an even fuller range of services from those facilities, including proprietary capabilities and partner solutions.

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