07.01.09

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Proprietary Software Falters

Posted in Database, Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Open XML, Windows at 4:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Wall Street

Summary: Microsoft demonstrates that non-Free software is simply incapable of handling mission-critical tasks like GNU/Linux does (in Wall Street for example)

BACKED by roughly 20 references, we have already written quite extensively about the recurring issues at the LSE (the stock market, not the school). It is considered to be Microsoft’s poster child that they brag about in commercials all over their Web site. By some people’s assessment, this is considered the case study for Microsoft, never mind the excessive redundancy (cost) and poor track record.

Well, guess what?

The LSE is calling it quits and dumping the platform.

What an unbelievable PR disaster. IDG has the details:

London Stock Exchange reportedly to dump £40m platform

[...]

Dropping TradElect would be a dramatic about-face for the exchange, which had heavily promoted its ability to rival newer, dedicated electronic exchanges, and plumbed millions of pounds into doing so. It runs on HP ProLiant Servers and Microsoft .Net and SQL Server 2000 systems, and within a Cisco network architecture.

How will Microsoft respond to this PR gaffe, which was probably an expected blunder? Analogous systems running GNU/Linux are true success stories.

In a similar vein, now that the UK abandons this system, who can ever rely on proprietary formats like OOXML, for example? That too will be at risk if Glyn Moody gets his way. He is rallying for support at the moment.

Next week, I’m taking part in a debate with a Microsoft representative about the passage of the OOXML file format through the ISO process last year. Since said Microsoftie can draw on the not inconsiderable resources of his organisation to provide him with a little back-up, I thought I’d try to even the odds by putting out a call for help to the unmatched resource that is the Linux Journal community. Here’s the background to the meeting, and the kind of info I hope people might be able to provide.

Not surprisingly, the meeting is neither for my nor Microsoft’s benefit, but for that of Richard Steel, who is CIO of the London Borough of Newham. Those with good memories may recall that back in 2003 it looked like Newham was going to switch to open source, in what could have been a real breakthrough for free software in the UK, but that it then changed its mind and signed a long-term – and secret – deal with Microsoft. Winning Newham was so important to Microsoft that it helped set up a competitive trial…

The Newham situation is one that we wrote about in:

Indeed, it is rather ugly. Newham’s people are hopefully paying attention to the significant news from LSE. It is also in London.

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22 Comments

  1. Will said,

    July 1, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Gravatar

    I’m not really very knowledgeable about this subject, but wasn’t the London Stock Exchange one of the last few stock exchanges not using Linux? I’m pretty sure the New York Stock Exchange has been running on Red Hat for some time now. How many are still using proprietary software?

    David "Lefty" Schlesinger Reply:

    They’re all using “proprietary software”, I assure you. Some of them may be running that software on Linux-based systems, but the software which actually manages stock exchange trades isn’t open source.

    David Gerard Reply:

    It’s largely bespoke internal software, which isn’t quite the same thing as commercial proprietary software. Though it is jealously guarded as a corporate secret and internal advantage.

    That said, open source trading software is coming up in the world.

    Linux is universal as it’s a cheap Unix running on commodity software.

    David "Lefty" Schlesinger Reply:

    …open source trading software is coming up in the world.

    Oh, really? Where, exactly. The OJTS project–the only such effort of which I’m personally aware–has been moribund for two years or more.

    Where exactly is this hotbed of open source stock trading platform projects that I’ve somehow never heard of…?

    David "Lefty" Schlesinger Reply:

    If it’s not freely available, then it’s “proprietary”. As Wikipedia (correctly) says, “Proprietary software is computer software which is the legal property of one party.”

    David Gerard Reply:

    Well done using misapplied geek precision to avoid the point. Have a cookie.

    David "Lefty" Schlesinger Reply:

    Actually it’s more a case of “creative redefinition” on your part to attempt (and fail) to make a point. No cookie for you, sorry.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 1, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Gravatar

    Honestly, I am not aware of any stock exchange (other than London’s) that relies on Microsoft. it’s largely dominated by UNIX and Linux (increasingly the latter).

    Bear in mind that a vast amount of the “get the facts” campaign put the cards on the LSE story/reference. The “facts” look like a farce now.

    Watch how fast Microsoft’s promotional pages will be changed.

    Needs Sunlight Reply:

    Actually M$ appears to have sent pretendele over to ZDNet to sow chaff in the air.

    David "Lefty" Schlesinger Reply:

    You can’t have looked too hard, Roy: here’s a link from Microsoft’s own site on the Brazilian Stock Exchange. Here’s a link to a paper on the Karachi stock exchange.

    That took about thirty seconds on Google. And I’m not even a “journalist”!

    twitter Reply:

    Yes, it’s apparent you are not a journalist. You have to dig a little deeper than ZDNet white papers that turn up in 30 seconds on Google to get a reasonable idea of what’s going on in the world. Like the “Get the Facts” spam, your articles are all from around 2003 or so, do you think they are accurate today? Dazzle everyone with your research capabilities and all the tidbits you pick up on your world travels.

    You might want to start at the Wikipedia pages for Brazil and Pakistani stock markets, though these are subject to astroturf edits by people like you. There you learn that Brazil’s market is an impressive 13th largest in the world after a 2008 merger. Pakistan’s market, due to reasons beyond ordinary control, suffers downtimes up to four months and could probably get by with M$ systems. They might do better with paper based systems in an environment like that. What you don’t see in Wikipedia, sadly, is Brazil’s massive lurch towards free software. How long do you think free software friendly Brazil will lag behind market leaders? Money saving changes in such critical applications quickly pay for themselves as the LSE demonstrates through losses from second rate software.

  3. Will said,

    July 1, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Gravatar

    “now”? When haven’t they? ;)

  4. Yggdrasil said,

    July 2, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Gravatar

    Once again, Roy confuses the “application” with the “operating system”. As the article points out, the problem is the software provided by TradElect. The article does not even suggest that the Microsoft OS, HP hardware, or Cisco network equipment is to specifically to blame. Because Roy hates Microsoft with a passion, he blames them out of the three. Because Roy only advocates the use of open source, the reason for the failure is spun as a “proprietary failure”.

    sUSE User Reply:

    LinuxNewsToday says the whole platform:

    http://www.linuxnewstoday.org/linux-news-jul-2009-archives/1180-jul-02-2009-linux-news.shtml

  5. David "Lefty" Schlesinger said,

    July 2, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Gravatar

    Yes, this is Roy misrepresenting the facts once again. The London Stock Exchange, based on this story, is “dumping” the TradElect trading program. There’s absolutely nothing in this story to suggest that they’re dropping Microsoft, and Roy seems to imagine.

    Roy, got any substantiation? Or are you simply being as cagey (and ultimately, as untruthful) with the phrase “the platform” as you were with the statement “I don’t know Mark Fink”?

    David Gerard Reply:

    You’re working way too hard to aggressively miss the point: this was one of Microsoft’s showcase installations, and the software stack was not up to the task. The precise software running on top is not actually the point at all.

    Did you know that people disagreeing with you or ignoring your personal attempts to use favoured definitions of words doesn’t constitute lying? Amazing, but true!

    eet Reply:

    Far from it! David is trying to hold Roy accountable for the nonsense he writes. Roy does always do that, and if it wasn’t for people like David, he might get away with it. Roy, on purpose, bends the truth to the point of being falsehood. That is the problem here as in all of Roy’s ‘news’.

    twitter Reply:

    The Seattle Post Intelligencer has collected the news on this subject and it all backs up what Roy said.

    Though the LSE denied the outage was caused by the TradElect system, it is widely believed in London trading circles that the problem was the Windows-based platform, Computer World reported. … TradElect’s ability to process trades, analysts say, hasn’t rivaled that of a newer Linux-based system, ChiX, or another called Turquoise.

    How big a fail is this? The article goes on to say how the next biggest system is able to do about 600 trades per second. LSE? 30 trades per second, when it’s not broken and the traders are still in the building. You fail at troll, EET.

    David "Lefty" Schlesinger Reply:

    Well, if it were as simple as that, that would be one thing. However, what we have hear is an attempt to use words (e.g. “platform”, “know”) to mean things completely different than their accepted definitions. You’re doing the same–there’s no indication that there is or was a problem with “the software stack”, i.e. the totality of the software being used from drivers to applications.

    If LSE drops TradElect, and keep the entirety of the remaining software stack–and there’s absolutely nothing in the cited article to suggest they’re doing otherwise in any way–what becomes of your “argument” (to be generous) here?

    It’s completely unclear, wishful thinking on yours and Roy’s parts aside, that Microsoft would necessarily be more concerned about this than they would be with someone who decided to use Songbird rather than iTunes on their Vista laptop.

    twitter Reply:

    It is nice of you to wish that M$ was without network problems but the evidence is stacked against you. Most US stock exchanges run GNU/Linux. They have no problems. LSE uses an expensive M$ stack and has massive problems, including:

    when network software problems took TradElect offline for a potentially devastating seven hours. At the time, angry traders walked out of the building in protest, unable to conduct business on what would have been one of the best days for the market …

    M$’s network stack is notoriously complex and poor. Problems have been reported in all sorts of unrelated applications. What conclusion should any reasonable person draw from this picture? Time will tell how reasonable and well informed the new LSE CEO is. Those who warned against using M$ in the first place can sit back and say, “I told you so.”

    David Gerard Reply:

    @twitter – the ZDnet post linked in that Slashdot article has gone missing … any idea where it is now? I remember the picture comparison in question …

    twitter Reply:

    Internet Archive to the rescue, again. The picture is right here. Abridged text:

    Windows is inherently harder to secure than Linux. There I said it. The simple truth. Many millions of words have been written and said on this topic. I have a couple of pictures. The basic argument goes like this. In its long evolution, Windows has grown so complicated that it is harder to secure. Well these images make the point very well. Both images are a complete map of the system calls that occur when a web server serves up a single page of html with a single picture. The same page and picture. … The more system calls, the greater potential for vulnerability, the more effort needed to create secure applications. [Pictures, Apache on Linux, complex but clear, IIS on Windows Server, this is your computer on bad drugs.]

    The author was Richard Stiennon and his company is IT Harvest. The pictures are worth sharing, so head on over to archive.org before they vanish.

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