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Finance is Embracing "Invisible Infrastructure"

At Tectonic Summit, we heard firsthand about how banks and financial exchanges are embracing containers for their technical benefits and their ability to drive cultural change within large engineering organizations.

In this post we're going to dig into International Security Exchange's trading platform built on containers and CoreOS, plus how containers are driving cultural change at major financial institutions.

You can watch all of the Tectonic Summit presentations on YouTube. Be sure to catch the keynotes from Alex Polvi and Brandon Philips.

International Securities Exchange's Production Container Stack

The International Securities Exchange (ISE) shared an in-depth look into their journey to a production container environment using CoreOS. At first, ISE wasn't excited about containers because they required them to manage an additional layer on top of existing infrastructure. "Docker would be just another layer on top of what we already managed, and we didn't want to add complexity, we wanted to get rid of the complexity," said ISE's Paul Morgan, during his talk at the Tectonic Summit.

Internations Securities Exchange presenting at Tectonic Summit 2015
International Securities Exchange presenting at Tectonic Summit 2015

When the engineering team learned about CoreOS, the idea of a full container stack clicked — containers paired with a minimal operating system simplifies management and deployment of infrastructure. ISE immediately started building with CoreOS and has since launched it into production to power their options exchange.

CoreOS powers "Invisible Infrastructure"

ISE has called their production CoreOS stack "invisible infrastructure" because it requires much less effort to maintain and is easier to automate.

"Previously we would spend up to 70 percent of our time just managing the patches and the operating system updates," said Paul Morgan. With CoreOS, Paul's team deferred this task to the built-in automatic updates. Instead, he explained, "we free up all our time to focus on revenue generating projects."

Increased automation reduces deployment time

In addition to enabling update automation through the operating system, CoreOS is responsible for driving down deployment times across cloud and bare metal environments, helping ISE reduce the time to bring up a new machine from 40 minutes to just 5 minutes. This reduction keeps the ISE infrastructure nimble, and speeds up commissioning of new data centers.

ISE has 100 percent CoreOS machines in its Chicago data center. Increased automation from container technology is responsible for helping run software tests more frequently. Containers provide the team with a more transparent view into test results and correlate that with what's running on the cluster.

Billions of transactions and 150 million req/sec

ISE shared some performance benchmarks with the audience and revealed some encouraging results. First, ISE reported CoreOS allows them to scale to process two billion transactions each day across their cluster. This metric is important due to the volume and critical nature of the information passed through the financial exchange. During a typical market session, the ISE exchange consumes up to 150 million messages-per-second from its partners.

Graph of system throughput shared by International Securities Exchange at Tectonic Summit 2015
Graph of system throughput shared by International Securities Exchange

Second, ISE's testing showed that CoreOS Linux was just as performant as Red Hat's real-time kernel, which is optimized for quick transactions. In addition to the gains in automation and agility, maintaining performance was a critical test for the introduction of CoreOS at the exchange.

Containers Provide Cultural Shift at Major Financial Institutions

Goldman Sachs and Bank of America participating in a panel at Tectonic Summit 2015
Panel discussion from Goldman Sachs and Bank of America at Tectonic Summit 2015

The resounding theme from a panel discussion with Goldman Sachs and Bank of America was centered around the cultural shift that containers are bringing to their engineering teams. Each organization operates at high scale, with Bank of America employing over 17,500 engineers and Goldman Sachs employing 8,000 engineers that operate 4,500 applications.

Containers and next-gen infrastructure unites teams under standard operating models. Engineers and operations staff can focus on completing their jobs more efficiently and rapidly deploying applications.

Ryan Thomas, head of architecture and technology strategy at Bank of America said that containers are "not just about cost reduction, but it's more about reinvesting in the people and the talent we have to really drive business and value-added solutions for our customers."

A strategic investment in shared infrastructure across the entire engineering organization was a goal highlighted, with hopes that increases in efficiency will drive huge cost savings.

Thomas added that Bank of America is exploring container technology in dozens of labs and test environments.

Read and Watch More

Watch all of the videos from the Tectonic Summit. For more coverage about how banks are embracing CoreOS, Tectonic, and container strategies, explore articles from American Banker, ServerWatch, and Network World.

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