CROSS-PLATFORM GUI DEVELOPMENT TOOL HELPS NASDAQ PORT WORKSTATION ENVIRONMENT TO FIVE PLATFORMS
For many years, the "window" on this network has been a workstation, an enhanced PC platform with a conventional, text-based interface. In 1992, NASDAQ decided that a single machine running the lowest common denominator interface was no longer good enough. But rather than just converting to Microsoft Windows for instance, NASDAQ decided to offer its traders a real choice providing complete support for five of the industry's most popular graphical user-interfaces running on PCs, Apple Macintoshes, and UNIX-based workstations. The key to success on this ambitious project was Neuron Data's OPEN INTERFACE ELEMENTS. NASDAQ chose the development tool because of its breadth of system environment support, as well as the depth of features that have allowed the same source code to run unmodified across every environment.
Controlling Their Own Real Estate
NASDAQ's electronic market is home to such well-known stocks as Microsoft, Apple Computer, and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. It electronically links some 5,000 traders throughout the United States via a network located in Trumbull, Connecticut. NASDAQ dealers have access to a large database of information that reflects the perpetual shift in the market. The National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), which founded NASDAQ in 1971, currently runs all its applications on two mainframes. An electronic negotiation system runs on a Tandem high availability computer, while all market making positions are held on a Harris 1100. Redundant databases are kept in Rockville, MD.
NASDAQ's previous workstation did everything from displaying an electronic ticker tape of selling price updates to focusing in on a single company to show its last sale price and trading history. The workstation was based on a personal computer with an Emulex network adapter. NASDAQ programmers built the workstation's DOS-based environment in-house, adding multitasking capability and the text-based interface.
But as part of a five-year, $150 million project to upgrade its entire computer operation, NASDAQ wanted to expand the options for its users. "Our aim was to give our firm members the ability to control their own real estate," said John Dove, NASDAQ's assistant director for presentation services. "We wanted to take advantage of the newer graphical user-interfaces and faster processors, without dictating a choice. If a brokerage house is entirely based on Sun workstations we don't want to impose a completely incompatible system running an entirely different user-interface."
After surveying the options, NASDAQ chose to support five popular system environments: Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, IBM's OS/2, SCO UNIX, and SunSoft's Solaris. Dove's team first considered whether it should do the development work itself. " While the in-house control might have been tempting, we would have needed to hire experts in each of the platforms. The price tag to do that would have been astronomical, " Dove said.
NASD instead began shopping for a development tool that would port the application with as much consistency and speed. After narrowing the field to three, NASD programmers wrote a simple test application to see how well each tool transferred the source code to the new environments.
"We wanted to make certain that the same source code ran unmodified on all the platforms, and that the environment's look and feel truly reflected the machine it was on. We didn't want the Macintosh version to look as if it were running Windows we wanted a Mac environment on a Mac, a Windows environment on a PC, Presentation Manager under OS/2 and Motif under UNIX."
Based on the tests, Neuron Data's OPEN INTERFACE was the clear winner. "Even the next closest package didn't provide a lot of intrinsics that we needed-functions like 'set cursor'," Dove said. "That might seem like a trivial omission, but it would have forced us to go into, say, the Macintosh Toolbox, examine how that environment changed the shape of the cursor, and make the modifications by hand. Neuron Data has bent over backwards to account for the differences between these platforms. This attention to detail has saved us a lot of extra coding." [John, I know I asked you this but is there any way to better specify how much time was saved?] NASDAQ put together a proof of concept in June of 1992 that showed the direction it was headed. Full-scale development began that fall. NASDAQ staffers have has since made hundreds of visits to the trading floors to make certain the features it incorporates meet their traders' needs. Everything has been reconsidered, from what size to make a window, to the placement of text and arrangement of menus. The complete environment running on all five platforms was completed in June 1994, with the full roll out expected in the first quarter of 1995 after beta testing.
The new interface transforms the separate screens of information into windows that can be viewed simultaneously. The use of multiple platforms will also enable users to view NASDAQ along with their own in-house trading information, instead of shifting between computer screens, or even between computers.
"I can't even begin to guess what OPEN INTERFACE has saved us in terms of costs, " Dove said. We've leveraged a single development effort over five platforms, and when you consider what it would have cost to have converted all this code by hand- not just ours, but all the low level graphical routines-we're talking about a very significant investment."
Application: Securities Trading System
Environment: Neuron Data Open Interface Elements, Tandem and Harris mainframes, PCs, Apple Macintoshes, and Sun workstations.
Quote: "I can't even guess what OPEN INTERFACE has saved us in costs.
We leveraged a single development effort over five platforms. Consider the cost of
converting all this code by hand- not just ours, but all the low level graphical
routines - we're talking about a very significant investment."
John Dove, NASDAQ assistant director for presentation services