Case study: Nasdaq's troubleshooting to transformation

By Heather Abbott, SVP of corporate solutions technology, Nasdaq

30 August 2018

Imagine taking a broker from 1869, stuffing them into a time machine and winding the clock forward by 100 years. Stepping out onto the exchange, they would be looking out on a familiar sight. The method for taking buy and sell orders and physically trading stock would be pretty much the same. Move forward a couple more years to 1971 however and they’d meet a very different world.

With the advent of all-electronic trading, the rapid increase and accessibility of computational power and connectivity, change has accelerated dramatically. Today, software and algorithms are the foundation of our financial markets.

As a senior technologist at Nasdaq, the table stakes are extremely high. We power more than 90 markets and are designated a ‘critical national infrastructure’ in the US. Whether it’s the value of a retirement fund, job security, or the cost of a weekly shopping basket – an issue in our trading platform could easily impact the lives of millions.

Like so many businesses today, we must innovate to remain competitive, all while maintaining and modernizing our systems. With stakes so high and application complexity increasing, we deployed an application intelligence system, AppDynamics, to get insight into the effectiveness of each line of code, identifying areas to improve efficiency and prevent issues before they arise. 

AppDynamics became critical to our transformation journey for a few different reasons. Firstly, the joined-up insights significantly reduced the time we spent troubleshooting issues. The additional insight eliminated our use of siloed and fragmented monitoring solutions from our infrastructure and operations teams.

Secondly, unified insights meant we could realize our DevOps approach, dramatically accelerating our adoption of cloud and efficient use of cloud capacity and elasticity while simultaneously helping us reduce our risk profile and accelerate innovation.

Next, it fueled another critical cultural shift – reengineering our organization around the customer experience. The notion of the business transaction, a concept AppDynamics uses to correlate data around key moments in the customer journey, meant we could understand exactly how our users were affected by issues or changes. We could prioritize particular actions, test improvement hypothesis and make changes without affecting the user experience.

Nasdaq is most well-known for our work in the US equity markets, or as the company that brought about the era of electronic trading and the modern IPOs of the world’s most well-known and admired brands. But just as the market has changed massively since printed trade slips and open-out-cry on the exchange floor, so too has our daily business. Today we offer numerous data products and help businesses successfully enter public markets, including sophisticated investor relations tools. Our core technology also shows significant promise in other verticals such as air travel, where dynamic pricing and discovery of flights is key. 

In recent years, our transformation journey has focused on our shift to the cloud. Our hybrid environment has been critical in providing the agility and scalability that underpins modernization and innovation. But cloud migration is no easy task. With a complex, interdependent and internationally critical infrastructure, our migration was enough to make any program manager sweat. 

As the old adage goes – you can’t manage what you don’t measure. With rigorous measurement, laser focused on the customer experience, we’ve been able to significantly reduce risk and increase the speed of our AWS migration, for example. An application intelligence system like AppDynamics enabled us to have end to end transparency to our hybrid environment, understand interdependencies and baseline performance before and after so we could manage our new usage and service level agreements.

Transformation is a cultural revolution as much as it’s a technological one.  But this cultural shift can’t happen in a vacuum. We needed to understand our customer experience to make it a focus of our development. We needed the ‘pane of glass’ oversight and joined up analytics that informed and reflected a DevOps methodology. 

Our journey isn’t done but with the right tools, culture and focus, we’re on the right path.

Become a bobsguide member to access the following

1. Unrestricted access to bobsguide
2. Send a proposal request
3. Insights delivered daily to your inbox
4. Career development