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8/23/2011
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Earthquake Fails To Halt NYSE Trading

Half-billion dollar tech upgrade in state-of-the-art data centers helps exchange weather physical and virtual shocks.

NYSE Euronext's investment in a $500 million data center revamp last year may have just paid off. The sizeable earthquake that shook much of the East Coast on Tuesday had little impact on the exchange's operations despite the physical jolt and a subsequent spike in trading.

"So far so good," said Lou Pastina, NYSE's director of floor operations. "Our data center is functioning fine, our systems are all function functioning. We’re going to close out the day, unless we here something else," Pastina told CNBC.

The quake measured between 5.8 and 6.0 and was centered in Mineral, Va., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor was felt as far north as Boston and forced evacuations of buildings in Washington, D.C., including the Pentagon, and in New York City's financial district.

NYSE operations in Manhattan and New Jersey, however, were unaffected. "People are executing orders and signing them; so far so good," said Pastina.

The exchange had to deal with a spike in sell orders moments after the quake struck, but the market quickly recovered once it was clear there was no catastrophic damage. "If things were worse we’d have normally shut down to the extent that we could do that. We're not there yet but we’re monitoring the situation," Pastina said.

A significant infrastructure upgrade completed last year may have had a hand in helping NYSE deal with the quake's initial, physical impact--and the heavy trading volume, mostly sell orders, that followed in the moments after. The company brought a new, 400,000-square foot data center on line last year in Mahwah, New Jersey, that features multiply redundant systems and co-location capacity for trading houses.

NYSE also opened a new data center in London for handling transatlantic trades.

To reduce latency during times of heavy trading such as, say, a brief panic triggered by an earthquake, NYSE treads lightly when it comes to cramming its servers, most of which are standard x86 machines running Intel or AMD processors, with virtual machines. By maintaining reserve capacity, unexpected peaks can be managed.

The Mahwah data center also sits on the border of jurisdictions for two utilities suppliers, meaning it gets power from both. The arrangement provides another layer of redundancy. "There's two of everything. We have no single point of failure," NYSE Euronext CIO Steve Rubinow told InformationWeek last year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 2.54%, to 11,130 in the last hour of NYSE trading after recovering from a brief selloff following the quake.

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