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Issue of April 2004 
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Sharekhan and BEA

Trading it right

Sharekhan, a retail securities and equities solutions provider wanted better performance out of its trading platform. It deployed solutions from BEA and now provides more reliable, secure, and fast trading services. A look at how the company made it possible. by Soutiman Das Gupta

Sharekhan was growing its business in equities trade at a fast pace. And a vital necessity for such a business was to have systems that could support a large and growing user base in an efficient and reliable manner. After all, a moment's downtime will result in large financial losses and loss of faith among customers, both critically bad for business.

It decided to deploy BEA System's WebLogic as a platform to run trading and risk management applications. Since then the company has been able to provide their customers more reliable, secure, and fast trading services.

The business of the matter

Sharekhan was created when SSKI Investor Services Pvt. Ltd., a company in the securities and equities segment decided to harness the power of the Internet and offer services to its customers through an online stock trading portal.

The company offers its services through a combination of online and offline channels. The online model comprises a portal, chat facilities, and 'speed trade' terminals. And the offline model uses a combination of an IVR infrastructure and a team of customer agents to receive orders over the telephone. The company claims to have around 150,000 current registered users nationwide.

The 'speed trade' channel offers the benefit of a terminal at the user end, which is connected to the company's systems through a TCP/IP link. Unlike a Web trade request, which travels with the help of HTTP or HTTPS, a speed trade transaction is a direct transfer of information with the trading system, is live, and on real-time.

It can work on dial-up, cable connections, and GPRS links using 128-bit SSL encryption technology certified by Verisign.

The heart of the business

"At the heart of the company's business is the trading platform and the risk management system," explained Ketan Parekh, CTO, of the company. The core business of Sharekhan is trading and equities, and customers of the related products and financial services are the retail end-users.

"In such a scenario it is compulsory to run every individual profile through a risk management system before fulfillment. Therefore it's actually IT, which is at the heart of the business," he added.

The IT systems have been designed as a multi-tiered architecture. The ISP and Web servers offer the front-end of the portal, and LDAP services. A content management layer sends information to the trading applications manager.

An SQL database uses LDAP whose authentication is done from the ISP. And a risk management engine runs on a cluster mode. It is a customized solution made by Cambridge Technology Partners.

The ISP and the Web servers run on Microsoft's IIS, the applications servers and risk management portfolio runs on BEA WebLogic, an IDS and a Checkpoint firewall sends data to a load director which balances across the IIS servers.

A content manager from Vignette diverts traffic to the trading applications manager depending on the type of the request. An Oracle Parallel Server (OPS) database also runs on a cluster mode, and an order routing system passes all requests to the stock exchange.

The IVR uses applications from Talisma Corporation. The customer's orders can be serviced by the IVR, or if the customer wishes, it can be switched to a customer sales representative, who will fulfil the order.

The challenge before the upgrade

Before the company implemented BEA's products, it realized that there were a certain number of performance issues in the trading and risk management platforms.

"After the systems handled a particular volume of traffic, we saw that the system performance would degrade. This implied that we had to fine-tune a few parameters. But to add to the difficulty, the business environment was very critical. When market rates fluctuated by even a rupee, there was an increase in transaction activity. So the pressure from the higher management, sales teams, and customer care on IT to have very reliable and dependable systems was tremendous."

A new platform is decided

"The company believes in deploying the best technology available. So we evaluated solutions from BEA and IBM, since they were the only solution providers in this space at that time," said Parekh.

The decision was based on a number of parameters like security, reliability, scalability, the ability to integrate with legacy applications, interoperability with other environments, and ease-of-use.

BEA kicks in Sharekhan deployed BEA's WebLogic platform and currently uses versions 5.1 and 7.0. The platforms run on 12 Sun Solaris servers.

BEA's WebLogic is the foundation of Sharekhan's online trading application. BEA's middleware platform has the business logic to interface with the various technology aspects, and provides encrypted transactions.

The various components of Web trade like bank interfaces, depository participants, and broker accounts have been integrated into a single scalable entity. This helps optimize the architecture and provide scalability.

The core business logic and risk management functions, which are central to the application server framework has helped the company support its customers through multiple channels. And this is very vital because all business transactions must pass through the risk management infrastructure.

"After using the solution, we have increased transaction volume by around four times over a period of six months, without the addition of any hardware, and with minimum performance issues. We had to fine-tune a number of parameters for performance," said Parekh.

"In the beginning, there were a few problems with bugs in the software and we were under a lot of pressure to resolve any performance issues. But we had good support from the vendor and the issues were resolved. It was a good learning experience," explained Parekh.

From here

The company plans to upgrade to BEA Weblogic version 8.1 soon. And it aims to support more than 150,000 hits everyday between a five hour period of 9.30 AM and 5.30 PM.

A restructure of the risk management architecture and the portal is on the cards. And by doing this, the company hopes to increase throughput and handle revenue volumes of around 500 crore everyday.

"And if the market remains good, we hope to achieve that figure in six months," said Parekh.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at soutimand@networkmagazineindia.com

In a nutshell

The company

Sharekhan, a sister concern of SSKI Investor Services Pvt. Ltd is a retail securities and equities solutions provider.

The need

The company was growing its business at a fast pace and needed to have systems that could support a large and growing user base in an efficient and reliable manner. A moment's downtime will result in large financial losses and loss of faith among customers, both critically bad for business.

The solution

The company deployed BEA's WebLogic solutions and ran its trading and risk management functions on this platform.

The benefits

The platform has the business logic to interface with the various technology aspects, and provides encrypted transactions. The various components of Web trade like bank interfaces, depository participants, and broker accounts have been integrated into a single scalable entity. This helps optimize the architecture and provide scalability.

And the transaction volume has increased by around four times over a period of six months, without the addition of any hardware, and with minimum performance issues.

 
     
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