IG Group Migrates from Sun Solaris to Red Hat Enterprise Linux

October 19, 2011

Customer: IG Group Holdings PLC

Geography: EMEA
Country: United Kingdom


Business Challenge:

To identify a solution to support a high-availability, multi-transaction environment while reducing costs and maintaining reliability

Migration Path:

Sun Solaris to Red Hat® Enterprise Linux®

Solution:

Migrated from Sun Solaris to Red Hat Enterprise Linux running Oracle database and applications that support its high-availability, multi-transaction environment

Software:

Red Hat Enterprise Linux, IBM WebSphere, Oracle database, and application servers

Hardware:

HP ProLiant DL380 and DL580 Intel-processor based servers

Benefits:

IG Group’s business activity spiked in tandem with the recent market fluctuations during the financial crisis. The Red Hat based online platforms were able to handle the significant increase in transaction volume on a 24x7 basis with no downtime

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Background:

IG Group Holdings PLC is a world leader in financial derivatives trading, and its principal businesses give clients the ability to trade on financial markets. IG Group is the parent company of IG Index, the UK’s largest and longest-running spread betting business, offering sports and financial products to a retail and professional client base. As a predominantly online business, IG Group’s IT and resulting services need to be resilient, high-performing, and responsive. With thousands of enquiries and transactions occurring every hour, IG Group relies on its technology infrastructure to deliver real-time information around the clock.

Business Challenge:

IG Group aspires to be the fastest, most reliable online trading platform in the market. Even before the economic crisis, the Group was conscious that demand for its services was growing exponentially, and as a result, its technology platforms needed to be geared for future expansion to ensure availability and responsiveness.

The recent global financial crisis and resulting financial turbulence were viewed by many market participants as an opportunity to take advantage of fluctuating share prices. IG Index saw an increase in the volume of spread betting and visits to its online platform. Not only did traffic increase, but the number of transactions on the website also increased, placing stress on the underlying technology solutions.


IG Group was aware that its proprietary infrastructure would require a huge amount of investment to scale to meet growing business demands. The Group was running on Sun Solaris and calculated that the amount of capital expenditure needed to achieve the very high availability and future scalability demanded by its business model would be prohibitive.

The Group therefore needed to assess alternative technology opportunities to reduce costs without sacrificing on technology superiority or the ability to innovate. Various Linux distributions were initially considered, but IG Group quickly realised Red Hat Enterprise Linux best suited its needs due to the widespread ISV support and the availability of Red Hat technology skills in the company. Within the IT team, a number of engineers and developers had experience of working with Red Hat in previous roles and therefore were aware of its capabilities.

“The newer members of the IT team had worked extensively with Red Hat and were keen to implement open source technologies within the Group,” said Mike Clark, head of Global IT Production at IG Group. “Having assessed our options, Red Hat Enterprise Linux seemed to be the perfect fit for our needs.”
 

Solution:

Over the course of 30 months, IG Group progressively migrated from Sun Solaris to Red Hat Enterprise Linux on HP ProLiant servers, starting with the migration of its applications, messaging, and database platforms, and finally its pricing platform. This approach worked well for IG Group’s mission-critical applications, and the Group suffered no disruption to its online service.

With every migration, the Group gained more and more server capacity, freeing up hardware and presenting further opportunities for the IT team to lower costs and make efficiency gains. Performance increases of up to five times were experienced on new servers with the same number of processors compared to the previous system. Due to the pervasive use of Red Hat throughout the financial services industry, the Group found that knowledge sharing increased the speed of their development and learning. Best practice and guidance were available throughout the industry and this gave the IT team at IG Group peace of mind that they were following a tried and tested path, thus reducing risk and expediting the innovation curve.

The IT team at IG Group undertook Red Hat Training courses with a number achieving Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE®) status. The IT team is confident that they can manage the solutions in-house, reducing risk and minimising support and maintenance costs.

Benefits:

“Red Hat has freed up our IT department,” said Clark. “Before our move to Red Hat, the IT team was absorbed in just keeping the trading platform up and running and ensuring it could perform at the high level that our users expect. Now we are assured that the platform is running on a superior infrastructure, we can divert our efforts into creating additional functionality for our users and extending our trading capabilities and service offerings.”

A major benefit for IG Group was the scalability gains Red Hat enables. As users of the platform are individuals around the world, 24x7 availability and management of the peaks and troughs of website traffic and transactions are crucial to IG Group’s success. Red Hat gives IG Group the security that its infrastructure is robust and reliable as well as future-proofed for further increases in demand.

“Ultimately Red Hat has given IG Group competitive edge. When the financial markets were in turmoil, we were the only spread betting website that maintained its transaction volumes. Our competitors struggled to cope with the swings in the market and suffered website crashes and software failure, but due to the stability of our Red Hat platform, it was business as usual,” said Clark.

During that time, IG Index had a higher number of transactions and account openings than any other company. Customers came to IG Index because they knew the system was reliable and up and running at all times. The traditional capital expenditure savings associated with open source software were evident; however, it is the reduction in long-term operational expenditure where IG Group has seen the greatest impact. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is an enterprise-proven platform, and the platform requires minimal support and maintenance investment. As Red Hat Enterprise Linux can be run on commodity hardware, industry-standard servers are now deployed at IG Group, which are more cost-effective than previous high specification proprietary hardware.

As the world’s financial markets continue to fluctuate, spread betting and financial speculation remains a high-demand industry. IG Group has maintained its position as a leader in its field and views Red Hat as a trusted business partner. The Group will rely on Red Hat technology to evolve and grow with its business, no matter what the economy has in store.

In response to IG Group’s desire to meet customer demand, the company is now focusing on the importance of its underlying messaging infrastructure. The financial services industry has shown increasing adoption of the Advanced Messaging Queuing Protocol (AMQP) standard. Red Hat has played a major part in bringing this open standard messaging protocol to the market with Red Hat Enterprise MRG, a next-generation IT infrastructure incorporating messaging, real-time, and grid functionality. IG Group is testing and intends to deploy this new technology in its infrastructure in the future.

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