Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bridge Information Systems, My Former Employer

October 19th is/was the twentieth anniversary of Black Monday, the worst one-day drop in U.S. stock market averages in history.

I mention this because I later worked for Bridge Information Systems, a market-data vendor. Bridge made a name for itself on Black Monday.
As the legend goes, the market data rates were incredibly high on Black Monday, keeping all systems at or near full capacity. Volume that day was 600 million shares traded on the NYSE, which was 50% more than it was designed to handle.

You can imagine running at full-throttle all day would be a disaster for many systems. Bridge finished Black Monday without missing a single transaction, a claim upon which they stand alone. Bridge later sold its tick data to the other vendors so that they could have a complete history.

This was quite an accomplishment for this firm. How did they do it?

I worked for Bridge long after this time, but it was easy to see what made it unique. Bridge wrote everything themselves, and was darn good at it. When I say everything, I mean no operating system and no compilers. Other than that, they pretty much wrote themselves. The Bridge philosophy was that the vendors cannot provide the responsiveness that it would require, and certainly would not certify their systems to the levels it needed.

So it started with databases, and naturally query languages, then went to layer-3 networking protocols, middleware, monitoring tools, compression algorithms, and the like. They even had a replacement for ASCII. No kidding! This was a coder's paradise and attracted some really great people.

In my time there, I wrote my own database, web server, scripting language, automated regression testing framework, and web-services toolkit. It was a great experience, I'm sure you can imagine.

This model certainly is not for everyone, but can be made to work, if you obtain and retain the right people. My hat is off to those great people I worked with there, and those who survived the crash of 1987.

Bridge was purchased by Reuters in a 2003 transaction.

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