18 June 2003

Sun Bundles up to FIX Financial Services Industry

Sun Microsystems has teamed up with two software companies to offer low-cost financial information exchange (FIX) bundles for the financial services community running on Intel-based Linux or Sun Solaris platforms, it announced on Tuesday.

FIX is a messaging protocol based on XML that was developed for the financial industry so users could conduct securities transactions in real time. David Littlewood, director of financial services for Sun, in Menlo Park, Calif., said that FIX is becoming the de facto standard in this industry.

"The more people that use it, the easier it becomes for different parties in the securities industry to communicate together," he said. "So if you want to place a trade you can use a standard messaging protocol because you can assume that the exchange at the other end will receive messages in a FIX format."

FIX is commonly deployed in large securities firms that conduct trades, called "sellers", such as Merrill Lynch and The Goldman Sachs Group, but the same level of adoption has not been seen on the buyer side, Littlewood said.

"The buyer side customer hasn't typically invested in technology the same way the sell side has. They are typically looking for a lower cost solution. They don't need the same scale and levels of throughput the Merrill Lynches of this world require," he said.

That's why Sun has worked with two of its software partners - B2BITS, based in London, and Financial Fusion, a division of Sybase based in Concord, Mass. - to create low-cost FIX products, he said.

"The market dynamic that we're seeing is that people are looking to get access to commodity hardware," Littlewood said.

Sun will be pre-installing B2BITS' FIXEdge or Financial Fusion's GlobalFix Lite on its Sun Fire LX50 server, running Red Hat Linux on an Intel Pentium III processor. Users can also buy the software pre-configured to run on Sun's Solaris x86 Platform Edition, the company says.

B2BITS and Financial Fusion are competitors in the FIX market.

"They compete openly, but for the purposes of this they've actually both worked with us to provide a solution, and the price for both is the same," Littlewood said.

In the near future, Sun also plans to offer the two software packages on its Sun Fire v60x and Sun Fire v65x servers, with either Red Hat Linux or the Solaris x86 Platform Edition.

If users intend to deploy up to four processors Sun recommends they select Linux, but if they're looking for a more scalable solution Sun says Solaris is the best choice.

These bundles cost $2,500 per month for a three-year lease regardless of configuration.

"Sun has a strong presence in the financial space and there's obviously an interest in Intel-based servers in the financial space," said Gordon Haff, senior analyst and IT advisor at Illuminata.

Sun introduced Intel-based servers last year, but continues to sell servers based on its 64-bit UltraSparc chips as well.

Rebecca Reid, IDG News

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