News from last year.Aug. 26, 2013 11:52 a.m. ET
A glitch in time synchronization caused German exchange operator Deutsche BoerseAG DB1.XE -0.16% ‘s Eurex Exchange arm to halt trading for slightly more than an hour early Monday, the latest in a thread of technical issues at global exchanges.
The Eurex derivatives trading market was halted at 0620 GMT, 20 minutes after trading started, “in order to protect the integrity of the market,” Deutsche Boerse said.
“An incorrect time synchronization within the system” triggered the market halt. The problem was solved, pre-trading started at 0720 GMT and, as of 0730 GMT all products were again tradable, the exchange said.
A person close to the matter said the glitch was caused by a problem with the system clock, not extreme data load, noting that current trading volumes are far below previous peaks.
From what we understand, the problem was due to a number of GPS time servers that dropped leap year adjustments, so jumping the time back 36 seconds. Then PTP2 software adjusted server time to jump backward 36 seconds. It’s not the first failure of this sort (or the last). The legacy technology for time synchronization lacks the cross check, failover, and alerting that are built into TimeKeeper. That technology was not designed with enterprise in mind and although it has been heavily modified over time, it is very difficult to engineer a solution to basic architectural mismatch. For example, TimeKeeper is architected to treat all time sources the same, but software like PTPd and NTPd is designed for a specific protocol. So TimeKeeper can use a feed from one protocol to crosscheck another, but that requires a clumsy grafting process in one of the protocol specific time synchronization programs. As another example, the PTP standard has a completely inappropriate fault-tolerance technique baked into the standard – a technique that is a holdover from the PTP standard origin in device control. The standard was designed for systems with really simple networks and time consumers. A single cable with some welding machines on the end is perhaps a typical intended use case. The idea was that the time sources would advertise how good they were and the consumers would simply pick the one that said it was the best. This is an absurd policy for an enterprise network with super-powerful server computers receiving time packets across complex networks dotted with routers and switches. TimeKeeper was designed to ignore this “best master” protocol for fault tolerance and to utilize the smarts of the consumers to detect problems in the feed and to select among alternatives.