AIX Case Study
For a new exchange like AIX, putting Nasdaq’s matching engine onto AWS was a brave decision. Taking on the unknown meant proving the move could be made without compromising security or risk to reputation. The migration has reduced costs and accelerated development of new applications and services.
The operational costs, both short- and long-term, are far better with AWS.”
AIX Bets on AWS for Key Trading Technology
Astana International Exchange (AIX) is a three-year-old stock exchange for businesses in Kazakhstan and the region. It runs on technology provided by Nasdaq, the electronic exchange, and recently migrated its core trading infrastructure—the Nasdaq matching engine—onto Amazon Web Services (AWS).
AIX needs to rapidly scale to meet growing demand—monthly trading in August was $6 million, versus $2.3 million in the same month last year. But the exchange must also deal with unpredictable peaks and troughs—in June, total trading volume was worth just under $10 million.
The company has twin ambitions to improve funding for Kazakh firms and to make the capital city Nur-Sultan the region’s leading financial center.
Migrating the Matching Engine
Key to AIX’s migration strategy was the flexibility, scalability, and controllable costs that it could gain through AWS. Another crucial factor was AWS’s support for multi-region architecture and provision of stage, test, and development environments.
But migrating the matching engine—the very heart of the exchange—to AWS posed additional challenges.
The exchange had to prove that moving its mission-critical data and functions could be done safely and securely without risking downtime, data loss, or damage to Nasdaq’s reputation. The exchange also had to persuade its customers and regulators that the move was sensible and compliant. Kazakhstan’s data protection law requires organizations to keep a copy of personal data under their physical control.
Another challenge to the migration arrived later: the COVID-19 crisis. To ensure a healthy workforce, AIX’s development team of four infrastructure engineers and 10 developers and project managers was split into two, and teams were tested every other week.
AWS Services are Key to AIX Strategy
By going all-in with AWS, the exchange has the simplicity of one relationship—and one bill—for all of its technology needs, from messaging to data storage, compliance, and trading.
It is also a great fit for AIX’s status as essentially a startup—trading volumes still fluctuate widely. Removing uncertainty around future requirements for compute and storage capacity allows the exchange to focus on growth and developing new services for customers. “From the very start, we knew we didn’t have time to procure, deliver, set up, and test a traditional data center,” says Valerii Tsoi, AIX’s CIO. “It was the view of the board that we needed the strategic benefits of sustainability, flexibility and scalability, and control of operational costs which AWS can offer.”
Tsoi adds, “For a typical data center you overpay for everything, you need 50 percent over-capacity which you may never use. The operational costs, both short- and long-term, are far better with AWS.” In addition to giving AIX the flexibility to instantly increase capacity, AWS also lets the company reduce development cycles for services.
AIX currently uses 25 AWS services—including AWS Cloud Map, AWS Certificate Manager, and Amazon CloudWatch—and plans to add more in the future. But the core matching engine runs using just Amazon RDS and Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS).
The migration team used the Placement Groups feature of Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) to test fault tolerance and ensure that the architecture worked in active-active mode across several regions while still maintaining connection speeds between servers within individual regions. The exchange also uses AWS Fargate to keep tight control over costs and is testing services including AWS Shield for managed DDoS protection and Amazon CloudFront for content delivery.
Faster Connections, Two-Click Rollouts
The move was achieved with no incidents, thanks to the exhaustive testing program. The engine runs smoothly, allowing the IT team to manage it with ease. “Brokers in Europe and Russia felt the change in connection speed,” says Kuanysh Kamalidenov, head of IT operations at AIX. “We also hosted a trade proxy server in Hong Kong for brokers in China who previously had problems with direct connections to AIX servers.”
The migration has increased automation. The presence of a multi-zone database with automatic fault tolerance and redundancy—as well as application and network balancing—means that the team can create similar services in two clicks using AWS CloudFormation, instead of using manual procedures that took days to complete.
Tsoi says, “We still have room for improvement in terms of core performance, and AWS’s flexible infrastructure gives us the potential for faster and better innovations too.”
AIX is a new exchange for businesses in Kazakhstan and the region. Less than two years old, it uses AWS for its entire infrastructure—a strategic decision to push faster development and the highest levels of availability and security.
Benefits of AWS
- Reliable and scalable
- Multi-region support
- Stage, test, dev environments
- Fast, easy service deployment
- Credits for testing services
AWS Services Used
Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) is a fully managed container orchestration service. Customers such as Duolingo, Samsung, GE, and Cookpad use ECS to run their most sensitive and mission critical applications because of its security, reliability, and scalability.
Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service
Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) is a fully managed Kubernetes service. Customers such as Intel, Snap, Intuit, GoDaddy, and Autodesk trust EKS to run their most sensitive and mission critical applications because of its security, reliability, and scalability.
Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud.
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