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David Maitland, General Manager, EMEA at Couchbase explains why NoSQL solutions can play a critical role in the high-speed world of financial services ~

In the ultra high-speed world of financial services, a fraction of a second can be a lifetime. Long gone is outdated view of banks and other financial institutions as dusty old buildings, filled with grey-headed men scrawling in ledgers. The modern bank is entirely different, and today, the financial services industry operates at such a high speed that having the right technology can be the difference between having the ability to simultaneously handle either hundreds or thousands of transactions at the same time.

As with everything in the modern, information-empowered economy, the ability to access operational data quickly can be the difference between success and failure. It’s an industry in which all applications are mission critical, and the speed in which they can connect to data is critical. A good way to think of these banks, traders and brokers is as finely tuned Formula 1 cars, all lining up next to one another on the grid and vying for supremacy. Of course, driving a racing car at high speed requires a great deal of skill on behalf of the driver, but having the right equipment is just as important, if not more so.

In the high-octane world of Formula 1, the right equipment can be anything from a lighter, more aerodynamic chassis to a faster engine, all of which can help to increase speed. In exactly the same way, finding the right blend of NoSQL solution can help financial institutions to manage, process and use the data they have at their disposal quickly and effectively to give them a competitive edge. For instance, financial services is a good example of an industry that demands high elasticity of solutions, which can allow them to scale quickly upwards and downwards according to their needs.

On any given day, a change in interest rates can result in massive trading peaks, which require greater scalability. However, another day might be much quieter, which means that, at least as far as scalability is concerned, traders need to have the power to turn the throttle up and down depending on their needs. Perhaps, the only place that this comparison falls down is that the ‘throttle’ NoSQL solutions provides is actually able to provide access to data much, much faster than the fastest racing car available!

What’s nonetheless clear is that banks and financial institutions today require access to a greater volume and variety of data. They also need it in more different forms than ever before at the application layer. In order to make the quickest trade, or spot market volatility before it has a negative impact on customers, for example, mission-critical applications are required that are capable of providing data in real-time. It’s worth remembering that much of this information is unstructured and inconsistent in the way it is provided, which also means that it is commonly stored in a variety of different formats.

This means that, while banks might previously have been able to use a simple relational database to access data that was perhaps stored in only one format, a new approach is required. Speed and complexity are often mutually exclusive. As such, the sheer variety of data, and the ways in which it is stored presents a real challenge for organisations that have become reliant on speed. However, those responsible for deploying applications within financial services organisations also need to balance this need for speed with the ability to provide users with immediately consistent data. After all, one thing all organisations in this sector have in common is that they have no tolerance for inconsistent data. They all need to guarantee their users that the data they require will be immediately available and consistent across the entire application. This is where is a non-relational approach comes to the fore, able to effectively handle large volumes of unstructured data at incredible speeds.

To return to the earlier racing car analogy, let’s also not forget that, given that they often operate at such a frantic pace, financial services organisations need pit stops just as much as Formula 1 cars. So what happens when essential system maintenance is required? NoSQL solutions can help here, as long as they can offer ‘always on’ availability. In an industry when downtime can be difficult to predict and markets are always open somewhere in the world, finding the right time to perform maintenance can be tricky. The bottom line is that downtime isn’t an option for these organisations. After all, as any good pit stop mechanic will tell you, essential maintenance needs to be able to be conducted seamlessly, quickly and in a manner that will not have an undue effect on the race as a whole!

When all is said and done, just as a mechanic and designer will look to combine various aspects of engineering to provide the fastest possible speed, NoSQL solutions allow those in the financial services industry take a similar approach. Striking the balance between speed and consistency can ensure that mission-critical applications are able to perform as quickly as possible and allow those employing the fastest solutions to gain a crucial edge over the competition. So, are you using the fastest NoSQL solutions to take the chequered flag, or are you being left trailing behind the competition?