Opening Cross: Don’t Let a Wine Week Be Data-Weak

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Many readers will know that I’m fond of a nice glass of wine. But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, I was well into my twenties before my then-publisher persuaded me to try a spectacular Australian shiraz-cabernet blend by Penley Estate. I was smitten. So when events like Smith & Wollensky’s Wine Week come up, I tend to get a little excited. This past week, a long-standing market and reference data executive and I caught up over a Wine Week lunch—a true pleasure, but with one shortcoming that will doubtless resonate with data professionals.

The wines themselves were great quality. But they weren’t all served in the order on the tasting notes. Sometimes a different server would see our glasses empty and pour whatever they had in their hands. One server might call a wine by its name, while another would refer to the same wine by its varietal or appellation. And sometimes a server would pour a second glass of something we’d already had. With glasses piling up on the table, who could keep track of which wine was which? We left with our heads spinning—though not because of the wine itself.

With wine, this can actually be quite enjoyable—testing your palettes and trying to guess which is which. But with data, the same dilemma can cause major issues. Imagine if prices arrive in your systems out of sequence: first, you might accidentally trade on a stale price, and second, you may not be able to immediately tell which way the price is moving. 

In fact, this is exactly why Gain Capital’s GTX currency ECN only distributes non-tradable reference prices over its GUDP data protocol, since it is wary of the potential for UDP Multicast feeds (aka “spray-and-pray”) to drop data packets or deliver them in the wrong sequence. GUDP is one of several new data protocols being introduced by GTX in an effort to expand access to its data.

As a currency ECN, GTX also has to deal with another data management challenge that other market data sources, such as exchanges, do not: with each trade being conducted bilaterally with no central counterparty, participants can only do business with those brokers with whom they have an established relationship, and can only see prices from those brokers. Hence, there is no single, standard feed of all quote and trade data from GTX. Instead, each participant receives a different feed, based on their individual permissions—so it’s all the more important that data doesn’t get mixed up.

To guard against the risks of data arriving out of sequence, or the wrong data inadvertently arriving and bringing with it extra fees or fines, firms and vendors have developed sophisticated methods of tagging data packets so their lifecycle can be tracked and audited. This is especially important in inventory management systems such as those operated by MDSL, which is stepping up its focus on its Index License Manager product, and Screen InfoMatch, which has just opened an office in Singapore.

The same principles apply to physical assets and traded commodities. For example, ClipperData captures a combination of customs documents about ships’ cargos with transponder data from those ships in open water to create a dataset of commodities traffic—what commodity (and how much) is being shipped from where to where—that can be used to determine supply and set prices. Now the vendor is launching a product that monitors oil well production to predict US oil production at a national level. So ClipperData knows all about getting the right data to the right place—after all, if data from one well were confused with another producing substantially more or less, its entire projection of consumption could be skewed.

And of course, don’t mix consumption with transportation in the case of wine—unless it’s public transportation, that is. Just as your data is more likely to end up in the right place if entrusted to data management experts, you’re more likely to end up in the right place, safely, if you entrust your transport to the experts. Safe travels to you and your data! 

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