Q&A: Archipelago’s CTO on IM use, NYSE merger

All instant messages are now tracked and archived, says Steve Rubinow

By: Lucas Merian, Computerworld
2 November 2005
URL: http://www.computerworld.com/printthis/2005/0,4814,106450,00.html

As Archipelago Holdings Inc. prepares to merge with the New York Stock Exchange Inc., it will have to decide which applications stay and which ones go. While that process is still in flux, one application from IMLogic Inc. that Archipelago has been using for the past six months has proven to be an assetd in tracking instant messaging traffic for regulatory compliance purposes. Archipelago’s chief technology officer, Steve Rubinow, spoke with Computerworld about IM use and the upcoming merger.

How is the IT merger going with NYSE? It’s going fine. There are a lot of planning activities. We’re talking about how we’re going to merge technology, who’s going to do what, what are the synergies, and how do we identify them so we can take advantage of them as quickly as possible. Until the companies are merged, we can’t start executing, but we have a whole list of things to do.

What is the most difficult part of the merger facing you? The most difficult part is not going to be the technology part. The most difficult part is going to be the people part. It’s the classic small, entrepreneurial company — that’s us — vs. the long-standing nonentrepreneurial company — them. They’ve got many more times people than we do. And what we need to do is combine these two companies and take advantage of both and make them realized as quickly as we can do that. And that means a lot of people are going to have to change.

Many companies have been saying, “We won’t use IM unless we can keep it for internal use only.” Why is your policy different? It’s similar to our Web philosophy. I’ve worked at other companies where they issue a Web policy where they say there are certain Web sites you can’t go to so don’t even try it. But here we take the approach that everybody here knows what corporate equipment is supposed to be used for and going to pornography sites is a very bad judgment, yet we don’t stop people from going there. If they want to go there, technically they can. Of course, business to any site is logged, and if we see people do that, especially on a regular basis, they will be at the top of somebody’s list to have a long conversation with and explain corporate use policy to again.

How important has IM become to your company? As far as importance to the business, I can’t say it’s extremely important. However, it is a mode of communication that our people use with people outside the company. So even if they use it once a month, we have to track every single byte that goes out across our wires, and it has to be archived. If we turned it off completely and said no one can use ever it, I don’t think it would put a substantial dent in our business. Having said that, for many people it’s a convenient way of talking to other people.

Have you seen IM use go up a lot in recent years? It has gone up, but I don’t know that it’s has gone up a lot.

Have you had to develop a corporate IM policy? It falls under the heading of our e-mail policy. Any corporate communication, whether between two people inside or outside, has to be archived or stored for regulatory reasons. So we just made it a subset of our e-mail policy, so if [you] use this, everything is being trapped and stored. So that’s just the rules of the game. And, you’re only supposed to use it appropriately. You’re not supposed to swear or send inappropriate fields and that sort of stuff.

And you’re not supposed to make dinner arrangements? In the most technical sense of the policy, that would be inappropriate use. But we’re not that crazy here. If someone wants to send someone else a grocery list and it’s a fraction of 1% of what they normally send during the day, that’s fine. However, if they’re have an ongoing IM conversation where they’re talking about sports all day long — that would probably merit a conversation.

So have you been tracking the amount of IM traffic closely? The people who use it the most are the people who sit on our trade desks because there’s so much going on. There are so many positions and streams of data. When they have to chat with somebody, that’s the easiest way to construct a chat. So they’re the heaviest users. If you went around the rest of the company, I don’t think you’d see a lot of IM users.

So do you have corporate IM software or is this commercially available stuff available anywhere on the Internet? You can use any IM tool you want as long as it complies with our ability to archive it. For instance, I don’t think GoogleTalk works with IMLogic, so GoogleTalk is not an approved piece of software here for IM.

Do you track which IM applications people download? Yes. I think we know what’s sitting on people’s desktops.

So which IM service is the most popular? Either AOL or Yahoo.

How long ago did you install IMLogic’s software? Less than six months ago. We’ve been doing e-mail archiving for years, but IM archiving we’ve been doing for six months.

What changed your mind on IM? Many companies still simply say no to IM. We have this philosophy that everyone here is a mature adult, and within reason, they know what kinds of tools they’d like [to use] to do their jobs. We’d like to offer those tools to make their jobs as convenient as possible, and just make sure they work within the constraints we need for the regulatory environment.

And you’re using EMC storage as the back end for IM archival? Yes. Centera.

How difficult was it to install the IM archival software? I don’t think we had any problems with it. Usually when we have problems with something I hear about it, but I didn’t hear anything. So that’s a good sign.

Is this something that you would transfer over to the NYSE’s IT infrastructure once the merger is completed? It potentially could be. We’ve made no decisions on a lot of our mutual software — where they do something one way and we do something another way. So it’s simply on the list of things to consider, and at this point I don’t know what will survive.