Catch that second: Temporal Shifts and System Stability

Catch that second: Temporal Shifts and System Stability

Mark Brennan

Head of Business Development, Americas at ITRS

Views 1197

Catch that second: Temporal Shifts and System Stability

30.06.2015 01:00 am

Tonight’s addition of a single second to system clocks will no doubt underwhelm the world, much as Y2K did – systems will probably not fail (although the last time a leap second was added – in 2012 – there were in fact system outages).  But this fascinating phenomenon, whereby “Coordinated Universal Time” (UTC) is tweaked so that it more closely matches mean solar time (so-called “UT1”) – based on the earth’s rotation – potentially disrupts the rational determinism of global computer systems.

Indeed, one major operating systems vendor reminds us that “as 23:59:60 does not exist in Unix's implementation of UTC then the linux kernel inserts the leap second by stepping the system clock back by one second on the first clock update after 0:00 UTC”.  Of course systems stop and start all the time, software is patched, data is loaded, or archived, and time marches on.  But we depend on the persistence and consistency of the technology we use.  A shift in time, even by a second, flies in the face of the finite measurability of software behavior.

Stability in financial technology has become a big focus of regulators.  In the US the SEC has mandated monitoring and stability at the exchange level in Reg SCI, and there are similar provisions in MiFID II.  Operational stability does not inspire the kind of heated debate that, say, derivatives regulation does; but it is now part and parcel of the culture and working technology environment of financial institutions, and also part of the assumptions (explicit and implicit) by regulators of how institutions should behave.

Financial institutions are prepared for tonight’s leap second (many exchanges will close their late trading sessions in preparation), and when we awake tomorrow we will be none the wiser that time has shifted.  But this event reminds us that we can’t take system stability for granted, and that complex systems need oversight.  Disruptions can be sudden and abrupt, or more gradual:  without visibility into technology systems (whether simple system health or more complex business insight), institutions are not prepared for the dynamic shifts in the environment around them.

Latest blogs

Nish Kotecha Finboot and Bryan Foss, NED, Visiting Professor at Bristol Business School and member of the FRC Audit & Assurance Council

How Listed Companies Can Use Blockchain to Prevent Auditing and Reporting Malpractice and Avoid Scandal

Not too long ago, there was very little to link Wirecard, the disgraced payments platform in Aschheim, Germany, with Boohoo, the fast-fashion online retailer in Leicester, England, but both have recently been embroiled in high-profile scandals. Read more »

Leon Muis Yolt Technology Services

The Time for Financial Services to Become Truly Digital is Now

The financial services industry looks set to change dramatically over the next couple of years in response to COVID-19. The pandemic has certainly highlighted some inefficiencies and weak spots in current processes for many businesses, such as those Read more »

Granville Turner Turner Little

The Lockdown Money Revolution

Many Brits have found that lockdown has been beneficial for their money, having cut back on personal spending and managing to put away some extra cash. According to eToro, Brits with unspent discretionary income are set to accumulate £75.5bn in Read more »

Sandra Higgins Sysnet Global Solutions

Are You ‘Prescribing’ the Right Security Solution to Your Merchants?

When it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, eating the right food, taking regular exercise, and maintaining a positive mindset are key. However, despite these best intentions and practices, you still might not get all the nutrients your body needs Read more »

Robert Flowers DivideBuy

It Doesn’t Have to Be the End – How Retailers Can Grow in Light of COVID-19

It’s no news that the retail industry has been flipped on its head by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the lockdown, most in-store operations have been shut down, and nationwide furloughs, reduced pay and steady streams of income at risk have fuelled a Read more »

Free Newsletter Sign-up
+44 (0) 208 819 32 53 +44 (0) 173 261 71 47
Download Our Mobile App
Financial It Youtube channel