18 April 2015

Chat, Big UK Transaction, Chinese Rule Changes: Cascading Impacts of Bloomberg Outage

Bloomberg IoS App Screenshot 2011 | Clive Darra via Flickr 
Michael Bloomberg's namesake company is a de facto standard software/network application that is widely used in finance. On April 17, 2015, as reported by media outlets including Fortune, that outage experienced a worldwide failure.

Should we care? It depends. The British government UK Debt Management Office cared enough to delay the sale of $4.5 billion of treasury notes.  Another cascading effect mentioned by the Wall Street Journal was the inability of traders to react to regulatory changes made by the Chinese Government around the time that the outage began. The WSJ said Bloomberg identified the "root cause" as a hardware failure.

How many were affected? Bloomberg claims to have around 320,000 customers worldwide according to the Fortune story, and all were affected by the outage which began at 3PM Singapore time. 

On a WSJ blogJosie Cox wrote about the importance of this information source, quoting this senior trader:
The communication chat has become vital to the sharing of information across regions and counterparties. So a global outage like this is systemically important to markets all around the world,” said Louis Gargour, the chief investment officer at London-based asset manager LNG Capital, adding that this shows just how vulnerable the market has become.
Bloomberg representatives acknowledged that redundant systems had failed and an investigation was underway. They did not believe this to be a cyberattack. 

Reuters offers a somewhat similar services, but traders were reportedly uncomfortable using it, and many simply wait for service to be restored, or resorted to phone calls and other resources.  

Media outlets reported that the loss of Bloomberg's chat service was the most difficult to overcome during the outage.