Global Investment Bank

Banking case study

At a Glance

Industry: Global Investment Banking

Users: Quantitative Analysts

Development Environment: Microsoft Visual Studio

Number of Perforce users: 100+

Locations: Globally distributed

Application: More than 1,000 components, 20Gb repository, more than 1 million files

Estimated savings: Annual costs reduced from $500,000 to $150,000 USD

Financial services leader migrates SCM system from ClearCase to Perforce for big gains.

An analytics group for one of the world’s leading investment banks found itself facing a dual challenge that’s common to organizations today—the desire to move to a modern version management system combined with the need to maintain its development history. Working closely with Perforce Software, the organisation migrated more than a decade’s worth of source code history from Rational ClearCase to Perforce, and in doing so has reduced operating costs, increased performance, gained the flexibility to support different development models without dictating working practices, and achieved the scalability it needs to meet both its current and future needs.

The Background

Quantitative analysts, known as ‘quants’, play a vital role in the bank’s ability to deliver cutting edge products to its clients. Responsible for creating models to price trades and risk-managed portfolios, the group is a team of over one hundred quants, spread globally across many locations. To support their models, the team writes complex code that is based on more than 1,000 components, built in the Microsoft Visual Studio environment. The interrelation of software components calls for tools and processes that support close team collaboration in a distributed environment—therefore, a robust and high-performance version management solution is essential.

A Need to Migrate

The group used Rational ClearCase for years, but in 2011, the team put its version control requirements under review. The group’s spokesperson, a VP within the organisation, explained, "As we evolve, we need the ability to scale and support different development models, so the version management system needs to be adaptable enough to do that without hindering us or dictating working practices. For instance, some teams are adopting agile development practices, while others work with more traditional models. A flexible version management tool is therefore a must for us. Additionally, we want a version management system that is simple to use with minimal effort, since most of our quants are not career software developers."

It provides flexibility, scalability and fast performance, combined with comparatively low total cost of ownership."

Enforcing a Clear Audit Trail to Satisfy Control Requirements

"Even though we have decided to migrate away from Rational ClearCase, we still need access to historical data. We need clear audit trails of source code changes to demonstrate appropriate control and to satisfy the requirements of our internal IT risk and audit department. Financial models can be long-lived, so having a clear revision history of the code is vital."

The group’s replacement for Rational ClearCase had to be "fit for purpose" and able to accommodate the history held in the outgoing system. "Perforce is the best all-round solution for us," said the spokesperson. "It provides flexibility, scalability and fast performance, combined with comparatively low total cost of ownership. We estimate that Rational ClearCase currently costs us around $500,000 per annum to run, whereas we predict that Perforce will be nearer $150,000. Plus, we can sustain scalability without growing the hardware footprint because Perforce supports a cloud-based server infrastructure.

"While the business case decision can be argued on the cost savings alone, equally important is the impact on developer productivity. Perforce supports different development models and working practices, meaning we will not be constrained by Perforce. Our users will not have to adjust to or be constrained by the tool.

"Our repository is around 20GB at the head and contains over one million files. We need a high-performance version management system. Any productivity lost by our quants is a big deal for us. While it is powerful, Perforce is also easy to use, with a short learning curve.

"Also, Perforce meets the enterprise features that our IT Risk & Audit Department look for. Unlike some of the other version management systems we investigated, Perforce is truly enterprise-ready, so we can be confident that it will provide us with the audit trail we require both for historical and future data.

The Version Management System of Choice

The group put Perforce through a rigorous evaluation process, along with other leading products including AccuRev, Microsoft Visual Studio TFS and Subversion. They rejected Mercurial and Git because at the time those products were unable to meet the group’s requirements for enterprise control.

The product evaluation involved testing functionality, such as branching scenarios, handling of merging, changelists, version histories, integration with third-party tools and WAN performance. "The conclusion was that Perforce version management is the best solution for us, both technically and commercially," says the group’s spokesperson. "TFS is a great ALM product, but our view was that the versioning element is not as strong as Perforce, while Subversion was not the best fit for our chosen work methodologies."

"Perforce was the fastest and easiest version control tool to set up. Its impact on our infrastructure is negligible compared to the other tools, and with a 2.5MB server executable, it’s the smallest of them all."

"Perforce’s consulting services have supported us all the way through. We are also impressed with how Perforce’s technical support team has responded to our questions during our evaluation and beta testing."

Reaping the Rewards

"Having adopted Perforce, we are now reaping the benefits. For example, checking in a large collection of changes with Perforce takes minutes rather than hours. Conservatively, we estimate that our productivity will improve by 2.5% by moving to Perforce. In reality, however, we expect that figure to be at least a 10% or more improvement in productivity."

Performance of the Perforce Proxy servers in the overseas offices is also impressive. "Activities that take up to 20 minutes with Rational ClearCase are reduced to just 2 minutes or less with Perforce, while utilising a less expensive infrastructure."

Since moving to Perforce, the group have been extremely impressed by the company’s technical support. "I cannot think of another software development product where the support organisation is so responsive, helpful and diligent in following up on requests. With a tool that is so vital to the day-to-day work of the group, it is very comforting to know there is always someone there to help."

Looking Forward

The group expects to extend its use of Perforce innovations. "Perforce features we look forward to using include Perforce Streams, to make managing workflows even easier. Ease of use is critical for our quants, so they can focus on delivering business solutions. At the same time, the new Sandbox feature will give the more hard-core developers in the team a greater level of local check-out functionality that they prefer."