Sinara at 30: The rise of the Internet (1997 to 1999)
In 2019, Sinara Consultants are celebrating our 30th anniversary. This is the fourth post in a series to mark this significant milestone, and covers our initial steps into product development and the opportunities presented by the rise of the information superhighway.
Our client base expanded, most notably with an injection of blue-blood as we carried out our first project with Cazenove, the Queen’s stockbroker, a relationship which would endure for many years.
A very different client environment lead to us discarding the suits and enter the world of tied back pony-tails on a project at The Register Group, a media company monitoring advertising expenditure.
A significant new project saw Sinara develop a test simulator for Switch, a major UK debit card scheme. The tool allowed members of the scheme to simulate a smart card transaction, including the generation and verification of standard cryptograms, so as to test their internal systems.
There was also good news for south London staff members, as Bath Street was abandoned for Park Street, near London’s Borough Market, location of the gang’s hideout in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
This year was notable for the launch of Sinara’s first serious product, a financial news database. The news stories were sourced from ComStock’s XpressFeed and accessed via a corporate intranet. In parallel with this product development, we developed an application for Abbey National to capture selected equity prices from the London Stock Exchange, also using XpressFeed.
It was of obvious benefit to integrate prices along with the news product, and so Sinara’s Financial Information System, FIS for short, was born. Greatly enhanced and after countless name changes, Sinara’s market data products are still being used today in Europe, North America and Asia.
One interesting spin-off from the FIS stable in 1998 was a project to broadcast financial data via satellite. Although the project sponsor left a lot to be desired with regard to client/supplier relationships, the technical challenges required solutions which continue to be relevant. Our current (2019) multicast libraries still contain code to slow down transmission if broadcasting directly via satellite.
The final years of the last millennium saw a paradigm shift as the Internet allowed companies to attract funding and investment without having to do any boring stuff like making a profit. Sinara benefited by providing the expertise needed to bring some of these ideas to market. Most memorably Sinara designed and built the auction controlling software for QXL, at the time Europe’s leading online auction site. The software worked well enough although one live test showed up a user issue when Phil accidentally purchased a piece of dried mud, allegedly part of the pitch at the old Wembley Stadium.
In contrast Cazenove still had their feet firmly planted in the last century as they took delivery of a Sinara developed financial alerting system. Amongst other functionality this reported significant news stories, share price movements and trades to corporate clients by fax. The image of company directors waiting for a price alarm by their fax machine was difficult to imagine then, let alone now.
By the end of 1999, Sinara Consultants had added a product base to its range of software services. With our skills in demand we were in prime position to take advantage of the Internet revolution. What could go wrong? Would the millennium bug bring us all down to earth?