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Bloomberg Open Sources Its Market Data Distribution Technology

The market data provider's Open Market Data initiative allows any developer to use API without restrictions.

Following up on its 2009 release of Bloomberg's Open Symbology (BSYM), a system to identify securities across global asset classes, Bloomberg LP is opening its market data interfaces to anyone, without cost or restriction.

The market data provider's application programming interface (API), known as BLPAPI (Bloomberg LP API), is already used by Bloomberg, its clients and other technology providers to build connections between financial firms' applications and Bloomberg's market data and applications. The company hopes the release will spur innovation and increase collaboration.

Today any technology professional, or even students at a university, can access BLPAPI to quickly build connections to market data feeds. "We are essentially taking the programming interface that we use extensively already and we are putting an MIT-style license around it," said Shawn Edwards, chief technology officer of Bloomberg LP in an interview. "The MIT license is a very liberal, free-use license" this allows the use of the programming interface and interface files," he continued. "This will reduce the unnecessary overhead and complexity of dealing with proprietary APIs.

"By providing this, it allows developers to integrate disparate data sources, internal data sources, and let the customers focus on solving problems and not focus on the [API] plumbing," Edwards added.

"Today's global financial marketplace depends on the free flow of timely and accurate market information," said Tom Secunda, co-founder and vice chairman of Bloomberg LP and global head of the company's Financial Products and Services Division in a prepared statement. "By embracing open technologies for market data distribution, we remove layers of expense, erase restrictive license agreements and enable innovation."

[To hear more from Bloomberg Co-Founder Tom Secunda and how Bloomberg LP develops technology, read Inside the Bloomberg Machine.]

The BLPAPI interface works with a number of programming languages and operating systems, including Java, C, C++, .NET, COM and Perl. According to Bloomberg, other features of BLPAPI include:

-- A technical definition of a market data interface that includes publish/subscribe, request/response, all built on a service-oriented design,

-- An MIT-style license that allows users to copy and use BLPAPI interfaces for use with any market data service, applications or adapter technology,

-- An interface technology that is suitable for high volume and low-latency applications.

"This is an interface that is already proven," said Edwards. "We have thousands of users that use this regularly. My guess is there are tens of thousands of applications that are already written to this interface."

Unlike some other open source agreements where developers agree to share their work with other users, BLPAPI does not require sharing of code. "What developers do with their work is up to them," Edwards said. "The MIT license makes no requirements of people to share their work with us. This is truly open source, free use."

So how does Bloomberg benefit from releasing BLPAPI for free? "We sell market data systems and that is our business," Edwards said. "We want to be the data provider of choice not because we have locked them in, but because we have the best product and the best service."

"We intend to evolve BLPAPI into an open standard with the help of an independent committee charged with managing the future development and stability of a truly open market data interface," said Edwards, in the press release. "Open technologies allow our customers, partners, and others to direct resources towards developing innovative services instead of coping with rigid technologies."

Subscribers to the Bloomberg Professional service may also access information about BLPAPI at {WAPI }.

Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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