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Financial exchange's efforts to replace core systems with blockchain founder – again

Accenture roped in to find the weakest link

One of the world's most prominent and mission–critical uses of the blockchain - The Australian Securities Exchange's (ASX) project to replace its CHESS core trading systems with a distributed ledger – has struck further trouble.

As The Register has previously noted, the project commenced in 2017 but saw its go-live date pushed back from 2021 to April 2023, before the ASX warned that deadline would likely be missed.

Yesterday the bourse revealed "we do not expect that the go-live date for new CHESS could be before late 2024."

A statement [PDF] attributed the delay to analysis that revealed "more development is required than previously anticipated to meet ASX's scalability and resilience requirements for the application. This is contributing to delays to the delivery of the remaining technical components of the application."

The ASX has worked with an outfit called Digital Asset – a purveyor of the smart-contract language DAML – on the project.

The statement reveals that Digital Asset's work will be independently reviewed by Accenture, and "The review will also identify necessary actions for ASX to communicate a revised timetable to finish the project."

An update [PDF] sent to ASX stakeholders indicates that the organization's leadership believes "a fresh set of eyes" is needed to reassess the project.

That opinion comes from Helen Lofthouse, who started work as CEO and managing director at the ASX on August 1.

The stakeholder letter also reveals that project testing planned for September 2022 has been postponed.

The Register understands that the current version of CHESS is a COBOL application running on hardware powered by Intel's defunct Itanium architecture.

The planned version of CHESS uses the VMware Blockchain – a choice The Register understands was made because it's a fine distributed ledger and because the company's expertise in packaging and publishing applications made it ideal for the application's architecture of market participants being able to run their own CHESS nodes. The Register understands that Virtzilla's wares are not the source of the CHESS replacement's problems.

The ASX's 2017 decision to adopt blockchain was seen as a bold bet on the technology, and one that advocates hoped could provide a proof of concept that distributed ledgers could perform at scale in a very sensitive role.

With no go-live day in sight, and the project seemingly in considerable trouble, it may have become a cautionary tale. ®

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