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ASX drops plan to replace CHESS with blockchain, writes off AUD $250M (insideadviser.com.au)
225 points by raasdnil 71 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 185 comments



This is Accenture's report into the project as commissioned by the ASX. I encourage people to read it as it goes into the technical and management details as to why it failed: https://www2.asx.com.au/content/dam/asx/markets/clearing-and...


Where does it go into the management details?

I've skim read through it, and it reads vastly too weak.

They used a blockchain haskell implementation on a fringe blockchain technology, and wrote nearly all their business logic in it.

If I were them, I'd immediately sue whoever built it. This level of gross incompetence reads to me like they were scammed, used as patsies to integrate blockchain into a client.


It is paid for and reads like it was paid for by ASX - damning enough to say the solution is woeful, but knows that the person paying their consulancy fee green lit the vision to jam a square peg into a round hole.


Yes, that's exactly how it reads.

It bends over backwards to say that somehow this approach meets some non-functional reqs. But it cannot plausibly meet any such requirements well. Even praising the "quality" of the haskell code whose job it is to provide a casio-watch level of compute power over an immutable distributed ledger. For $250m!

It would be fascinating if, eg., the Australian gov forced Accenture to release their internal docs. I imagine there are several versions of me with with much much more strongly-worded things to say.

This feels like it would go well in a netflix documentary retrospective on the "blockchain con" and how it duped gen-z and ceos.


The bit I never understand, and these projects crop up all the time - for 250mil ... seed a company that you 100% own to build the solution.

Or if you have to pay 100mil for the drop in already complete solution (which sounds insanely expensive).


When you outsource dev, you also outsource responsibility.

Much of what board members do is play games to keep themselves in power.


Major IT projects are a graveyard for executives, anyone who could reasonably succeed knows they are destined to fail, and they fail so often that big co's now have so much legacy chewing-gum holding together their systems that implementing any system is destined to fail.

The most likely to work solution - rip out everything in the company and start from scratch. Short of that you are looking at - $50mil to modernise with a drop in (fully functioning) component in a 2 week install + 5 years and $100mil to write translation layers to all the other systems which will still fail on edge cases.

Every now and then the executive that believes in sunshine, rainbows and unicorns comes along, slaps down a stupid budget and tries, with good intentions I might add. They however, are predisposed to buy into the people and vendor that sell magic beans. And they cycle continues...


It was never about outsourcing.


If you interpret it from a different angle, it would be much clearer.

1. Those made the decisions are smart, really really smart people. If they were dumb, there is no way they can get to where they are now. So if the decisions look questionable, they probably are indeed questionable. But that does not mean they made a mistake. Smart people don't do obvious stupid moves, if they do, there must be some reasons we don't know.

2. If the budget is not used, at best it lapses or worse will be used by someone else. So do whatever they can if they have nothing better to do with it.

3. If you do something for someone-else with someone-else's money, neither the price nor the quality would be much of your concern.

4. After handling meat, you know, there is oil on your hands.

Put all that together...


> They used a blockchain haskell implementation

CHESS Replacement Application code consists of Daml, Scala, and Haskell like Daml with ~87% of the code in Daml/Haskell like Daml and 17% in Scala.

So not actually Haskell.


Yeah. I’m pretty familiar with the history of their tech, and the problems with DAML and how they architected everything predate the surface syntax being Haskell.

Source: I was the evaluator of DAML for Jpmorgan.

The way daml is setup makes it more of a weird sibling of GRPC for stateful resource protocols. But where you have to write your own db and interpreter tooling to ingest the commands if you want all the usual nice things you’d expect from a database


And a very patient and curious evaluator you were too (I was one of your counterparts at DA).

> The way daml is setup makes it more of a weird sibling of GRPC for stateful resource protocols.

Yes, well said. I think that's quite fair. It's wrong to look at it through the lens of Haskell (or any other FP language), it's really a declarative language for describing process flow and actor rights and obligations. Not something you could write a complete program in. A better way to think of it is as a big DSL for controlling state machines; you still need all the machinery around the outside to advance execution, handle IO, trigger events and transitions etc.

It's syntactically similar to Haskell because the people who created it were Haskell heads out of ETH Zürich. That's the only connection.


The intial surface language for the dsl was actually not Haskell! But I think eventually shifted to using ghc as a frontend library?

I’m not sure if I was the most patient of evaluators ;). If I was despite that one of the more patient evaluators, wow!

I kinda view everything in this space from the lens of tools I want to build for myself. Namely a decent transactional db system where the modelling language for datatypes and workflows is a linear logical concurrent functional language with some soundness guarantees. I did build a preliminary version of the core of that at jpmorgan, though for various reasons it never saw the light of day


> But I think eventually shifted to using ghc as a frontend library?

That's right. It happened fairly quickly, part of the efforts to formally verify the language. I think when you were poking at it was around the time it was changing underneath. But, that was years ago!

> Namely a decent transactional db system where the modelling language for datatypes and workflows is a linear logical concurrent functional language with some soundness guarantees.

I mean that's largely what Daml was trying to do. But of course it lacked the transactional DB system once we tossed out our in-house DLT. The approved answer back then was, deploy it over someone else's blockchain/DLT. Well, we all know about those. So before I moved on I spun up a successful skunkworks effort to integrated it into some relational databases; you'd be surprised what _that_ implementation ended up at the heart of.

Well, patient is maybe not the right word :) You weren't ever a dick though and that put you in a small club. You can draw your own conclusions about the space I'm talking about (Haskellers, JPMorgan, enterprise DLT...)

(I'll ping you separately as I have you at a disadvantage. For various reasons I won't put my name in this thread.)


I assume you remember or heard of the crayons incident then ;)


Read "implementation" differently.

I was using it in the sense that Daml is "a haskell", in the way that Ocaml is an ML, etc.


lol “Greater consideration is required regarding the purpose of the consensus layer given ASX’s position as the central market operator for the CHESS use case.”

And

“ From a participant standpoint in the current design and architecture (not withstanding future use cases), there is little value to processing all the business logic on-ledger as ASX maintain data integrity as the market operator and participants receive a point-in-time view via API contracts.”


This really points to the complete ridiculousness of the project. The ASX is in the business of being a central market operator. The only advantage of a blockchain is to be distributed. So the ASX spent all that money on a project, that if it had worked, would provide no benefit to them. If successful it would pave the way to putting them out of business.


Nobody wanted to ask questions because engineers love building sexy things and consultants love billing sexy things.


Did Accenture tell them to build on blockchain in the first place?


I don't _think_ Accenture were the original or primary contractor. I'm Australian and interviewed with Digital Asset for that project - as far as I'm aware, DA were the main company responsible, although from what I've heard from people working on it, a lot of the failure stems from mismanagement on the ASX side.


It reads like accenture might have reccomended the accenture blockchain a few years ago.


Do you really think they care?


I can’t remember what thread it was, but someone here commented recently that when these consultancies produce this vapourware, it’s effectively just an expensive study to determine the viability of a product.

In this case, $250m seems to me a reasonable sum to ensure that the ASX will never again get tangled up in crypto pipedreams.


Yes, that was my initial conclusion after reading the report.

Some company was parasitically using them to drum-up interest in this useless product area.


Well blockchain is a very valid case for tracking assets like stocks. I guess the implementation and backwards compatibility is a big issue, also other banks don't want to hop on the hype train etc.


Why does blockchain have a valid case for "tracking stocks"? We've been doing that for decades. Blockchain is a step backwards in many areas. So what positive benefits does it offer to compensate for its weaknesses?


For one, you can't sell stocks that you don't have, like the Gamestop stock. Also you can own and transfer stock outside of exchanges, like the old paper stocks. Smart contracts could even be used for adding dividend and voting.


I recently wrote a derivative protocol for a fintech in Dubai. So, In Defi or blockchain space, you can definitely sell stocks you don't have (a.k.a tokens).


Shorting would always happen off chain. As it usually does in the crypto world. So people who want leveraged trades would always do them on exchanges, who can then do the exact same thing as regular exchanges.

Basically you can't force everyone to do transactions on chain. The benefit you mentioned only exists if everyone is on chain.


> For one, you can't sell stocks that you don't have, like the Gamestop stock.

You can create derivatives of whatever you want, it does not matter how the underlying is delivered or settled.


Ok? But that would clearly be a derivative. Your spot market couldn't be faked.


Ok? I was talking about buying things “you don’t have”.

And the settlement price could not be faked but you need an exchange that offers bid/ask prices and that matches the transactions and that could clearly be faked.


Tracking stock ownership (at least in the US) is both messy and slow. And companies do either make mistake or do not honor their engagements (a la FTX, for example, by not actually having the stock and trying to procure it later when needed).

A blockchain solution can make settlements faster, final and prevent the current issues. It also means you no longer need a broker to hold your stocks/assets. More sophisticated users can run their own "wallet".


> do not honor their engagements (a la FTX, for example, by not actually having the stock and trying to procure it later when needed).

how blockchain would block theft without blocking valid transfer? This requires checking real-world data so all blockchain stuff does not help at all.

(the same transfer may be considered as valid or as a theft by different groups of people! See various stories about evacuated gold reserves of countries that were taken over.)


This is a bizzare comment. To show how Blockchain can help you use the most recent example of Blockchain ecosystem failing?


A centralized cryptocurrency exchange failed because they gambled away their reserves and suffered a bank run. Nothing to do with the underlying blockchain technology, just good old unregulated banks screwing over everyone.


Your comment is telling of the lack of understanding of blockchains 13 years in. Unreal.

No wonder exchanges and consultancy firms are getting away with baffling the public and businesses with bullshit.


Even better is good old relational databases with ACID transactions. There is a lot you can do with that to add auditing, providing perhaps the main benefit of blockchain but in a more suitable and performant setting.


I don't have the login to the bank's backend Oracle database so I can't check anything in it. With blockchain, anyone can see and audit the entire trading history.


Is that a requirement of a stock exchange? And if it is, guess what: you can create an API layer.


The API can always return false data, it is a proxy for the actual data, not the actual data itself.


We are both probably parroting old blockchain vs. not debates, but my next move is to say:

Your scenario is you can’t trust your stock exchange to correctly known who owns what stock, and you cannot trust their data feeds, given the heavy and necessary regulation of stock markets, given the very goal of them allowing ordinary people to invest in the largest companies without DD in a fungible way.

In that scenario a stock exchange becomes useless regardless of the technology.

Blockchain has other problems too. It is slow! It can’t keep up with the source of truth. And it cannot be the source of truth without slowing operations down massively.

For blockchain to be worth it you would need different validation nodes operated by different entities and consensus. This will mean the end of fast fulfilment of trades most likely.

If your point was about simple api bugs then that is an interesting point. Decent operations and monitoring should prevent this. I would put data loss or accuracy bugs with stock exchange data from the source in the same bucket as “making the exchange useless” as it is not providing a fair system.


If everything else is equal, a trustless system that makes fraud and shenanigans (almost) impossible is better than a system that requires trust. Your view is also extremely US centric. MAYBE in the US the stock exchanges are perfect, and can be fully trusted. But the US is not the entire world. I can assure you that in other countries, a lot of bs happens with stock exchanges.

Even in the US, there's a lot of bs that goes on related to high frequency trading. With a trustless, decentralized system, the playing field could be evened (instead of favoring those with LAN connections to the datacenter). And who knows in general how much order book bs is happening behind our backs.

And the blockchain being slow isn't really that much of an issue. Stock trading is already settled at a later time, so stocks being settled to blockchains at a later time, batched, wouldn't be a problem (and real time trading would happen with L2 or L3s).


When the most ideal case for blockchains still isn't usable, it really does paint a bleak picture for the future of the tech.


The picture was always bleak. Cheap money and FOMO just stopped a lot of people seeing it.

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.” - Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds


It's hard to give non-Australian investors a sense of how bizarre this was. The ASX still provides CHESS holding statements (updates when you transact shares, when codes change or you are otherwise issued new shares)... by post. On paper. There is no other option.

Before they fixed that they wanted to move CHESS to a blockchain. Wild.


It's even crazier talking to the people involved.

The project got the underlying Blockchain tech from VMware... AND had a requirement for a backup "traditional" RDBMS system.

So, complete feature duplication of the core, mission critical application.

Scope creep was crazy. Someone who doesn't understand the technology went "blockchain yeah sure mate let's go."

Good project managers are so important.


> Good project managers are so important.

That's more an issue with Product Management.


It could also be an issue for Program Management or even Engineering Management. All of those roles can be flexible from company to company, and many companies do not staff every effort with all of those roles.


Good PMs would be replaced when they say a firm no in such top down projects


Yeah that my thougt as well. That type of things fall from the sky on PM and they have to deal with the new direction.

Maybe product director / VP or whatever


> So, complete feature duplication of the core, mission critical application.

A requirement likely put in place by someone who realized that even if executed properly, a blockchain solution would do no better than what the "legacy" RDBMS already could.


I too am sick of getting those paper letters getting sent, so much waste when I end up shredding or throwing all of them out.

Really the ASX should just focus on providing a solid modern platform for trading. Simplicity, security, and speed. None of that requires any form of blockchain which is slower, scammier, and more complex. It just requires writing a modern electronic computerised system.


Reminds me of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM). They have a web presence, in glorious HTTP like it's still the 1990s and everyone uses NetScape Navigator:

    http://www.bom.gov.au/
They've been called out about the lack of HTTPS on their site in the media several times. In 2022, it's just shameful.

Maybe there's a technical reason, you're about to say. Maybe they have an enormous load on their systems and they can't afford the overhead of TLS? Or something?

Get a load of this: https://www.bom.gov.au/ works!

It shows a full-page error message -- via correctly configured HTTPS -- that says:

    The Bureau of Meteorology website does not currently support connections via HTTPS.

    You will shortly be redirected to http://www.bom.gov.au.
What kills me is that you if you use F12 network tools to have a look at their site, you'll notice that they're behind the Akamai CDN, which 100.000% certainly supports HTTPS and probably serves little else in this day and age... except for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and other backwards organisations.

Their excuse for this was that there already was an ongoing project by some consultancy (Accenture or Deloitte, I can't remember) to uplift their site. Years later that seems to have gone nowhere despite tens of millions of dollars spent.

Australian organisations seem to love this kind of thing. Still clinging on to the old system for dear life while burning a huge pile of money that doesn't actually deliver any improvements and gets abandoned after years...


IT procurement in Australia is a piece of shit because, in the name of fairness, everything needs to go out to tender, but the only companies big enough to deal with a tender process are mostly lawyers with a couple of coders attached (or worse still, they just subcontract the coding). Almost all the money goes to people who sit in meetings discussing the scope, and some poor sap ends up doing the code for next to nothing.

The government just needs to hire coders directly, that's what Service NSW does and it shows.


1,000x this.

There are a bunch of potential projects I could knock over personally in a month or two each that I will never ever be allowed to bid on.

Instead, it goes through an internal process at the department that takes months, which means a bunch of people have to justify their positions, driving up the minimum cost.

These non-technical people architect the solution, put it a scribble of a Frankenstein's monster of a design in the tender with a laundry list of requirements, none of which are actually needed because what they really wanted was a mostly static website any idiot could develop.

A couple of years later (I wish I was kidding), the tender process is finished and a Big Consultancy begins the hard work of... subcontracting the work. To my parent company, that finally gives it to me. Out of the $millions on the tender, I now have 2 weeks to a job that should have been 2 months.

The design is now hilariously out-of-date, and was wrong to begin with, but it is now a part of a legally binding contract between orgs I have zero leverage with. It MUST be implemented, verbatim. Including the bits that are actively harmful, stupid, backwards, legacy, or just idiotic. All of it. This stuff is audited to make sure there's no corruption or dodgy work!

The end result is a monstrosity built in a hurry by a poorly paid tech, while 10+ middle manager types all take their cut.

It's abhorrent.


This is a problem almost everywhere today.

Lots of businesses are now tech companies, but the managers are from a different age so you need layers of other managers to do exactly the same job (when people talk about weak productivity growth from technology, this is it...it took half a decade plus after the industrial revolution for things to filter through, it will be a bit quicker this time but there are massive institutional roadblocks...perhaps even bigger than in the 19th century which was all de novo innovation).


This seems to be the correct answer based on my experience.


As someone who worked on a Deloitte government project in Aus, they'd have got a better product (or anything at all for that matter) for way less money by just hiring a small dev team internally. Instead, it was outsourced, and they were offered a bloated Sitecore .NET monstrosity. The project had completely stagnated before the pandemic, and then that was the final nail that got it abandoned.


They (the ministers at least) know this, this is working as intended under our previous Liberal governments.


FYI: https://weather.bom.gov.au/ supports HTTPS and is pretty much a "modern" drop-in for the top-level.


I think by "modern" you mean that it makes my browser stutter when scrolling from what appears to be layer upon layer of transparent divs?

Also, I can't select a location manually, it forces the use of GPS location finding. Even if you bookmark a specific location and then load it in a new tab, it'll immediately prompt to use your location. If you refuse...

    Unable to detect location.
    To use your current location, allow permission via browser settings.
It simply hides the content of the page, so you can't see or do anything with a URL somebody sends you if you don't grant location permission.

I bet this page cost millions. It hides the information I'm looking for "below the fold". It shows a grand total of 276 bytes of readable text on an entire page of HTML that took 198 requests, 2.32 MB and 19 seconds to load.

As I mentioned, I have to scroll down to see the content I actually wanted, which is the hourly forecast. But despite making you scroll, it still hides half the content with a "show more" expanding section you have to manually click. The "saved" area is a tiny, tiny fraction of the multi-page screen real estate they waste on enormous empty space.

The radar map no longer shows temperature measurements or anything useful, and is staggeringly slow. It stutters my very high-end gaming laptop. This is in part because BoM was too incompetent to host ESRI ArcGIS themselves and used the cloud-hosted "tiles.arcgis.com", which is hosted in the United States, 230 milliseconds away from Australian users.

Speaking of United States data centers used for Australian Government websites, I've noticed that it seems to be the policy of both state and federal departments to add the Google Analytics to all pages to ensure that Google can track our citizens during their interactions with their government...


Sure but why do I care if my weather reports are covered by HTTPS? What risk is that going to mitigate?


Weatherman in the Middle


Tell that to Eisenhower as he’s postponing D-day due to bad weather.


Malicious JS being injected.


Also Australian,

The only sensible reason I can think that BOM is not under https is that there are ancient mission critical consuming services somewhere that can't handle the upgrade.

For example: a network of regional flood warning alarms that are pulling flood/rainfall data from a feed on the same url. They could have been built in the early 80s, and cant be upgraded. Ignoring them would risk lives etc etc

Nevertheless there would be other ways to solve that.


Adding HTTPS support doesn't necessarily mean removing HTTP.

Even if there was an ancient service that can't handle HTTP, keeping HTTP and adding HTTPS support will do just fine.


The web uses port 443 for HTTPS, so this example is unlikely to be an issue. Having said that, there are weird and wonderful corporate and government proxy configurations out there that do wacky things.

My guess is that their entire system is so tightly coupled that they can't unpick this without a huge amount of work that requires real developers to stick with it and get around it.


There is no sensible reason, except perhaps money. And using it as an attempt to increase funds or raise the low pay levels hasn't worked and won't work. It is likely to be stuck that way until Chrome stops serving plain HTTP at all from the Internet and someone gets a kick in the bum to fix it, after which a few clicks with Cloudflare or other HTTPS front end provider will sort the problem. And possibly even save money due to caching and not passing on much bad traffic.


You're just making up things trying to find a reason. HTTP was only invented in 1989, so these imaginary early 80s clients likely don't exist


Good example, but even so I can think of many way a well directed intern could solve that without touching the code of that things.


“Do not redirect from HTTP to HTTPS if source is IP is in list if legacy devices.”

There. I’ve solved it.

Similarly, a filter based on User Agent would likely also work.


I meant actually solve it by upgrading to HTTPS in a reverse proxy but yeah :)


They're already behind Akamai, and have a valid certificate and the site is reachable on HTTPS... but redirects back to HTTP.

That's purposeful incompetence, not an accident, oversight, lack of budget, or anything else that can be excused.


We're the lucky country mate.

Someone came along and gave me that site. Bugger if I know how to change it. Once it's gone it's gone!

On the one hand, https on BOM might not be a big deal / low priority in the grand scheme of things, but in the other hand it could be done in like half a day by anyone there who knows computers.

It's probably safe to say they don't know how to computer


> Accenture and Deloitte Both ? Here you go.


As someone that spent a decade in the Australian tech industry, and then a decade outside, I can say that Australia is famously a tech backwater.

London might be seen as conservative/cautious compared to SV or Austin or Lisbon, but it's far ahead of Australia where bloated big bang projects are well supported, and lean projects by actual tech companies are ignored.


The problem with Aus is that all the talent leaves and you're left with uneducated bogans like me


UK may not be amazing but they do a lot correctly. Lots of systems integrated / running under the same umbrella. In-house infra with in-house ops. You can even browse through an the puppet and deployment scripts on public github.


Aussie here. Speak for yourself mate. The tech I am working on in Melbourne (Rostering/Pairing) is world class. We are routinely beating international companies 100x our size.


Not to mention these letters have an identifier which is used basically as a password printed on them…


It's so wildly insecure that the holder identification number comes out in the mail. Then if you change your address, they send a notification letter to the old address just letting you know that it was changed. This means if you move house, and don't get a mail redirection, whoever lives at your old address will receive a letter containing your holder identification number.


Maybe the blockchain can fix that?


It's ok, because they often make you give your postcode as a second factor.


Or last name. Which is also printed on the letter…


Honestly I'm relieved to learn I'm not just an idiot who didn't know how not to get the letters.


ASX now offers electronic delivery of CHESS holding statements and notifications: https://www2.asx.com.au/investors/start-investing/electronic...

However, holders can’t opt themselves in; inexplicably this needs to be supported at the broker level. I’ve spoken to one of the large brokers who advised me they have no plans to support this feature.


The age of companies with terrible ideas wiping their arses with money like it's toilet paper has come to the end... for now.

How the smeg does an MVP or PoC for something like this even cost $250M?


$250k for the implementation, $2.25M siphoned off to the founders’ personal accounts. It’s grift all the way down


You're off by two orders of magnitude


But the ratio is correct.


Okay and the other $245,000,000? Lol.


What’s interesting is that the previous CEO of ASX left recently and said that the job is done, the tech is working and clients are testing - they just need to swap over in production - but he prefers the new CEO to be in drivers seat for that migration.


Even if their comments were sincere they wouldn't be the first suit to have a limited understanding of the Pareto principle.

Also if there's a new CEO they are certainly going to want to clear out the cupboards, hence the call to Accenture (doubtless with some significant guidance on what the client expected in the report).


I loled at the % done figure in the article. You eventually realize there are 2 dones: 0 and 100% :-)

This is why continual delivery is preferable over a big bang. What could you blockchainify for a million. Then the lesson that blockchain is crap is cheaper.


You can't really do Orthodox ScrumMaster 2 week, incremental continual delivery for something like this.

Where are your small incremental milestones? How do you deliver working software every two weeks?

This was just a big, hard, database project. It's not a "textbook" easy to deliver project.

You just need smart cookie project managers and Chief Engineers to manage whether you do 1 week milestones or 1 month milestones.


Are you kidding? If you can't deliver small incremental milestones in your project, then the project is doomed to fail with such project management before start.


I think 6 weeks is better than 2 maybe, but it should be possible.

If what you are doing is very novel those deliveries may be proof or disproof of concepts. The customer being yourself in a way.

In 6 weeks it should be possible to deliver “does blockchain make sense”.

The question is if the answer is NO does the org have the guts to can it. Someones paycheck might depend on keeping it going.


> Accenture highlighted governance flaws on both the ASX and delivery partner sides, including “inefficiencies in the delivery lifecycle through to testing, with siloed execution and reporting resulting in misaligned views of status on delivery progress, risks and issues.”

Sounds like the problem was mismanagement. Let's not blame crypto for everything.

I'm not saying blockchain was the answer to their problems, but it could have been a sub $10M mistake if not for the terrible management.


I'm glad I found this on the thread at least.

Here's the Accenture report in full published by ASX: https://www2.asx.com.au/content/dam/asx/markets/clearing-and...

They failed to architect the project properly by trying to run everything on the blockchain smart contracts instead of leveraging something off chain. Similarly there was mismanagement from DA (the developers) and ASX with no clear goal of what the end product looked like or how progress was being made.

Accenture even call out that a blockchain solution might not have been the best one considering the ASX centrally settles trades anyway.

The pdf is a good read into the technical and management failings of the project


The issue is, this was one of the only major Blockchain projects in the world that wasn't... suspect.

Much harder to convince anyone to do Blockchain work now. It's a blow to Blockchain's reputation.


I wonder what this means for Digital Asset https://www.digitalasset.com/.

The ASX brought 5.4% of digital asset and from what I heard, they were a core part of building the system. https://www.ledgerinsights.com/asx-150-million-in-blockchain...


There's no Australia on the Digital Asset homepage world map, I guess it's not happening any more.



ASX is still on their 'Our Partners' page ... for the moment


I'd presume that DA's anchor project is dead then...


> The report estimated the application software for the new system is still only 63 per cent complete, with an “uncertain” timeline to completion

Does anyone actually believe the level of precision coming from this report? I bet good money that remaining “37%” would take way longer to complete than that supposed “63%” did.

Oh, Accenture created the report, so it must be accurate, never mind. /s


That's typical in these kinds of reports. I wouldn't necessarily read that as Accenture believing they have 2 s.f. precision. If you put something like 60±20% in a report like this, to the audience it might look like you've done a bad job and have no idea what the real number is.


It may be even more banal than that. If you start putting simple boxed uncertainties on numbers the reader might start adding their own uncertainties to your uncertainties when they communicate it further.

I've found that when communicating with "leadership" it's best to not present anything difficult that requires them to make judgement, because they'll use that as an excuse to do what they wanted to do anyway (60±20% that's basically 80% and there's always some uncertainties with these things, so that's basically 90% so it's basically done, just ship it).

Providing uncertainty is just asking someone else up the chain to pick the number. It's better to just pick it yourself to shape the conclusion you're going to make. The people making these decisions aren't scientists. They don't have any allegiance to your methodology or analysis. They just care about the conclusion.


I think the number might be plausible, but you know, even if you get 80% done, it's probably only 20% of the effort. The remaining 20% will require 80% of the effort, which is 4 times of the committed.


From the Australian Financial Review two weeks ago:

"Unfortunately, ASX management and its board of directors have proven over the past seven years they do not have the technical skills to manage a large-scale technology project or the self-awareness to know that what they are doing is investing in a technology dead end."

https://12ft.io/proxy?q=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.afr.com%2Fchanticl...


Hot off the press:

"They were building a Frankenstein’: how ASX’s blockchain unravelled" https://12ft.io/proxy?q=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.afr.com%2Fcompanie...

Some people are blaming "tech nerds" for having too much influence over the project. Really the problem was charlatans. If they had hired good tech people the blockchain concept would have been binned years ago.

Another win for the Australian tech scene. Optus, Medibank Private, ASX... just embarrassing.


You get what you pay for. Australian companies operate like they live on an island, which is not far from the facts. Except for those pesky fibre optic cables, So getting pwned by Russian hackers still seems otherworldly to them. Our markets are somewhat captive, and thus most companies can be kind of lazy in their approach to, well everything really. But IT's pretty bad. Hopefully it'll start getting better.


Tall poppy syndrome is terrible.

I've seen places which will rather hire 10 developers getting paid $80k a year than two developers getting paid $400k a year. You get what you pay for. The number of managers who will not hire someone getting paid more than them is astonishing.


Why that is surprising? Mediocre people in leadership for sure will hire people worse than themselves for obvious reasons:

1. Much less likely to challenge them.

2. Numbers look much better.

3. When things went south, there would be someone to blame.


More commonly,

4. They are not great at assessing and contextualizing skill and experience


Because I've seen it even in places where the guy doing the hiring was the major share holder. He flat out told me that no one would pay a salary like what I was asking. It went downhill from there and he didn't take it well when I told him I was making more than that now and I figured this was going to be a relaxing year to wind down from my current position, hence why I was asking for less.


$80k is not a bad salary and I struggle to think of any Australian dev salary that is close to $400k.

Additionally, with good leadership 10 x $80k would almost certainly outperform 2 x $400k developers.


Trading systems are complex distributed systems. They need extremely high reliability and low latency, on enormous transaction volume.

There are lots of complex failure modes in a system like this, and minimizing them is an advanced skill. The learning curve for a competent generalist senior engineer to get good at these kinds of problems is significant. Designing and implementing a national securities exchange is a big deal.

This is a place where you want either experienced developers who have worked on other stock exchanges, or at least FAANG engineers who've worked on systems with analogous challenges. This is not a place you want to skimp on salary.


You want HFT experts because this is the definition of an HFT system. Those salaries even in Australia start at $200k for a junior developer and go upwards quite quickly.

Of course OP thinks that $80k is a good salary for a developer so that ought to tell you how competent she is.


$80k was my starting salary in Sydney, as a grad, almost 15 years ago. It is not even close to competitive in today's market.


It's the ASX, in Sydney. 80K is not nearly enough for that work.


Plenty of $400k+ salaries in fintech in Sydney ...


Go get those tall poppies.


...You can have a project with exceptional engineers working on the domain specific language, or concurrency features in Haskell/Scala.

Individual engineers are not necessarily talkative types.

They don't necessarily have the ability to influence feature creep in the boardroom.


I'm mainly referring to the technical leadership.


This project was stupid from the start, I could never see it working. It never made any sense using ‘distributed ledger technology’, the ASX are the central authority and they want to be in that position… Making anything distributed isn’t actually useful to them or people who interact with them… They just got caught up in ‘blockchain hype’ and clearly there were some sales people in the right place, at the right time. Some people must have got away with serious cash from this boondoggle.


I remember sitting in on a meeting with some high-priced consultants who solemnly declared that "the future of the web is blockchain". We were discussing an update to our main university website. The consultants had probably each earned my monthly salary to drive down from Toronto for that afternoon meeting.

The other developer and I just looked at each other and wondered quietly if the consultants knew they were talking gibberish.


What drives me nuts is that, as far as I can tell, all the players get to keep their share of that $250 million. There’s no talk of sanctions, nobody seems to be losing their job, the board is still pulling down their fees.

So many large Australian institutions have been captured by consultants, snake oil peddelers and grifters, all with their hands in the jar. It’s embarrassing.


Technology as a cost centre mentality.

Time and time again, Australian non-tech companies cut technology jobs to cost cut.

Anyone competent looking to build a long term career working in the corporate sector either moves to sales/marketing. Or, these days, moves to Atlassian/Canva.

Over a rolling 20 year period, the process self selects for the least able.

The IQ at the "Head of Engineering" level in Australian non-tech is minuscule. Selection bias.

Most of them don't have CTOs, they have CIOs who report to an accountant in the C-suite.


Bingo. Adverse selection in action... they've created a "market for lemons".

All the offshoring and outsourcing (and cultural disdain for technical people) means they can no longer tell the difference between charlatans and good tech leaders. But the good people know how to avoid them.


That's exactly what the last federal government wanted, after all that's how they operated as well.


If you're interested in some lower level details this article gets into what was seen as the limitations of the technology https://www.theregister.com/2022/11/17/asx_blockchain_readin... .

It's not clear to me whether the $A250M was the direct costs to the Exchange (ie invoices + ASX staff time) or the value which the Exchange was carrying the software on their books at ?


> It's not clear to me whether the $A250M was the direct costs to the Exchange (ie invoices + ASX staff time) or the value which the Exchange was carrying the software on their books at ?

They are the same thing. The wage, service and material costs through development are capitalised as an intangible asset. (Essentially the attributable development costs become the value of the asset.) This intangible asset just got written down to zero as it was accessed as having zero future economic return.


I'm not an accountant ... but is this always true ? Isn't the software that underlies a Stock Exchange looked upon in the same way that, say, the brand value is ? If the development that has now been abandoned had turned out to be raging success wouldn't this have increased the value of the ASX ? And, in that case, wouldn't that software be treated as something which partially constituted the value of the ASX in the same way that patents held by ASX would have a value ?

As I say I'm not an accountant ;-)


Blockchain is not needed where one server suffices.


But then it’s not decentralized, which is bad, because decentralized is good, even if all the decentralized infrastructure is entirely owned, controlled and modified by a central entity unilaterally on a whim.


A Stock Exchange is the antithesis of a distributed system. The reason they exist is so it's a central place where everyone goes to buy and sell and the prices are public and fair. And a clearing house is by its nature a centralised system (A owes B $100, B owes C $100, so A gives C $100)

That's why the majority of crypto is bought and sold at crypto exchanges rather than on the blockchain.


Mirror the DB across two servers, boom decentralized achievement unlocked


The ASX is already centralised.


you don't need a blockchain to decentralise anything. blockchain only makes sense in a case where there is no central authority.


It's not needed for any legal business.


Speculating against the national currency is legal business. And blockchain affords the existence of cryptocurrency, which is one way of doing it.


I wonder why Australia even bothered. They have instant bank transfers, so it's not like the tech to do shit instantly, on scale doesn't exist.


So we are basically back to SQL servers for data storage.

All other hypes are dead. 20 years.


Monolithic Mainframes are definitely the hip and trendy thing.

You can run a ridiculously large business off a monolithic RDBMS.


SQL servers with JSON support that is ;D


SQL, JSON … as if the pragmatic standards that let people get shit done eventually and quietly eat the world.


ASX is the Australian Stock Exchange.


And Chess is the "clearing and settlement system".


Clearing House Electronic Subregister System

https://www.commsec.com.au/support/help-centre/About-the-sha...


Where does the "H" in CHESS come from, then?


Clearing House Electronic Sub-register System

https://www2.asx.com.au/about/regulation/clearing-and-settle...


This definitely feels like a backronym.


But how will this centralised and trusted authority maintain a list of who owns what now? A database??


Someone has made a lot money without having to deliver anything. Maybe they should modernise, rather than chasing buzzwords.


At my bank, if I buy stock, it takes 5 days to clear/settle. Guess they do it by hand haha.


In my experience, CHESS takes 2-3 business days.


The settlement cycle for cash equities in Australia is trade date plus two business days (T+2) from trade.

The settlement cycle for the NYSE is two business days after the day the order executes, or T+2 NADAQ T+2 settlement cycle, etc. etc. etc.

Thats how it is meant to be.


> Accenture highlighted governance flaws on both the ASX and delivery partner sides, including “inefficiencies in the delivery lifecycle through to testing, with siloed execution and reporting resulting in misaligned views of status on delivery progress, risks and issues.”

They should have used blockchain - put your daily status and reporting on a blockchain and have it visible to everyone in a decentralized manner. No more silos or misaligned views. This is one of the many problems that blockchain solves.


I see this as another example of a failed migration project that focuses on non-functional requirements of the system, at the expense of functional requirements.

Time and time again we see the same result in projects costing taxpayers or shareholders millions. There seems to be no shortage of those (at every level) ready to believe that one can just apply some “technologies” to very complex legacy systems that will result in something new and effective.


A couple of years back I remember receiving a recruitment offer to come build this. I both declined and laughed about it.


Yes, but you missed a chance to get paid a lot of money and not have to produce anything in the end except buzzwords and TPS reports. Like everyone else involved. That $250M didn't just evaporate, you know.


Blockchain coolaid and little more. Bought by non tech people who have no understanding of the technology whatsoever


Accenture being useful


Of course Accenture didn't like it. It was internally managed with no involvement of them or a peer consultancy and thus must be condemned with fire, unsuccessful or not.

Expect Accenture and those peers to be first in line for slices of future ASX pies.


Accenture was brought in to justify the decision that was already made to kill the project, because the internal management didn't have the confidence to make and sell their own decisions.

And this isn't the first time. A few years ago, ASX ran a massive project to replace the matching engines for all their exchanges. After burning a large pile of money, it too blew up, and they abandoned the whole idea.

But everyone involved fails up and out with their careers and bonuses intact, so ... she'll be right, mate. No worries.


> The report estimated the application software for the new system is still only 63 per cent complete

I wonder how they came up with this oddly specific number.


It says in the report. It comes from JIRA.


Where did the money go??

Seems like the delivery partners were:

* Digital Asset’s Daml smart contract development capability

* VMware’s DLT (blockchain) platform

Does anyone have any information about those?


https://blog.digitalasset.com/news/afr-asx-blockchain-to-go-...

https://blog.digitalasset.com/press-release/asx-digital-asse...

I wonder if ASX was project managing this internally or just throwing poorly thought out requirements over the fence.


excellent news.


Ultimately, yes. It was a stupid idea from the start.

With any luck, the replacement program for the replacement program is a little more focused on reality, but ... I wouldn't hold my breath.


Ya great


Blockchain is a valid solution for fast settlement clearing between market participants. JPM and Visa have already proven it their private blockchains. NASDAQ among others are experimenting with their own private blockchains.

JPM use of their own Onyx blockchain makes the repo market far more efficient: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-10/jpmorgan-...

Visa B2B Connect for global payments: https://developer.visa.com/capabilities/vba

I get it, blockchain makes for a flashy clickbait headline. There are bigger problems in the project than the selection of blockchain as a solution.

- Project was 63% with an uncertain timeline to completion. That alone is a red flag for any enterprise project.

- The teams involved weren't communicating with each other resulting in confusion. aka "misaligned views".

- When it comes to scalability, there is no way to rate limit participants, so they could screw the system given it couldn't process more than 100k transactions (not sure what rate since it is unspecified).

There are multitude of issues that justify canning the project.

For those unaware ASX used VMWare's DLT blockchain: https://www.vmware.com/welcome/asx.html. There's nothing "scammy" about it.

I'm unsure of why people in the comments here are still confused between cryptocurrency and blockchain especially since they have distinct names. If you're gonna point out incompetence, you have to realize your own faults as well.

Anyone who claims to have enough information to make a determination about blockchain tech being the cripple here doesn't have the information required to make it given the problems pointed out. There's plenty of financial industry users making use of it already.

Lots of tunnel vision below, but that's unsurprising given the hate against crypto (which people below often confuse with blockchain). I remember the same bias against K/V dbs (NoSQL). People would blame the tech choice rather than the circumstances. It's easier for certain types to blame tech for everything then hail it when the project succeeds even though it was only one part of the equation.


A blockchain is an immutable distributed ledger with extreme zero-trust computational overheads to appending entries, whose entire history is stored on ever instance.

If you see this from an CSci (data structures & algs) pov, you can quickly see it's a extremely niche academic solution to a problem almost no one outside academia could plausibly be interested in.

A blockchain is not a "valid solution for fast..." anything. It's practically useless machine-trust guarantees impose impractical overheads for almost every basic operation.

Any one claiming blockchain is a plausible solution to almost any technical problem is profoundly mislead.


> Blockchain is a valid solution for fast settlement clearing especially between market participants. JPM and Visa have already proven it their private blockchains.

Now, have they? I was surprised to hear this because I was under the impression that blockchain is generally useless in an environment where the participants can trust each other. I searched for "visa jp morgan blockchain" and found these:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/emilymason/2022/10/11/jp-morgan...

https://www.finextra.com/newsarticle/41102/jpmorgan-and-visa...

It seems that JP Morgan is offering a service called "Confirm" to validate account numbers, which Visa is using. This service is apparently offered on a blockchain. But nowhere does it say that these companies would be using a blockchain to actually settle real transactions. And it indeed seems a service to validate account numbers could just as well be offered with a more traditional API, like HTTP/JSON, instead of blockchain.


All the big banks have projects like these. As soon as the hype fades and the CIOs can stop telling their board "yes we're investing in blockchain", the projects will be cancelled.


But the problem still remains that there are almost always ways of doing anything that these ‘private blockchains’ do without a blockchain, that often work better…

This was one of those times.


Yep, the question is really why do they need blockchain in the first place? But I do agree that there was no better way to burn that $250M.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K_Foundation_Burn_a_Million_Qu...

Do that 250 * AUD/GBP rate times.

edit: shit forgot to adjust for 28 years of inflation


> Project was 63% with an uncertain timeline to completion. That alone is a red flag for any enterprise project.

This is in my opinion rather a good sign instead of a red flag:

If one is honest, nearly every enterprise software project is something like this. It is rather that nearly all managers are not honest, but pretend that everything is under control and tell you of some fictional timeline for completion.

The fact that they openly admit the state and the uncertainty to completion is to me thus rather a good sign that the stakeholder are much more honest than is common in such projects.


You're mixing up cause and effect. When you make terrible architectural choices, it leads to the other problems you mention. You can't build a house on quicksand, no matter how well your views are aligned, or how certain you think your timelines are.




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