Deutsche Börse takes to the skies

Life is tough for market operators. As brokers continue to look more like exchanges, and multilateral trading facilities prove they can match (or overtake, in the case of Chi-X Europe) the scale of the region's largest incumbents, the big players like Deutsche Börse have to position themselves as leaders of innovation to drive growth.

Late last year, Deutsche Börse's chief Rito Francioni outlined the firm's plans to seek growth for the company in Asia and Latin America, but what he didn't mention was expanding into the ether. The cloud, as we've come to realise, is the future, and last week the German market operator planted its flag in the white gaseous world that has come to represent the next step for modern computing.

From 2014, Deutsche Börse will operate an exchange dealing in IT facilities - a market where participants buy and sell space and capacity on companies' cloud networks - in the Börse's own words, "A trading venue for outsourced storage and computing capacity - so called 'cloud computing' resources".

Deutsche Börse believes the primary users of the venue will be companies, public sector agencies and organisations such as research institutes that need additional storage and computing resources, or have excess capacity to offer the market.

While this isn't a wholesale commodification of the cloud, the move does appear an outward lurch in that direction. Deutsche may be positioning itself as a gatekeeper to a newer, more harmonised world of shared computing resources, but it also signals a wider trend for the firm as it sits among its peers.

Deutshce Borse-owned derivatives venue and clearing house Eurex has in recent months unveiled a spate of link-ups with venues in Russia and China, to share trading in certain instruments or list new indices, as it attempts to modernise. The cloud venture, however, suggests market operating giants like Deutsche Börse have a new propensity to leverage experience and infrastructure in trading to pursue new revenue streams as competition in their core businesses becomes further crowded and regulation ever-tighter, squeezing profits.