Covalence

Let's Share

The Sky is Falling. Get Skinny

As oil prices approach 18-year lows, companies around the globe are already beginning to feel the squeeze. Everyone we talk to points to corporate spending freezes and cost-cutting.

Bob Ronin, previously SVP at Fidelity Investments, writes on CIO.com that one of his top tips for reducing IT cost is to move to the cloud. "Storage and hardware no longer need to be on-site and the cost of renting can be much lower than the cost of owning as resources are only used when needed."

If history is a predictor of what to expect during the current dip in the economy, we'll see an immediate spending freeze followed by drastic moves to cut costs. The difference during this COVID crisis is that many of us are working from home and scrambling to make sense of what's to come.

So, what can you do now?

  1. Challenge the way you have been doing business and identify opportunities to update your processes and technology so that they better match today’s business environment.
  2. If any of your large expenses are IT platforms, determine whether you can replace them with cloud-based software. Working from home provides a great opportunity to do high-concentration tasks, like evaluating tools.
  3. Gather pricing, deal length, and contract terms for the products you currently use.
  4. Regroup internally for feedback and round-table idea sharing.
  5. Be ready to move swiftly when asked to make a change.

If you believe your department will be asked to cut costs in the coming months, now is the best time to prepare. Evaluate your options while you have an extra hour or two (since we temporarily do not have a commute).

If your company trades commodities and uses an expensive on-premise legacy system for deal-capture and risk management, we're ready to help. As ETRMs go, we deliver value by providing fairly-priced, modern software that automates your life, without the implementation & transition costs you usually see in our industry. Further, in these unpredictable times, a system backed by a team that's always remote, can provide support and reliability that nobody else can.

The sky may be falling, but Molecule is still working, as are many other companies across various industries that can help you get lean before it’s even time to migrate back to the office.

Stay healthy and safe. We're here if we can ever be of help.

Getting StartedCost Savings

Introducing Molecule M.Functions​

Overview

Much has been said about micro-services over the last year and I wanted to find out for myself what the fuss was all about. At Molecule, we needed a way to augment our main application with supporting functions and services, and I figured it was time to give micro-services a shot. I looked at several open source technologies that promised to provide an easy-to-use micro-services platform. We ultimately landed on Knative given the strong community support around the technology and how the technology met our needs.

I used the following as guiding principles for evaluating the various micro-services technologies:

  1. Strong community support
  2. Integrates with our GitLab and Kubernetes Continuous Integration(CI)/Continuous Delivery(CD) tooling
  3. Supports our primary use cases
  4. Extends to our customers

Strong Community Support

As with any open source technology, strong community support is a must-have. Even if it's great tech, but does not have a good developer community supporting the technology, best to look for something else. In Knative's case, there is active community support on GitHub and a thriving Slack community. And of course, Google is behind the technology.​

Integrates With Our Existing CI/CD Tooling

It was important for me to not add yet another tool to our engineering workflow and to ensure we can leverage our existing CI/CD tooling. We were already heavy users of GitLab for our source code management and Docker image registry as well as AWS EKS (Kubernetes) to run the Molecule app. Our chosen micro-services platform needed to work within our current infrastructure.

To run our Knative instance, I ended up creating a separate AWS EKS cluster from our main production cluster to allow us to more easily upgrade our Knative cluster as needed and to avoid any unintended consequences to our production cluster. The following components are installed in the EKS Knative cluster:

  1. Knative Serving and Eventing
  2. Istio
  3. Kafka (as a messaging provider)

The Knative cluster consists of two primary namespaces, molecule-functions-dev for services under development and testing and molecule-functions that are serving production workloads. In GitLab, each function is a separate project with an accompanying .gitlab-ci.yml file to manage the build of the service and the auto-deployment to the appropriate namespace in the K8s cluster. When a change to a function is merged to the master code branch, the Knative service is built and auto-deployed to the molecule-functions-dev namespace. When a tag is applied to a function, the Knative service is auto-deployed to the molecule-functions namespace. Included in the build and deployment is the K8s service.yaml file which describes the service and any supporting deployments such as a cronjob.yaml, if one is required for scheduled services.

With this approach, our developers as well as our customer success team can live in their favorite IDE, and easily develop, maintain, and deploy scalable Knative services simply by committing and tagging code in GitLab.​

Supports Our Primary Use-Cases

At Molecule, our chosen micro-services platform needed to support the following use-cases:

  1. Can it run on a schedule?
  2. Can it be executed on-demand?
  3. Does it support messaging?
  4. Can it scale?

On a Schedule

We have multiple instances where we need to run a function on a schedule to allow our customer success team or our development team to execute routine functions that allow us to maintain the health of the Molecule app. Knative's CronJobSource provides a straight forward mechanism to schedule these routine functions. Examples of routine scheduled functions include data integrity checks, cleaning up obsolete log data, and nightly resetting our alerting system.

On-Demand

To help extend the core Molecule application, our services needed to be reachable from the Molecule app that would allow us to execute custom services that we develop on behalf of our customers or services that we want to run outside of our production cluster. For example, our asset valuation module can call external services either hosted by our customers or hosted by us that returns custom valuation data to Molecule. These services can now run in our Knative cluster allowing us to scale these services as needed.

Message Based

Guaranteed and reliable messaging is critical to any enterprise system, particularly commodity trading and risk management systems like Molecule. We reliably utilize messaging today within our core Molecule app to scale our back-end processes; however, we also have a need to utilize messaging outside of our core app to support business critical functions on behalf our customers. For example, our batch reporting functionality relies on messaging to distribute the creation and publication of batch reports (e.g. trade confirms) to our customers. In our Knative cluster, we utilize Kafka as a guaranteed message transport to ensure a message reaches its destination and performs the intended function.

Scalable

Scalability is another critical component of a good micro-services architecture that supports the scaling of services to meet demand as well as scaling to zero for non-critical services that can tolerate a cold start. Knative supports this requirements nicely by allowing us to set scaling parameters at a per service level supporting scaling to 0, setting a default number of always-on service replicas to respond to normal demand, and setting max scaling levels to control the workload in peek demand.​

Extends to Our Customers

A primary reason for adding a micro-services based approach to our ecosystem is to better support our customers and to provide them with the functionality that is required to do their business without having to resort to core application changes. As stated above, our Knative cluster allows us to quickly and easily develop, deploy, and scale business critical services to augment our core application and also enables us to better serve our customers. This platform also positions us to provide future services to our customers such as our customers running their own developed and managed services in our managed Knative cluster to further extend their use of Molecule.

Conclusion

With all the benefits and capabilities of a micro-services platform outlined above, we have embraced micro-services as an extension to our platform and we are now referring to this collected set of capabilities as Molecule's m.functions.

SoftwareFeatures

2019 In Review

Molecule is always evolving, and it’s really fun for us to look backwards every so often, just to see how far we’ve come. It’s easy for us to forget all the cool new features we’ve added over the course of 525,600 minutes. Hopefully, our work made your daily work just a little bit easier!

Here are some of the things we made this year:

New Trades Screen

After lots of customer feedback and tons of research & development, we launched a new Trades screen. On it, you can now pick the columns you want to see, sort and filter, create saved views for different types of trades, and much more.

It looks fantastic, too — and performs like crazy. Underlying it is a brand new front-end framework and an awesome grid that we plan to continue upgrading. If you don’t have access to it already, just ask your Admin.

New API

Our new v2 API began rolling out last year, and we completed the rollout late this year. Using it, users can do a million and one things, including:

  • Connect Molecule to Excel PowerQuery or Microsoft PowerBI for powerful, even mobile analytics.
  • Stitch another system to Molecule to send or retrieve trades, market data, valuations, or even VaR details.
  • Set up your master data in Molecule, and manage it.
  • Get pretty much any data out of Molecule you want.

Moreover, our new screens (like the Trades screen) use it, too — so we’ll be adding new features to it and improving it all the time. If you haven’t used it yet, documentation for our new API is at https://developer.molecule.io. (The documentation password can be obtained from our CS team.)

VaR out of Beta/Backtest

Our long-maturing VaR finally came out of Beta this year. It’s stable, it’s been running on multiple different portfolios for months, and it’s FAST. We also rolled out a visual backtest — to prove that it’s generally right.

Much Better Hourly (and sub-hourly) Power Model

Molecule began with a focus on power and then expanded to other commodities. This year, we upgraded our power capabilities to better model hourly (and even 15-minute) power — without shoving hours into product names, but by attaching intervals to contract dates system-wide and across all major integrations.

We rolled out the first of the power upgrades at the end of December, and plan to have all accounts migrated to our new model by the end of Q1 2020.

Self-Administration

A common customer request is to bypass our Customer Success team and allow users to self-manage things like master data and user access. We rolled out the first of the screens to manage this — our new Counterparties screen — this year. We plan to add much more in terms of self-administration capability in 2020.

Consumable & Inventory Trades, Logistics Preview

Early in 2019, we began sharing our physical logistics preview. We’ve been taking on board lots of great feedback—to iterate on it so that we get it right. New enhancements now include “consumable” trades, for things like transportation, RECs, RINs, and “inventory” assets, which allow for multiple buckets of inventory valued in a custom way.

Wrap Up

We made a whole lot more — over 550 improvements, big and small, to Molecule this year. All while improving reliability to 99.98% (less than 1 hour of unscheduled downtime), and improving general performance as well.

We’re equally excited about the things we have planned for next year: from single sign-on, to user-feedback-driven upgrades for many of our screens, and even more features related to self-administration and quality assurance.

Thank you for using Molecule (or just following our progress). We hope we’ll blow your socks off next year.

Love,
The Molecule Team

Features

Celebrating National Read A Book Day

We love tech at Molecule. We love to create it, show it, and read about it. But, because we are actual human beings, we read about lots of other stuff, too. One of the most recommended podcasts around our office is LeVar Burton Reads, in which LeVar reads you a short story – just like he used to do on Reading Rainbow.

Along those lines, September 6th is National Read A Book Day. Sometimes finding a good book to read can take quite a bit of searching, so we surveyed our team and came up with some suggestions in case you want to celebrate.

Here are our top picks:

Megan Farley

I feel like I should recommend something of substance, but I'm going with Caverns & Creatures because it made me cry from laughing so hard. Or Off To Be The Wizard....again, because it made me cry from laughing so hard — or Will Save The Galaxy For Food.

Sameer Soleja

Haroun and the Sea of Stories, by Salman Rushdie — it’s a magical book (imagine Alice in Wonderland, but with flying carpets). It’s a quick and inspirational read, and Rushdie’s language — English, but with a little Bombay lilt — reminds me of my mom.

Richard Reedstrom

The Outsider by Stephen King is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read recently. It embodies everything I love about Stephen King, and the book gives a fulfilling end to the Mercedes Killer trilogy. I also just started 1984 by George Orwell. It's been years since I read it, and it's interesting to re-read from a different perspective.

Bala Raghavan

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It is a funny, geeky guide that answers the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.

Syed Sohaib

Confessions of an Economic Hitman is not my favorite book, but I definitely recommend it. It's a very interesting take on global historical events and corruption.

Luke Kramer

Rhinoceros Success: the Secret to Charging Full Speed toward Every Opportunity. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “we become the product of three things: the people we associate with, the books we read, and the media we listen to.”

Personally, my go-to is anything from The Dark Tower series. However, the latest book I read was The Nix by Nathan Hill. It kept my attention much like Freedom (Jonathan Franzen) did and with a similar tone. When I finished The Nix, I wished there was more to read.

We hope you find a book you like on National Read A Book Day - from this list, or anywhere you like to find a good read. I like several books from this list, "but you don't have to take my word for it."

Holidays

What We Value

Today, we're launching a campaign that's been in the works for some time. I'm super proud of it because it speaks precisely to what we, at Molecule, do. We're calling it "What we Value Runs the World."

Here's what we mean by that:

  • Molecule (our software) values, like, everything. It's handles commodities you've never even heard of, like terephthalic acid – and instruments that are hard to grok, like an option on a cal strip of off-peak power monthlies. We've valued power plants and wind farms, and we are evaluating NGL and battery storage models.
  • What our customers trade represents (and sometimes literally is) the infrastructure of the world. It's how we get electricity to our homes. It's how our automobiles run. It's the least-understood, most important set of assets in our civilization.
  • Our customers mean a lot to us – obviously, we use their input to shape our product. But we also value them and their opinions and needs. They, in turn, run the infrastructure that runs the world. More importantly, we value our customers' time. We want them to go home early, so they don't always have to run the world. (I know this sounds trite, but it's what we believe – and from my perspective, not every company in our industry feels the same way.)
  • We're really proud of our employees, contractors, and the values we share. Our people and our software embody those values – and they help the people, who run the infrastructure, that...you get the idea.

So WWVRTW, as we've taken to calling it, is a quadruple entendre! Our new campaign features real people we know – and highlights all the weird and wonderful things Molecule (our software, our team, and our company) values. We hope you love it as much as we do.

Values