CNBC Explains

The Bloomberg Terminal: CNBC Explains

Carlos Osorio | Toronto Star | Getty Images

So what exactly is the Bloomberg Terminal?

The software system from Bloomberg L.P. provides messaging, security data, analytics and news to more than 300,000 professional market participants around the world.

Many traders and investors rely on its messaging service for their main communications and even to execute trades between each other. These customers pay about $20,000 annually for the service.

Other than messaging, the top "functions" on the Bloomberg are top news stories, stock charts, and bond price analytics. There is also formal trading execution product called "Bloomberg Tradebook."

This is why an outage on April 17 actually affected market volume and caused the U.K. to postpone a debt auction. Without the messaging and data the company provides, investors didn't have the communication means or the information they typically rely on to execute trades, especially for those involved in the bond markets.

While it is known in Wall Street circles as "The Bloomberg Terminal" the company has worked over the years to change that nickname and use its official name "The Bloomberg Professional Service." This is because in the 1990's the company transitioned from a physcial terminal in offices to making it a piece of software accessible from anywhere. Traders can now even access their terminal on their smart phones using the "Bloomberg Anywhere" service.

Former New York City Mayor and Billionaire Michael Bloomberg founded the parent company Bloomberg L.P. in 1981 after taking a $10 million severance payment from Salomon Brothers. The service began as a groundbreaking trade data provider for so-called buyside investors, when at the time,the "sell-side"—made up mostly of investment banks—held the information edge.

Disclosure: Bloomberg is a competitor of CNBC in reporting and distributing business news on the web and on television.