Supercomputers Stalk Wall Street

IBM is batting its eyelashes at the financial sector with its BlueGene/L supercomputer

April 22, 2005

2 Min Read
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Supercomputers, which have traditionally been associated with the likes of NASA and Los Alamos National Lab, are now being touted as a solution for Wall Street data centers.

Speaking at this weeks Linux on Wall Street conference, Leonard Santalucia, a specialist from IBM Corp.'s (NYSE: IBM) eServer Linux impact team, explained how the hardware giant is targeting its 360-TeraFlop BlueGene/L at the financial sector.

Supercomputers conjure up images of rooms chock-full of hardware, although Santalucia says the BlueGene/L has a much smaller footprint than is usual in high-performance computing. “It could sit on this small stage,” he said, during a presentation at the Roosevelt Hotel, gesturing to an area of around 300 hundred square feet.

”You will be able to swallow up a lot of your clusters with this guy,” he added.

Space is a major concern in data centers at the moment, as IT managers struggle to fit new IT kit into increasingly cramped spaces. This situation, in turn, brings with it additional pressures around power supplies and cooling (see Afcom Chief: Watch for Hot Air ).BlueGene/L hit the headlines late last year when the U.S. Department of Energy won top spot in the top 500 list of global supercomputers, dislodging Japan’s Earth Simulator from the pole position (see US Reclaims Supercomputing Crown).

IBM is now fluttering its eyelashes in the direction of the wallets on Wall Street. “We have already been to about five financial services companies,” says Santalucia. However, he admits that no companies have, as yet, signed on the dotted line.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based firm will also be moving a BlueGene/L from its Yorktown research labs in upstate New York to its Linux Competency Center in Manhattan. “[This is] to be closer to the Wall Street firms so that they can try it,” says Santalucia.

But Jeff Teisch, senior vice president at Brown Brothers Harriman told NDCF that the BlueGene/L could offer more power than is actually needed by many firms. “It would be a company with high transaction demands that would need it,” he says.

Teisch adds that not all firms on Wall Street, his own included, need to deal with sufficiently high transaction levels.Deborah Williams, group vice president of analyst firm Financial Insights agrees. “You have to think about what’s appropriate,” she says. “You don’t want to take a cannon where a mouse trap will do.”

At the moment, Williams adds, there are more grid computing and blade server implementations on Wall Street than “big hardware.”

Currently, there are only a handful of financial institutions even listed in the top 100 of the supercomputer list. These include Credit Suisse First Boston Corp. in the U.K. and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well some unnamed European banks. All of these rely on Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) processor-based blade servers from IBM.

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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