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Gearing Up For Grid

Financial advisers at Charles Schwab will notice a substantial improvement in their real-time retirement planning tool. That's because retirement-scenario calculations that used to take many minutes to compute are now completed in seconds thanks to a change in the way the firm has designed its computing infrastructure.

"It had been very, very difficult to get an acceptable turnaround in calculations," says David Dibble, executive vice president of technology services at Schwab. That's because it's "highly compute intensive" and the complex Monte Carlo simulations generated by the system required major computing power. It was a delay that held up advisers and left clients waiting.

So Dibble looked for a solution and decided to make the retirement tool part of his firm's first foray into grid computing, where clusters of computers are linked to tackle tasks that require heavy computing power. It allows firms to tap into their excess computing power in servers or systems that are idle or not being maximized.

The Grid Advantage

  • Running several trade scenarios in parallel, enabling more sophisticated analysis in a shorter timeframe
  • Working in a heterogeneous environment and taking advantage of different operating systems and hardware
  • Adding processing power quickly and easily
  • Using the grid infrastructure for a variety of analytical functions
  • Scheduling jobs and restarting operations more easily
  • Better use of resources
  • Working with IBM last year, Dibble built a prototype that confirmed a grid model would speed up the task tenfold. "That speed translates into a much more satisfying customer experience," he says. Moreover, it played into Schwab's business strategy as the firm is making a push to provide advice for its customers. Part of that strategy includes using technology to make advice scalable. By making advice scalable, Schwab hopes to avoid the need to "hire an army of brokers," he says. The goal is to mix high-tech and high-touch solutions to allow advisers to better serve clients.

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