Supercomputers for Finance: A New Challenge

By Julian Fielden

February 29, 2008

According to analyst group IDC, revenue for the overall supercomputing market grew a full 18 percent compared to the same period last year, to reach $3.0 billion in the third quarter of 2007.

Growth of this scale is the result of several factors:

  • In the university market, the traditional home of the supercomputer, growth is driven by increasing budgets swelled by European coffers, investment and knowledge partnerships with private firms and larger aggregated UK university and college department budgets.
  • In mainstream markets, growth is driven by a need for competitive advantage, efficiency and productivity gains and to some extent, Microsoft’s recently launched Compute Cluster Server broadening the market and encouraging widespread adoption of supercomputing technologies.

By any measure, finance is one of the strongest growth sectors for supercomputers, driven by ever increasing data volumes, greater data complexity and significantly more challenging data analysis — a key outcome from greater competition and regulation (through BASEL I, BASEL II, and Sarbanes-Oxley for example).

Financial organisations use the power and performance of supercomputers in a variety of ways:

  • Portfolio optimisation – to run models and optimise thousands of individual portfolios overnight based on the previous day’s trading results.
  • Valuation of financial derivatives — A re-insurance firm, for example, may need to value and compute hedge strategies for hundreds of thousands of policy holders in its portfolio.
  • Detection of credit card fraud – supercomputers enable a bank to easily run more fraud detection algorithms against tens of millions of credit card accounts.
  • Hedge fund trading — supercomputers allow for faster reaction time to market conditions, enabling analysts to evaluate more sophisticated algorithms that take into account larger data sets.

Today, financial organisations are aiming to increase the computational power and performance at their disposal in one of three ways.

Some financial organisations will work directly with universities and colleges to draw on the power and performance of their academic supercomputers.

For example, a financial analysis firm called CD02 has recently teamed-up with The Department of Computing at Surrey University on a three-year bid to look at ways to develop better pricing and risk analysis technology, which will ultimately help banks, hedge funds and investment outfits to trade in a financial instrument called a collateralised debt obligation, or CDO. This project, sponsored by the former DTI, centres on the power of the supercomputer to model huge problem spaces and simulations to explore very complex risk analysis — but is just one of the things the cluster will be used for.

Alternatively, for other financial organisations the supercomputer requirement will be met by new implementations — within their own organisations — using the very latest technology providing maximum power and performance. It generally depends on the types of applications running, but many financial organisations are turning to cluster-based supercomputers using low cost blade servers.

Lastly, for “early supercomputer adopters,” an increase in computational power and performance will not come from new implementations or working in partnership with universities and colleges, but from driving greater efficiencies from existing third and fourth generation supercomputer implementations.

All approaches will demand greater storage capacity and instant storage scalability to keep pace with data generation and ensure storage does not become an innovation bottleneck.

In fact, IDC predicts in 2008 the average worldwide growth for the supercomputing storage market will actually be higher than for servers, about 11 percent. IDC expects the market for HPC storage to reach about $4.8 billion in 2008 (2006: $3.8 billion).

Working directly with universities and colleges aside, implementing a new supercomputer or aiming gain efficiencies from existing supercomputer implementations, is not without problems.

Super Problems

IT managers responsible for supercomputer implementations already operational in financial organisations are often faced with piece-meal implementations created by generations of predecessors each adding their own features and functionality to the overall supercomputer. This can include a mix of hardware, a plethora of in-house developed code running on old operating systems and a selection of proprietary applications and other software.

IT managers are also being held back by the management and structure of their data centres – as it becomes clear that there is not a limitless supply of energy, space and budgets to run an efficient data centre. For example, plugging yet another server into the datacentre is no longer an option for companies operating in Canary Wharf, where companies are facing major difficulties securing extra power.

Although some companies are currently unaffected by power shortages, the cost of powering and cooling a data centre is becoming a pressing concern. A study published by consultancy BroadGroup found that the average energy bill to run a corporate data centre in the UK is about £5.3m per year and will double to £11m over five years.

Data centres capable of hosting a supercomputer must also be able to take heat away from the site – increasingly fewer and fewer buildings can cope. And, most importantly, there is simply no space available in London — our financial capital — for expanding data centres. While there are old factories elsewhere in the country, there are limitations on their use for new facilities.

From a storage perspective, as Moore’s law continues to ramp up processor speed, the storage bottleneck is becoming more pronounced to the end users. In many cases, IT managers have been burdened with conventional storage technologies that require customisation before they can be effectively applied in supercomputing environments. And, even then, it does not mean the technology is fully capable of meeting supercomputing performance, accessibility, capacity and availability requirements.

Finally, as data centre managers look to provide an IT infrastructure that can cost-effectively scale to meet rapidly changing business requirements, they are also evaluating switching and interconnect technology and realising, in many cases, whilst servers and storage may be suitable, the data transport mechanism between each is lagging behind.

Solution

For financial organisations either undertaking a new implementation or aiming to optimise an existing implementation, it is essential to take some precautionary steps:

1. Prepare and plan properly

Financial organisations must analyse and build a plan that considers current and future needs of the supercomputer in terms of power, cooling, space, effects on the environment, costs and management.

Naturally, it is equally important to consider user requirements for the supercomputer, including the need for future scalability and upgrades.

2. Select a qualified integrator

Financial organisations should look for a specialist supercomputer integrator, one that demonstrates grade one credentials in the delivery of a supercomputing project. The following factors should always be taken into consideration:

Understand the customer. Supercomputer integrators must demonstrate a thorough understanding of their customers’ markets. Integrators must be able to understand what customers are trying to achieve, why their research or project is important and why they are trying to do it in that way.

Demonstrate history. As budgets grow and aggregate, customers are more wary and cautious of investment. Customers are looking for integrators with experience, a history and proven track record in delivering supercomputer solutions.

Hardware vendor relationship. In many instances, supercomputer solutions built for customers are firsts, fastest, largest and often unique. Some integrators will ‘play one hardware vendor off against the other’, or propose solutions based on hardware outside of the traditional Tier 1 manufacturers. However, when you’re working on the leading edge, problems can occur so it is essential for customers to know that integrators have a close and long-term relationship with the primary hardware supplier.

The HPC ecosystem. A single IT vendor cannot always supply the whole supercomputer solution – server, storage, interconnect, operating system, applications, etc. Customers therefore need a well connected integrator that can call on existing technology partner relationships to enhance solutions from the primary hardware vendor.

Technology innovation. Customers look to integrators to provide solutions based on the best technology available. Integrators must therefore react to technology innovation quickly.

Protect the environment. Environmentally conscious customers will be looking for integrators that can meet not just their computing needs, but also their green needs and this means designing more complex solutions; for example using larger numbers of lower powered processors or vastly improved efficiency using virtualisation technology.

3. Make best use of technology

For any financial organisation looking to gain maximum power and performance from a new supercomputer server implementation (cost effectively) they should avoid proprietary hardware, which a manufacturer might choose to drop.

Servers

For server performance, it is also common sense for financial organisations to purchase blade server technology, which can use up to 50 percent less floor space in a data centre and up to 58 percent less energy than traditional servers.

For existing implementations, financial organisations should look for software, such as products from vendor Cluster Resources, that will help drive efficiencies and performance from existing cluster operations.

Software

The software can take full responsibility for scheduling, managing, monitoring and reporting of cluster workloads, maximising job throughput.

Storage

New supercomputers have a pick of storage technologies: RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks), SAN (Storage Area Network), NAS (Network Attached Storage), HSM (Hierarchical Storage Management), tape libraries and silos.

Perhaps more important than the choice of storage hardware, financial organisations should introduce a scalable, high performance file system with Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) capabilities, such as IBM’s General Parallel File System (GPFS), to keep up with the demands of real time data processing.

GPFS enables additional storage capacity and performance to be added and operational in minutes with no interruption to users or applications, scaling to multiple petabytes with hundreds of gigabytes per second performance. Once the data has been processed, it can be seamlessly relocated to lower cost storage for archiving, providing the financial organisations with a single easy-to-manage pool of resources.

Interconnect

IT managers should also carefully consider switching and interconnect technology. Currently, an interconnect battle rages between InfiniBand and 10 GigE. IDC expects the use of both of these high-speed interconnect technologies to grow.

A pervasive, low-latency, high-bandwidth interconnect, Infiniband is backed by a steering committee made up of the world’s leading IT vendors, and is expected to win the battle.

Management

There are not many IT departments that have in-depth knowledge and experience of supercomputer systems. Without assistance from external suppliers it can take considerably longer to get equipment up and running, upgrades complete, software in place and systems configured to drive maximum power and performance.

Taking into consideration commercial confidentiality and data security, financial organisations should consider Cluster Management and Support Services — outsourced support operations — which enable financial organisations to focus all available IT department resources on non-cluster related queries and user problems.

Conclusion

Whether your financial organisation is aiming for a new implementation or to drive efficiency from an existing implementation, whether you have legacy problems or a green field site, one thing is certain: financial organisations can use the power and performance of a supercomputer to help deliver the most accurate, comprehensive and actionable intelligence, providing that all important competitive advantage.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

HPC Career Notes: July 2020 Edition

July 1, 2020

In this monthly feature, we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it's a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we've got Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

Supercomputers Enable Radical, Promising New COVID-19 Drug Development Approach

July 1, 2020

Around the world, innumerable supercomputers are sifting through billions of molecules in a desperate search for a viable therapeutic to treat COVID-19. Those molecules are pulled from enormous databases of known compoun Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC-Powered Simulations Reveal a Looming Climatic Threat to Vital Monsoon Seasons

June 30, 2020

As June draws to a close, eyes are turning to the latter half of the year – and with it, the monsoon and hurricane seasons that can prove vital or devastating for many of the world’s coastal communities. Now, climate Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This year is no different though the conversion of ISC to a digital Read more…

By John Russell

What’s New in HPC Research: Mosquitoes, [email protected], the Last Journey & More

June 29, 2020

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Maxar Builds HPC on AWS to Deliver Forecasts 58% Faster Than Weather Supercomputer

When weather threatens drilling rigs, refineries, and other energy facilities, oil and gas companies want to move fast to protect personnel and equipment. And for firms that trade commodity shares in oil, precious metals, crops, and livestock, the weather can significantly impact their buy-sell decisions. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Recent U.S. events, most poignantly the killing of George Floy Read more…

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2020 Keynote: Hope for the Future, Praise for Fugaku and HPC’s Pandemic Response

June 24, 2020

In stark contrast to past years Thomas Sterling’s ISC20 keynote today struck a more somber note with the COVID-19 pandemic as the central character in Sterling’s annual review of worldwide trends in HPC. Better known for his engaging manner and occasional willingness to poke prickly egos, Sterling instead strode through the numbing statistics associated... Read more…

By John Russell

ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hoefler’s Whirlwind ISC20 Virtual Tour of ML Trends in 9 Slides

June 23, 2020

The ISC20 experience this year via livestreaming and pre-recordings is interesting and perhaps a bit odd. That said presenters’ efforts to condense their comments makes for economic use of your time. Torsten Hoefler’s whirlwind 12-minute tour of ML is a great example. Hoefler, leader of the planned ISC20 Machine Learning... Read more…

By John Russell

At ISC, the Fight Against COVID-19 Took the Stage – and Yes, Fugaku Was There

June 23, 2020

With over nine million infected and nearly half a million dead, the COVID-19 pandemic has seized the world’s attention for several months. It has also dominat Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Japan’s Fugaku Tops Global Supercomputing Rankings

June 22, 2020

A new Top500 champ was unveiled today. Supercomputer Fugaku, the pride of Japan and the namesake of Mount Fuji, vaulted to the top of the 55th edition of the To Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This