Wall Street IT Gets the Message: More Speed, Fewer Dollars

By Dennis Barker

September 25, 2008

Do more with less and do it faster. That’s a pretty familiar order to anybody running an IT operation these days. But given the recent events in the news, no one is hearing that mandate more than people in the capital markets. At the High Performance on Wall Street conference this week, hundreds of financial services IT practitioners came looking to find ways to meet the demands of business that moves at the speed of microseconds.

The big themes of financial IT — latency, throughput and power efficiency — have intensified in the last six months, speakers and attendees at the conference generally agreed. “In the U.S. markets, what we’ve found is that tolerances have gone down by an order of magnitude,” said Peter Lankford, founding director of the Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC). “We used to trade in hundreds of milliseconds. It’s now to the point where tens of microseconds, if not microseconds, really matter.”

So, how to speed things up and stay competitive in a volatile market? How to accelerate and improve the quality of critical applications like credit risk analysis?

“It’s a software problem,” says Ambreesh Khanna, global head of financial services at Sun Microsystems. “The biggest performance problem going forward is in the software space. Software is not taking full advantage of the processors available today. We need applications that can scale across 10,000 CPUs. Writing software that can scale is the problem today.”

Microsoft might not see it as a problem, but would agree that software is the heart of the solution. Company execs were at the conference to promote their new Windows HPC Server 2008 as a way to easily deploy scalable, high-performance applications across clusters. “We’re providing seamless scalability from desktop workstation to cluster by letting users take advantage of the power of distributed computing, and in a familiar Windows environment,” said Vince Mendillo, director of the Server & Tools Business Group. The new software includes new management and administration tools that simplify configuring and deploying cluster nodes, scheduling jobs, allocating resources and monitoring system health. Advanced failover has been built in to ensure reliability, and “there’s very low latency when sending a process from one machine to another,” he said.

Ricky Higgins, director of IT at Lloyds TSB, one of the largest banking groups in the United Kingdom, said his group was able to set up a 64-node cluster in a matter of hours. “We’ve also increased the volume of transactions and reduced processing time by about 50 percent,” he said.

Microsoft isn’t just targeting financial services with this platform. Bill Laing, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Windows Server and Solutions Division, said during his keynote that the launch of the new HPC Server “is just another step in our vision to drive HPC mainstream.”

Another step toward that is a partnership with Cray, announced last week, to offer a diminutive supercomputer (smaller than a footlocker), the Cray CX1, that runs Windows HPC Server 2008. Prices start at $25,000.

Red Hat product manager Bryan Che said his company’s Enterprise MRG software, built on top of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, is going to help financial services companies by integrating high-speed messaging and grid technologies to provide faster response times and scalable resources. “Users can dynamically schedule virtual machines across heterogeneous environments, and if they run out of capacity, they can then go out to, say, the Amazon cloud,” he said.

Another Linux provider, Novell, is evolving its SUSE Linux Enterprise to meet the demands of real-time, scalable computing. One technique that will show up next year is “predictive virtualization,” said Moiz Kohari, Novell vice president of engineering for financial services. “The software will be able to predict when a task will run and how long it will run. The objective is to provide real-time guarantees to the application running in that process.”

But for every company at the conference promoting software solutions, there were two touting hardware. Superfast-server companies like IBM and Sun were showing their HPC systems, as were smaller companies like Super Micro Computer and Stratus. Others were focused on boosting application performance by eliminating communication or process bottlenecks. Voltaire, which makes the Grid Director line of 20 Gbps switches, said its Messaging Accelerator is designed for low-latency applications such as data-feed handling. Voltaire‘s products use InfiniBand technology to connect processors and I/O in high-performance environments. InfiniBand fabric enables users “to consume messages fast enough to accommodate market growth,” said Oleg Lukyanov, solutions architect at Voltaire. InfiniBand can move “very large amounts of data,” he said. “As you grow beyond hundreds of nodes, you reach scalability problems. But using InfiniBand, we can definitely deliver a thousand-node analytic farm.”

One topic in which conference attendees appeared interested — at least based on traffic at exhibitor stands, and a standing-room-only panel on the topic — is and using specialized hardware accelerators to speed up financial calculations.

“Accelerator hardware enables us to do things we couldn’t do otherwise,” said Henry Young, founder of TS-Associates, an IT services company specializing in financial middleware. “We can handle a 10-gigabit data stream through a hardware accelerator to speed up processing. You can’t compress a 10-gig stream like that with current CPU technology.”

As a result of companies developing devices “anyone can plug in and start using,” said Geno Valente, vice president of sales for Extremedata. Wall Street is now taking advantage of them. “Public exchanges are using accelerators,” he said. The benefits include faster processing of algorithms used in trading and analytics, for example, but also, in many cases, increased reliability with error detection and built-in failover capabilities.

Consolidation is another benefit, these hardware makers say. Exegy‘s acceleration and compression technology is incorporated in a ticker that “can handle all the North American market data feeds in one box instead of a dozen,” said chief architect Scott Parsons. (See it in action at marketdatapeaks.com, he noted.)

Of course, HPC is not new to Wall Street. “HPC is on Wall Street,” Valente said. “Most people have some kind of HPC in the back room, but they’re typically small Linux clusters.” Why these companies are adding accelerators, he said, is for more performance, but also because “an accelerator in a scalable form will distinguish a cluster. Otherwise, your box is the same as the other guy’s.”

Bottom Line: Bottom Line

There is no lack of potential ways to acquire the kind of performance, reliability and scalability that financial applications demand. Increasingly, however, these solutions will have to fit into shrinking budgets. As Microsoft’s Laing said during a briefing, “Financial services companies are going to have to be more efficient than ever before with their IT resources.”

At the last session of the conference, participants were asked what they thought the effects of “the recent market chaos” will be. Tighter budgets were definitely on everyone’s minds. “Changes like this force people to take a harder look at the reality of expenses and where the money is going,” said Dan McCormick, CEO of Atrato, a maker of high-speed storage systems. “Power costs have gone up 40 percent, so people have got to start asking ‘How can I get better performance in less space and for lower energy costs?'”

“These changes are based on fundamentals of the market,” Lankford of STAC said. “Things are just going to get tighter and tighter.”

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!

Infographic Highlights Career of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

December 5, 2016

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an early pioneer of computer science and one of the most famous women achievers in a field dominated by men. Read more…

By Staff

Ganthier, Turkel on the Dell EMC Road Ahead

December 5, 2016

Who is Dell EMC and why should you care? Glad you asked is Jim Ganthier’s quick response. Ganthier is SVP for validated solutions and high performance computing for the new (even bigger) technology giant Dell EMC following Dell’s acquisition of EMC in September. In this case, says Ganthier, the blending of the two companies is a 1+1 = 5 proposition. Not bad math if you can pull it off. Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Embraces FPGAs, ‘Elastic’ GPUs

December 2, 2016

A new instance type rolled out this week by Amazon Web Services is based on customizable field programmable gate arrays that promise to strike a balance between performance and cost as emerging workloads create requirements often unmet by general-purpose processors. Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Launches Massive 100 Petabyte ‘Sneakernet’

December 1, 2016

Amazon Web Services now offers a way to move data into its cloud by the truckload. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Dec. 1, 2016)

December 1, 2016

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPC Career Notes (Dec. 2016)

December 1, 2016

In this monthly feature, we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high performance computing community. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

IBM and NSF Computing Pioneer Erich Bloch Dies at 91

November 30, 2016

Erich Bloch, a computational pioneer whose competitive zeal and commercial bent helped transform the National Science Foundation while he was its director, died last Friday at age 91. Bloch was a productive force to be reckoned. During his long stint at IBM prior to joining NSF Bloch spearheaded development of the “Stretch” supercomputer and IBM’s phenomenally successful System/360. Read more…

By John Russell

Ganthier, Turkel on the Dell EMC Road Ahead

December 5, 2016

Who is Dell EMC and why should you care? Glad you asked is Jim Ganthier’s quick response. Ganthier is SVP for validated solutions and high performance computing for the new (even bigger) technology giant Dell EMC following Dell’s acquisition of EMC in September. In this case, says Ganthier, the blending of the two companies is a 1+1 = 5 proposition. Not bad math if you can pull it off. Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Launches Massive 100 Petabyte ‘Sneakernet’

December 1, 2016

Amazon Web Services now offers a way to move data into its cloud by the truckload. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Seagate-led SAGE Project Delivers Update on Exascale Goals

November 29, 2016

Roughly a year and a half after its launch, the SAGE exascale storage project led by Seagate has delivered a substantive interim report – Data Storage for Extreme Scale. Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE-SGI to Tackle Exascale and Enterprise Targets

November 22, 2016

At first blush, and maybe second blush too, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) purchase of SGI seems like an unambiguous win-win. SGI’s advanced shared memory technology, its popular UV product line (Hanna), deep vertical market expertise, and services-led go-to-market capability all give HPE a leg up in its drive to remake itself. Bear in mind HPE came into existence just a year ago with the split of Hewlett-Packard. The computer landscape, including HPC, is shifting with still unclear consequences. One wonders who’s next on the deal block following Dell’s recent merger with EMC. Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Details AI Hardware Strategy for Post-GPU Age

November 21, 2016

Last week at SC16, Intel revealed its product roadmap for embedding its processors with key capabilities and attributes needed to take artificial intelligence (AI) to the next level. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

SC Says Farewell to Salt Lake City, See You in Denver

November 18, 2016

After an intense four-day flurry of activity (and a cold snap that brought some actual snow flurries), the SC16 show floor closed yesterday (Thursday) and the always-extensive technical program wound down today. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Why 2016 Is the Most Important Year in HPC in Over Two Decades

August 23, 2016

In 1994, two NASA employees connected 16 commodity workstations together using a standard Ethernet LAN and installed open-source message passing software that allowed their number-crunching scientific application to run on the whole “cluster” of machines as if it were a single entity. Read more…

By Vincent Natoli, Stone Ridge Technology

IBM Advances Against x86 with Power9

August 30, 2016

After offering OpenPower Summit attendees a limited preview in April, IBM is unveiling further details of its next-gen CPU, Power9, which the tech mainstay is counting on to regain market share ceded to rival Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Think Fast – Is Neuromorphic Computing Set to Leap Forward?

August 15, 2016

Steadily advancing neuromorphic computing technology has created high expectations for this fundamentally different approach to computing. Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Gobbles SGI for Larger Slice of $11B HPC Pie

August 11, 2016

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced today that it will acquire rival HPC server maker SGI for $7.75 per share, or about $275 million, inclusive of cash and debt. The deal ends the seven-year reprieve that kept the SGI banner flying after Rackable Systems purchased the bankrupt Silicon Graphics Inc. for $25 million in 2009 and assumed the SGI brand. Bringing SGI into its fold bolsters HPE's high-performance computing and data analytics capabilities and expands its position... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ARM Unveils Scalable Vector Extension for HPC at Hot Chips

August 22, 2016

ARM and Fujitsu today announced a scalable vector extension (SVE) to the ARMv8-A architecture intended to enhance ARM capabilities in HPC workloads. Fujitsu is the lead silicon partner in the effort (so far) and will use ARM with SVE technology in its post K computer, Japan’s next flagship supercomputer planned for the 2020 timeframe. This is an important incremental step for ARM, which seeks to push more aggressively into mainstream and HPC server markets. Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Debuts Power8 Chip with NVLink and Three New Systems

September 8, 2016

Not long after revealing more details about its next-gen Power9 chip due in 2017, IBM today rolled out three new Power8-based Linux servers and a new version of its Power8 chip featuring Nvidia’s NVLink interconnect. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Silicon Photonics Chip, Previews Next-Gen Phi for AI

August 18, 2016

At the Intel Developer Forum, held in San Francisco this week, Intel Senior Vice President and General Manager Diane Bryant announced the launch of Intel's Silicon Photonics product line and teased a brand-new Phi product, codenamed "Knights Mill," aimed at machine learning workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Micron, Intel Prepare to Launch 3D XPoint Memory

August 16, 2016

Micron Technology used last week’s Flash Memory Summit to roll out its new line of 3D XPoint memory technology jointly developed with Intel while demonstrating the technology in solid-state drives. Micron claimed its Quantx line delivers PCI Express (PCIe) SSD performance with read latencies at less than 10 microseconds and writes at less than 20 microseconds. Read more…

By George Leopold

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This