Hard Times May Boost Linux in Financial Services

By Nicole Hemsoth

April 6, 2009

Today Linux is the go-to operating system for high performance computing, while it continues to extend its footprint in the broader IT community. In the financial services arena, in particular, Linux is being seen as a critical technology for increasing ROI.

On Monday, at the High Performance Linux on Wall Street conference in New York, Inna Kuznetsova, director of IBM’s Linux Strategy, led a panel that discussed how Linux can be used to reduce costs and improve performance in these economically challenging times. We recently got the opportunity to ask Kuznetsova about the increasing profile of Linux for IBM customers and how the technology is enabling them to realize cost savings.

HPCwire: How have your clients IT priorities changed during this economic downturn?

Inna Kuznetsova: The priorities have certainly changed. First, we see our clients much more focused on the whole aspect of the total cost of ownership reduction. The financial crisis is putting a new lens on TCO claims. Companies prioritize projects with a clear ROI and predictable time to savings. The focus switches from enhancing functionality to cost reduction. Second, the expense control calls for higher accountability. Stimulus packages in different countries include funding for IT infrastructure but it comes with an increased scrutiny. To spend taxpayers’ money in a prudent way, reducing up front costs becomes increasingly important. Third, as we know from the experience of the previous recessions, companies often have to merge to withstand tough conditions — and that brings the issue of consolidating IT infrastructure. Being able to merge IT systems fast and keeping costs under control becomes vital for success.

HPCwire: How does Linux help address those new priorities?

Kuznetsova: Linux has unique attributes that help to improve savings. You cannot only reduce the costs with often lower rates but also eliminate CALs to avoid uprgrade penalties. Paying for a subscription instead of a license provides for a higher degree of flexibility should the customer decide to reduce resources, as often happens during an economic downturn. Standardizing on Linux reduces the number of skilled resources needed to manage multiple environments — and at the same time, a customer can select the best hardware platform for a particular workload. Also, during mergers, Linux, because it runs on the broadest set of hardware platforms, often becomes the “common denominator,” providing for a streamlined integration.

Consolidation on larger servers is one of the best ways to reduce energy consumption, office space and systems management costs, and many of our customers consolidate these days on Power Systems or mainframes running Linux. IDC recently published a study based on applying quantitative measures to such consolidation and quoted an average ROI in less than seven months and the reduction of TCO by 50 percent. Many of our financial customers follow this route — for example, the Bank of New Zealand consolidated its front office, Internet banking and tellers system on an IBM System z mainframe running Linux. It has reported a decrease in energy consumption close to 40 percent, 33 percent reduction in heat output and a need for only one administrator per 200 virtual servers.

Last but not least, customers can achieve great savings by leveraging Linux desktop in a traditional or virtual implementation. IBM offers an open-standards-based alternative to Microsoft Office, called Open Collaboration Client Solution (OCCS). It is a package of office productivity tools, including email, messaging and social collaboration software, that can work in a heterogeneous environment, with some users working on Linux and some on Windows. Users save 500-700 dollars per workspace when switching to Linux with IBM OCCS, and they can keep users on different systems collaborating with each other, using the same team rooms and tools. There are further savings associated with the virtual Linux desktop, launched last December, which can be deployed from any x86 server and provides additional savings in energy consumption, reduced need for workstation upgrades, memory, and system administration.

HPCwire: Are there instances where a proprietary OS is preferable?

Kuznetsova: There is no “one size fits all” approach in the selection of an operating system — many factors come into play. The customers have to consider what workloads and what applications they are running, what skills they have in house, what are their requirements to the reliability, availability, security, level of service, costs and resources for system administration.

An application migration is a costly process and may not be justified by savings. Furthermore, many workloads and applications may be designed in such a way that they use possible benefits that come from the combination of an operating system and hardware designed by the same vendor. Such combinations will always be better optimized for a particular platform while Linux is better optimized across vendors and platforms just by the nature of its development process.

HPCwire: In the financial services industry specifically, what is driving Linux adoption?

Kuznetsova: The financial services industry leads Linux adoption today — with the majority of our customers running the front-end operations on it and many exploring the opportunities that Linux offers for the back office. Last year I hosted a panel at the Linux on Wall Street event where we had a very interesting discussion about the use of Real Time for latency reduction and fast trade execution.

Our customers increasingly leverage Linux to select the best hardware platform for each workload. Thus, Mizuho Securities uses IBM BladeCenter with Cell broadband Engine processor to run its Exotic Derivatives Trading system. Cell has superb computational capabilities that are well suited to accelerating financial modeling calculations.

A lot of our customers consolidate operations on IBM System z running Linux, leveraging the high level of reliability, availability and security, as well as the low cost of system administration provided by mainframes. For example, the Bank of Russia went from 74 datacenters to a consolidated system on four IBM System z mainframes running Linux, reducing the per-transaction cost by 95 percent, which resulted in $400 million savings.

Other customers increasingly use Linux on System x for fast server provisioning at minimal cost. Antony Golia from Morgan Stanley will join me on stage at the Linux on Wall Street event to talk about their experience.

HPCwire: For HPC applications in particular, performance and the broader concept of productivity are the critical issues. How does Linux meet these needs?

Kuznetsova: Linux offers exceptional performance and productivity for HPC. It is enough to mention that over 80 percent of TOP500 supercomputers today are powered by Linux, including the Los Alamos system called Roadrunner – an IBM BladeCenter QS22 cluster — that tops the list. At IBM we invest in supporting Linux as a tier one system on all our server platforms. It is much more than just ensuring that Linux can run on a server — it means performing additional development, tuning and testing work to provide for a high level of reliability, availability and security (RAS). Some vendors claim that Linux is not yet ready for prime-time. Linux on IBM platforms supports business-critical operations with a highest level of RAS requirements today.

HPCwire: If Linux had never been developed, what would the landscape look like for your clients today?

Kuznetsova: Last December we celebrated the 10th anniversary of IBM’s committment to Linux. During this time we became one of the largest users of Linux — from running it on over 25,000 employee desktops to consolidating 3,900 servers in our IT infrastructure using Linux on mainframes. We became one of the largest contributors to the Linux community, being the third largest provider of changes to the Linux kernel over the last three years, having several hundred developers employed in the Linux Technology Center and participating in over one hundred open source projects. And we became one of the largest providers of Linux solutions — Linux is supported as a tier one system on all IBM server plaforms and we have over 500 software products for Linux in the market. It is difficult to imagine a different course of history and I would like to believe that there would have been a different project leveraging the intellectual power of a broad community to develop a system optimized for all hardware platforms and offering customers an open standards alternative today.

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!

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

Pioneering Programmers Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

November 30, 2016

In an awards ceremony on November 22, President Barack Obama recognized 21 recipients with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation’s highest civilian honor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

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