Banking on the Grid

IBM expands its grid computing offerings to the financial services industry through partnerships with SAS and DataSynapse.

IBM on Wednesday is expanding its grid computing offerings to the financial services industry through partnerships with SAS Institute and DataSynapse Inc.

IBM is incorporating SAS business intelligence software into its IBM Grid Offering for Analytics Acceleration, which is designed to give banks greater customer insight, said Dan Powers, vice president of grid computing strategy at IBM. Using the SAS software in a grid environment also reduces the amount of time a bank needs to produce statistical models and analysis of their customer base, he said.

"Banks all need rapid access to the competitive information they currently have on their networks," said Powers, in Somers, N.Y.

SAS, of Cary, N.C., was able to plug its software directly into the IBM grid computing environment without any customization needed, proving that such applications can be easily optimized for grids.

At the same time, IBM is partnering with DataSynapse, of New York, to enable financial services customers to manage risk, particularly pertaining to such regulatory requirements as the Patriot Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Customers can use the IBM Grid Offering for Risk Management and Compliance, which joins DataSynapse technology with IBMs grid products, to run applications for such jobs as monitoring credit limits.

IBM has been working with DataSynapse on grid issues for several months. In March, Big Blue tapped DataSynapse and Platform Computing Inc. to bring their grid computing technology to IBMs line of mainframe computers.

IBM is touting grids as a key component to its on-demand computing initiative. Grid computing involves tying together multiple servers to run applications in a networked environment. Powers said the benefits of grid include gaining easier access to data and the ability to share resources.

Hewitt Associates LLC, an outsourcing and human resources consulting company in Lincolnshire, Ill., is building a grid using IBM BladeCenter blade servers and DataSynapses GridServer. Hewitt is offloading its pension calculations application off the IBM zSeries mainframe onto the grid, said Dan Kaberon, director of computer resource management.

"We have a mainframe application, and one component of the mainframe application was that it is extremely processor intense," Kaberon said. "Its a very expensive piece to run … and very difficult to predict the workload. It wasnt economically very easy."

Hewitt sends the application work from the mainframe to the grid, where it runs the calculations and then sends the results back to the mainframe. Rather than having the processor-intensive workload eat up expensive mainframe resources, it is done on cheaper blade servers running Linux from Red Hat Inc.

Using the grid, Hewitt cut transactions costs by almost 90 percent without having to rewrite the applications, according to IBM.

Other top vendors, including Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc., are pushing their grid initiatives. Oracle Corp. made a recent splash with the unveiling of its Oracle 10G grid-enabled database software, which is due out by the end of the fourth quarter.

IBM also touted several new grid projects, bringing the number of such projects to more than 100. Powers also said the two new grid offerings brings to 19 the number of vertical-specific grid products.