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Explosive Data Growth Has Financial Firms Seeking Data Center Efficiencies

With 50% annual growth rates in data, financial services organizations are struggling to handle the volume. Some firms are turning to flash memory to improve efficiency and lower costs.

It's no secret that data is growing at a phenomenal rate, with some estimating that it is exploding at 30 to 50 percent each year. With such growth, IT organizations inside of financial firms are having a hard time keeping pace.

Moreover, more than 50 percent of new data is unstructured. Financial organizations have a good track record when it comes to handling structured data -- market, trade or account data, for instance. When it comes to unstructured data, financial data and technology experts are somewhat outside of their comfort zone.

Big data is certainly one way that organizations are handling unstructured data and the adoption of big data technologies, such as the open source software framework Hadoop, will likely continue to be used by financial firms as they look to improve business results. Big data, by its nature, however, requires vast computing resources in order to churn through massive amounts of data (often many terabytes and sometime even petabytes). For financial organizations that are suffering through a difficult economic environment, devoting precious compute power to big data efforts is a challenge.

"Traditionally, most spending in the enterprise space has been on traditional database technology," says Gary Smerdon, senior vice president and general manager of the Accelerate Solutions Division at LSI Corp., a provider of semiconductors and software that accelerate storage and networking in data centers. "But now with big data and virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI), there are requirements for larger databases and technology that can handle a VDI."

Financial firms, however, have already invested millions in existing data centers and servers. Replacing the technology en masse to gain processing efficiencies is cost prohibitive. Instead, firms are looking to enhance existing technology. For instance, flash technology is becoming more popular in enterprise servers as customers look for ways to accelerate storage performance while optimizing existing investments in hard disk drive and direct-attached storage (DAS) infrastructure. "Customers in virtually every industry are facing competitive pressures to increase datacenter efficiency and lower IT costs," says Noury Al-Khaledy, General Manager Intel Enterprise Platforms and Services Division.

[To read more about how financial firms are increasing data center efficiency, read: Extreme Makeover: Citi Consolidates 70 Data Centers to 20.]

Intel and LSI corp have announced that LSI's Nytro MegaRAID technology will be available as part of the Intel RAID product family. The Nytro MegaRAID application acceleration for DAS card is designed to accelerate applications with a solution combining RAID performance from direct-attached storage and intelligent caching using onboard flash storage. It provides the foundation for a complete solution of solid-state storage and HDDs for both performance and capacity. This is useful for customers who are looking for ways to increase their storage performance, but retain their current investment in direct-attached storage, according to LSI.

"Through our expanded relationship with LSI, we're able to offer customers a single, integrated solution that enables exciting levels of application performance, data protection and a low TCO," adds Al-Khaledy in a press statement.

"The total cost of ownership [TCO] is measurable with MegaRAID," says LSI's Smerdon in an interview with Wall Street & Technology. "It can provide a 30 percent performance improvement. A large enterprise could go from 1,000 to 700 servers in the same footprint."

LSI Nytro MegaRAID technology cuts latency and boosts application performance by converting server-based flash into a "hot" data cache for critical business applications, according to LSI. Nytro MegaRAID will help to provide Intel server board and systems customers with very high levels of random IOPS performance for data-intensive and latency-sensitive workloads such as databases and big data applications, Hadoop implementations and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Benchmark testing using Nytro MegaRAID cards have achieved up to a 33 percent improvement in the time it takes to complete Hadoop jobs and delivered support for up to twice as many VDI sessions compared to a non-caching storage implementation, claims LSI.

In fact, as financial firms increase their use of VDI, the drive for efficiency and increasing data center TCO in the financial services space has been a large focus for financial firms over the past couple of years. "The interest around flash technology has moved beyond the trading desk," where the need for speed by high-frequency trading strategies have required the use of flash technology to quickly process data, Smerdon says. "The interest in financial services has moved beyond trading and HFT. Now there is a focus on technology cost and efficiency."

"Banks are a perfect use case for VDI," Smerdon continues. "They have tens of thousands of employees and the operational benefits that can be gained from VDI are tremendous. [Flash] helps supplement existing infrastructure. People have become more comfortable with virtual desktops in recent years."

Intel will offer LSI Nytro MegaRAID technology within their Intel RAID SSD Cache Controllers RCS25ZB040 and RCS25ZB040LX which include embedded flash of 256GB and 1TB, respectively.

"Intel's selection of LSI Nytro MegaRAID technology is another significant validation of our strategic focus and investments in flash-based server acceleration technology," says Smerdon, in a press statement. "We're excited to be working closely with Intel to bring the powerful performance, data protection and TCO benefits of Nytro MegaRAID technology to Intel customers." Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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