During this year's SIA show, Base One International Corp. (booth 1860) is trying to get attendees to relearn kindergarten lessons on sharing. The New York-based software supplier is launching High Performance and Information Sharing (HPIS) to enable firms to communicate back-office information between applications running on completely independent databases. "HPIS tries to answer the issue of, 'What happens when you have multiple organizations sharing data and that data is under different controls?'" explains Steve Asherman, Base One's president and CTO.
Base One has developed a sharing solution for organizations using grid and cluster computing configurations. HPIS uses Web services and XML to import and export data among databases. It also provides metadata, or data about the data, such as validation rules, indexes and referential constraints. The data, then, is stored in a consistent application programmer interface that supports local or remote secure access to the shared data. The solution supports databases including IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and Sybase.
Asherman notes that the separate data storage area enables greater security control. "You can get around the notion of having programs walking all over the organization and depositing themselves into convenient machines with some cycles to spare," he says. "It's a way of interacting that can be done without being excessively intrusive on some independent party's network," Asherman continues. "Unloading records from one location, then delivering them to another for reloading, doesn't force you to expose a main database or network to an unacceptable degree. It can allow another organization in just far enough to deposit files and use grid computing to submit a job onto your system in a controlled way."
In addition to facilitating secure access, HPIS also supports disaster recovery initiatives. It does not merge all of the data into a master immediately and can even be used as a backup if the master database goes down, Asherman adds. If both companies use Base One's technology, data is shared in a proprietary language that enables additional communications, such as graphics. If only one firm uses Base One's software, HPIS uses XML.
As a result of grid computing's relative newness on Wall Street, Asherman says, few vendors provide "shrink-wrapped" grid-computing tool kits. The result of "firms having to hire consulting services in order to even try anything" with grid computing reinforces the notion that grid has little place in financial services, he adds.
Celent Communications' founder and CEO Octavio Marenzi acknowledges that back-office data may be one area that is ripe for grid computing, but he is skeptical of its use in more data-sensitive areas of the financial services industry. "Grid computing has a very limited application within financial services," he says, specifying simple computations such as updating positions, risk-management modeling and pricing structured instruments as qualifiers for grid computing. "The whole industry is not going to be running everything on grids in the near future."