"Quants can wear pants to work now," says Martin Harris, product manager at Platform Computing, citing this as one of the benefits of the Symphony 4 grid computing solution his company announced today. Before, he explains, quants at many firms had to wear shorts because they had so many CPUs under their desk that all ran hot.Grid computing software in general lets companies harness many computers in a network to solve a single problem at the same time. Some large Wall Street firms have tens of thousands of servers in data centers all over the world linked in such grids that can then be made available to any application. Quantitative analysts are common users of these grids, which power their high-performance computing tasks such as intraday risk calculations, pre-trade price modeling and end-of-day value at risk calculations.
For today's Symphony upgrade, Platform Computing has opened up his developer's toolkit such that developers and perhaps quants themselves can quickly grid-enable their applications (in other words, parallelize them so that they can run on many computers at once and thus achieve high performance) and request computing resources, e.g. asking for 75 CPUs from 8:00 to 11:00 each morning. According to Platform Computing executives, this can be accomplished in a half hour.
A unique metering feature of this software lets IT departments delegate computing resources to individual applications based on established policies, track each application's server usage, and precisely charge back the cost of compute cycles to the departments using them. This monitoring tool can also be tied to service level agreements, and ensure that high-priority applications receive the performance they demand.
Symphony runs across clusters of Linux or Windows boxes. The company recently signed a deal with Red Hat to provide a joint high performance grid. Symphony 4 will be available in January 2008.