Grid is Good
What's great about grid is its architectural flexibility. For instance, Sun Microsystems describes a core processing strategy that uses nothing more than a networked collection of branch servers. "Say you've got 1,000 branches," says Dave Moore, global manager for banking at Sun Microsystems (Palo Alto, Calif.). "You could conceivably have at least 1,000 [Java Branch Controller] servers sitting in those 1,000 branches, and each one of those has at least two processors."
Do the math, according to Moore, and you'll discover a grid powerful enough to perform the overnight core banking chores, thus allowing a bank to dustball its back-office mainframe. "Theoretically, we can take those very small branch processors, integrate them into a grid environment, and voila, the core system runs at night when the branches are closed," he says.
Also promising from an IT architecture standpoint is the Linux operating system. "It's the cheapest way to run a grid," claims Curt Burmeister, director of Linux and distributed computing solutions for Algorithmics (Toronto), a software provider for investment banks. Linux on Intel chips are "typically two to three times faster than proprietary Unix chips," he says. "It could be one-tenth the cost and twice as fast."
"That's huge," adds Burmeister. "We're talking millions of dollars in hardware budgets that are being saved."
But grid isn't a panacea for banks, cautions ZapThink's Bloomberg, as it's not suited for network-intensive tasks. "A lot of the things a bank does on a day-to-day basis are essentially transactions," he says. "Transactions, as a rule, are not particularly suitable for grid computing."