June 01, 2004

Productive Screen Savers

On the commercial banking side, Wachovia (Charlotte, N.C.; $401 billion in assets) currently has a 300-node grid deployed for its Corporate and Investment Bank (CIB), and the technology is already paying real dividends. For starters, the bank has been able to reduce the overnight processing run for one of its critical applications to under an hour. Also, the grid provides significant quality-of-service improvements, to the point where 99 percent of its processing requests fall under a certain response threshold, up from about 85 percent before the grid.

The CIB grid is expected to grow fourfold over the next 12 months, and part of the growth will come from an interesting source: the idle computers of its employees. "After 10 minutes, if nobody has touched a keyboard, we say that [machine is] now available, and it's going to start calling for work," says Jim Kittridge, vice president of information technology, Wachovia.

It's called "dynamic provisioning," in which individual processing nodes register with Wachovia's DataSynapse grid middleware, which then matches all available CPUs with the currently requested tasks. But when someone returns and touches the keyboard, a user's machine will revert control to its in-person user. "We don't ever want to affect what the people are actually doing, whether they be traders or analysts across the bank," says Kittridge.

Wachovia's architecture standards board has approved an enterprise-wide grid strategy, according to Kittridge. "That does not mean we are going to have a single grid across the enterprise," he notes. "What it means is that we're all going to support a common architecture across the bank for where and when we deploy grid."