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04:14 PM
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WestLB Cools Off Trading Floor With PC Blades

WestLB deployed PC blades to avoid air conditioning costs, while others see cost savings in flexibility

Facing higher costs for cooling its trading floor, WestLB installed PC Blades in its Tokyo office, even though it meant paying a premium above the price for a traditional PC. WestLB, a multinational German bank, went live with the PC Blades from ClearClube Technology in May, because the building in Tokyo did not supply enough air-conditioning to offset the heat generated by the workstations on the new 50-position trading floor in Tokyo.

"We were going to have to install our own dedicated unit, which had the disadvantage of being expensive and taking up floor space," says Greg Duncan, head of IT architecture, global infrastructure services at WestLB in London, where its technology is based.

Though WestLB operates larger trading floors -- in London with 200 to 300 positions and in New York with over 100 positions -- blades tend to be installed when a firm is building out a new trading floor or upgrading technology, he says. After setting up two computer rooms in Tokyo, the bank installed the PC blades in a data center; all that sits on the desktop is a small box that connects to the keyboard, mouse and displays. "It doesn't generate any heat and completely solves the problem," Duncan says.

Because the PC blades sit in the data center, there is less clutter and noise on the desktop. Instead of traders sitting in front of quad monitors with PC boxes and a spaghetti mess of cables at their feet, West LB cleaned off the desktop clutter by shifting to PC Blades which sit in a rack in the computer room.

The downside is that PC blades cost a premium -- at least twice the cost -- above regular PCs. "With PC prices still falling, it's quite hard to justify the blade technology because it's just so cheap to buy regular PCs," says Duncan. In Tokyo, the cost made sense when compared with buying air conditioners.

But other financial services firms that operate large trading floors have found other reasons to turn to PC blades, says Ken Knotts, senior technologist at ClearCube. Wall Street firms, including Morgan Stanley in New York and Goldman Sachs in Tokyo, have turned to PC blades to cut the cost of moving traders from one machine to another because it involves re-cabling, he says. High labor costs in New York can make the cost of a move or change $900 to $1,400.

With PC blades, there's no re-cabling: the move occurs within the computer room and the support person can do it. "To move 20 people, you go into the computer room, pull 20 blades out of their slots, put them into the correct slots and you're done," says Duncan.

Blades are widely deployed on trading floors and in disaster recovery sites, says Knotts. Each PC blade supports up to four monitors. For example, ClearCube offers a PC blade powered by the Xeon processors, which is what traders "pretty much demand for the financial rendering of spreadsheets," he says.

Another benefit for WestLB is that the bank can control moves and changes on the Tokyo trading floor remotely from its base in London, using ClearCube's remote-management tool. "I can sit in London and then switch a trader in Tokyo from one PC to another," Duncan says. On the security front, because there are no floppy drives or CD drives, no one can physically touch the PCs, or remove data from them, unless they break into the computer room.

At the same time it was building the new trading floor in Tokyo, the bank was upgrading desktops to Windows XP, which meant that traders had to do application testing. With standard PCs, IT has to allocate time slots for traders to sit down and sit at a PC and test their spreadsheet applications. "In Tokyo, it was great because basically they could leave stuff running on the PCs. We could unplug all the cables, tidy them up and the PC wasn't affected at all," he says.

Duncan says the bank is investigating the blade technology to support trading floors in small regional offices, so they could be managed remotely. WestLB operates capital markets trading floors in scattered cities across Europe, Asia and South America. Ivy is Editor-at-Large for Advanced Trading and Wall Street & Technology. Ivy is responsible for writing in-depth feature articles, daily blogs and news articles with a focus on automated trading in the capital markets. As an industry expert, Ivy has reported on a myriad ... View Full Bio

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