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Schwab Girds For Grid Computing

Brokerage firm is among the first to use grids for business-critical computing.
Charles Schwab & Co.'s customers insist on getting financial advice without delay, and the company wants to better use its IT resources. The brokerage firm already uses a grid architecture from IBM to distribute research and development workloads among Intel-based Linux servers. By year's end, Schwab plans to use grids in areas that directly affect its mission-critical and customer-facing applications.

"We're very excited about the prospect of using grids for a number of computing challenges that we have," says David Dibble, executive VP at Schwab Technology Services. "These include building products and tools that really give customers much, much faster turnaround." Grids speed processing capabilities by breaking down workloads and distributing them to available servers. Dibble won't disclose exactly which applications will run on grids but says his group "is developing and delivering grid environments that Schwab's business lines can exploit."

Schwab's embrace comes as IBM last week said it will make the distributed computing model a more viable option for businesses by packaging the necessary hardware, services, and software. The model is already popular among universities and research labs.

By turning an entire IT infrastructure into a single pool of resources, individual departments within companies won't have to buy new servers every time they run out of capacity, says Ahmar Abbas, managing director of Grid Technology Partners, a consulting and research firm. "But this also means there have to be changes to the way software is licensed," he says. The per-CPU licensing model won't work, because grids use as many processors as are available.

IBM's strategy isn't more advanced than Sun Microsystems' Grid Engine or Hewlett-Packard's Utility Data Center. But IBM's marketing push is more solution-oriented, Abbas says. That might just be what companies need to get on the grid.