Robust InfrastructureBy Samuel Greengard Print
The financial services industry is undergoing some of the most significant changes in its history, and information technology increasingly determines who soars and who stumbles.
Building a robust infrastructure is at the center of Merlin Securities’ IT strategy. The mid-prime broker provides services that assist in trading, portfolio management and other areas for more than 500 hedge funds and other institutions.
“We require cutting-edge computers and cost-effective high-performance platforms,” says Bob Garrett, chief technology officer. The firm relies on 15 production servers to run order-management systems, data warehouse repositories, trading capabilities and other tasks.
The seven-year-old company, which has grown rapidly, found itself with an already aging infrastructure a few years ago. “We reached a point where we realized that we had to rebuild the entire infrastructure—from how we design our data center to how we manage the network and storage arrays,” Garrett explains.
The company turned to VMware to virtualize its servers and achieve more optimal utilization levels. “Because of bursts related to trading, we typically want to keep our average utilization level at 25 percent, but be able to, on a burst, deal with taking it up no higher than 50 percent,” he says.
Merlin Securities also upgraded its storage environment. “Over the last several years, as trading volumes have mushroomed, storage demands have grown enormously,” Garrett notes. Although the price of storage devices and systems has dropped considerably over the last several years, “the volumes have in-creased so significantly that storage has become very expensive,” he adds.
In order to avoid any degradation of service levels, Merlin Securities migrated to Dell EqualLogic SAN storage arrays, along with Dell Power-Edge blade servers and high-density 10 GbE switches from Arista Networks.
The company has realized some impressive results. Among other things, it has witnessed a five-fold increase in overall SAN performance with no increase in SAN power consumption; boosted SAN speed by a factor of 2.5; and realized a two-fold increase in CPU performance and RAM throughput.
Now Merlin is looking at using the infrastructure to build a hybrid cloud, which would further boost its internal capabilities and flexibility. “We now have an IT infrastructure that fully supports the business,” Garrett says. “We have been able to cut costs while improving our strategic capabilities.”
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