Companies that earn their profits through high-powered computing for financial services cannot escape the volatility on Wall Street, but representatives from those companies have vastly different predictions on how the challenges and changes shaking the U.S. economy will affect them.
The fifth annual High Performance On Wall Street conference took place in New York City Monday, as the Dow plunged 3.3% and U.S. policymakers worked to manage what many experts have labeled an unprecedented economic crisis.
Speakers, attendees, and exhibitors signaled that companies' ability to respond to events will likely determine how they weather the storm. A top Sun Microsystems executive saw opportunity in the situation, while others saw rough days ahead.
Joe Ward, director of channel sales for XtremeData, said that companies in the financial sector will still need information and faster technology.
Geoff Guerdat, VP of grid engineering for Merrill Lynch, said the developments on Wall Street mean fewer customers but larger firms.
"They can no longer sell to Lehman or Bear Stearns," he said.
However, many high-powered computing vendors can branch off from the financial world into science, packaging, and other industries that deal with a high volume of numbers.
One product manager who asked not to be named said that the financial companies are likely to be risk averse internally as well as externally.
"This is so unprecedented that no one knows what's going to happen," he said. "It's going to be a struggle for everybody, especially small vendors."
Representatives for Hewlett-Packard and Dell declined to discuss how the instability in the markets will affect their respective companies.
However, Ambreesh Khanna, who leads the Global Financial Services Industry for Sun Microsystems, said that the tumult amounts to a "tremendous opportunity."
"The money people are spending on risk management systems is about to peak," he said. "That's what we're focusing on in the next few months."
As the top-tier financial firms consolidate, their focus will turn inward, he said. Second-tier firms are likely to turn to technology as a game-changer, not a cost-center, he said.
Bill Laing, VP of Microsoft's Windows Server and Solutions Division, spoke during the keynote about how financial market firms are responding. He said they are re-architecting HPC infrastructure to improve scale and performance, as well as increased productivity.
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