As new research shows a worldwide IT budget squeeze, CIOs--and particularly those at securities firms--are on the hunt as never before for technologies that will reduce operating costs while simultaneously allowing them to grow their businesses. According to a June 8 survey from Gartner, worldwide IT budgets are projected to decline 4.7 percent this year.
It is in the midst of this cost-cutting environment that the Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association's 29th Technology Management Conference and Exhibit will unfold at the New York Hilton on June 23. The confab could hardly come at a better time, with more than 300 technology firms highlighting cost-cutting and mission critical capabilities and the best ways to solve nondiscretionary, "must-tackle" technology and compliance issues--including low latency, trade reporting, risk management and options symbology requirements--during times of budgetary restraint.
"The role of technology in today's challenging economic environment--what financial services firms are doing to work through it and what cycle of products and services can help them do a more effective job--is the general theme at the conference this year," said Howard Sprow, Sifma's vice president of technology and business continuity planning and the executive in charge of this year's event.
Themes jostling for attention include what's new in business intelligence (BI) technology, cloud computing, data center "co-lo" or collocation strategies, holistic enterprise data views, infrastructure management on a budget, messaging-specific open source software strategies, real-time or complex event processing (CEP) capabilities and virtualization techniques.

Delivering More with Less

"People at Sifma will be looking for opportunities to reduce the cost of their current technologies, as well as the next good idea that allows innovation at a cheaper cost point," said June 24 conference keynoter Stanley Young, CEO and Co-CIO of NYSE Technologies, the software and services arm of NYSE Euronext. "Delivering more with less is a key mantra in the industry these days."
Young said NYSE Technologies will be exhibiting a new, yet-to-be-named data fabric or feed handler product at Sifma that temporarily goes by the code name "V5"; a new aggregated data product called SuperFeed; and Risk Management Gateway, a new offering to help broker dealers better manage risk filters for their sponsored access customers.
NYSE will also be talking about its new aggregated collocation services, which Young expects will garner attention: "Co-lo will be a hot topic at Sifma; If you can collapse what is now an expensive infrastructure due to fragmentation of markets and offer aggregated co-lo, that is a cost reduction that people will be seeking," Young said.
Other speakers will take a different tack and argue that despite reduced budgets, now is a prime time to purchase and implement new technology solutions. Kevin Haar, CEO of Appistry, a provider of an enterprise-scale, cloud computing platform, said he expects executives will be looking to squeeze more processing power, flexibility and efficiency out of their company infrastructures. "It is precisely these challenges that make an argument for cloud computing and more importantly, why now is the time for IT infrastructure investment, rather than retrenchment," Haar said. "We think that there's a momentum brewing behind the concept of private clouds." Haar said Appistry will be exhibiting products to facilitate their use, including Appistry's fourth generation CloudIQ Platform.

Donald Hopkins of SunGard Availability Services said that his presentation would "take a deeper dive into how to reduce costs with a little twist," combining thrifty strategies for disaster recovery efforts with overall cost reduction efforts and advised that attendees at Sifma also need to identify "breakthrough strategies" for better technology management. "Cost reductions can become very addictive," he says, "where you end up always thinking about the next 15 percent to cut." His June 24 presentation will offer breakthrough solutions, such as the use of de-duplication technology as part of one's disaster recovery plan--a technique that removes any duplicate data prior to compression and thus, Hopkins argues, can result in significant savings.

Open Source Expansion

Cost-conscious financial services firms are also turning to open source software to handle more IT tasks. While open source software is already widely used to help businesses run their servers, it is gaining wider acceptance in other areas. "We are seeing an unprecedented expansion of open source usage in additional parts of the technology infrastructure," said June 24 presenter Carl Trieloff, senior consulting engineer at Red Hat, a provider of open source services. Trieloff said that virtualization efforts and grid computing are areas where open source is seeing wider use by Wall Street firms.

On the general conference floor, visitors will be able to identify technology products and services in a broad range of categories that includes clearing, compliance, data management, exchange-related technologies, trading infrastructure and risk management technologies. Don DeLoach, CEO of Aleri, a provider of real-time or complex event processing technology, said that in light of the current industry trends, he expects to see stronger interest this year in technologies that assist in giving companies a holistic view of enterprise data. "Many of the CIO's I meet are short staffed," DeLoach said. "If they had a thousand people working for them a year ago, they now have 700--yet the demands on them are even greater this year due to increased regulatory requirements and risk emphasis. In many instances, savvy and strategic use of complex event processing technology can make up for reduced staffs."

Others attending the Sifma conference will be seeking a glimpse of future trends. On that score, June 24 keynote speaker Hal Stern, senior vice president of systems engineering at Sun Microsystems, will address advances in cloud computing. "With the growing adoption of cloud computing by financial service firms," he said, "we will start to see the beginning of the next new wave of system administration trends, which will involve less focus on server management issues and more on cloud computing security, cloud reliability issues and capacity planning."

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