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Blade desktops make bankers cool

Lloyds TSB claims to have cured its power headaches with trading-floor blade workstations from HP
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor

The IT director responsible for one of London's main trading floors claims to have conquered the problem of overheating caused by hundreds of workstation PCs in close proximity.

Speaking at a launch to promotes HP's ProLiant Blade Workstation package on Wednesday, Tom Walker, IT director at Lloyds TSB Capital Markets, said overheating is a frequent problem on trading floors due to the computing power required by traders, and the proximity of one trader to another.

As a result, rather than pin-stripes, some City traders are forced to work in an uncomfortable combination of shorts and sweaters due to the heat produced by the PCs under desks and air-conditioning, he said.

Walker, who is responsible for the technology supporting 255 traders at the Lloyds office in London's Gresham Street, claims to have made his trading environment far more comfortable by deploying the HP workstation package. The project began in December 2005 and was completed in August 2006.

Deploying the blade desktops effectively meant taking all the processing power from under the traders' desks and putting it into the company's data centre. "Dealing rooms present real problems: in terms of space, in terms of heat and in terms of cooling," said Walker. "The simple answer is to put the computers in the computer room [data centre]."

HP's ProLiant Blade Workstation package — which is targeted mainly at financial institutions — combines thin-client PCs and ProLiant XW25p workstation blades. HP claims the architecture helps to transfer power requirements away from the user and into the corporate datacentre, where it can be handled more efficiently.

The blade package also give more options in the case of equipment failure and enable employees to work remotely, HP claims. Dell, IBM, Sun and ClearCube offer similar solutions.

Lloyds TSB's previous workstations had to support four monitors worth of data — each creating around 300 watts of heat — meaning the temperature in the trading rooms used to rise to as high as 30°C.

The new architecture, utilising the workstation blades from HP, means all the processing is carried out in the company's data centre, said Walker. A thin client PC installed under each of the traders' desks saves on space and local processing. HP's so-called remote graphics software (RGS) means only changes to the displays are sent from the client.

HP claims the architecture is also particularly secure as data is encrypted between the data centre and the client. Although the blades are hot-swappable, the bank has installed around 25 extra blades which are currently held as spares.

The installation took place over a six-month period prior to Lloyds TSB's office move to Gresham Street from Monument. Walker initially connected all the traders at the Monument office to the system before transferring the thin client kit in one weekend.

Walker is also deploying thin client PCs at Lloyds TSB's satellite offices in Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Amsterdam, providing local traders with access to the same information they would have in London. He is also testing the possibility of traders using a VPN to connect to the systems from home.

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