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State Street modernizing with cloud, Linux technologies

State Street Corporation says technology must evolve to meet the increasingly demanding needs of financial services, and within its own data centers is adopting new cloud-like technologies and placing a greater emphasis on Linux and open source.

State Street CIO Chris Perretta says the Boston-based financial services company is moving many of its workloads from high-end proprietary Unix servers to commodity Linux boxes, and is increasingly embracing virtualization and automation tools to create a cloud-like infrastructure.

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The goal for State Street, which devotes 20% to 25% of its operating expenses to IT, is to create a more flexible infrastructure for providing application services and data access to clients, Perretta says.

The cost of hardware is not coming down fast enough to overcome State Street's growing need to buy new data center equipment, a "recipe for disaster," Perretta says in an interview. State Street released a report this week called "The Evolving Role of Technology in Financial Services."

While financial services companies are typically wary of public cloud services such as Amazon's EC2, they can try to replicate the same kind of flexible provisioning of resources in-house.

State Street has six major data centers in the United States, Europe and Asia, including three backup facilities. The company is building out its initial private cloud services from a disaster recovery facility in Massachusetts.

State Street had virtualized about 65% of its environment even before the private cloud project, but virtualization alone won't create what Perretta considers to be a cloud. New tools for provisioning, change control, load balancing, a common security framework and various types of instrumentation to enable multi-tenant infrastructures are all part of the mix, he says. "Running on a very lean technology stack," State Street can deploy new applications in five minutes, he says.

State Street partitioned off part of its data center for "massive racks of commodity servers" that can be treated as a single entity, providing cloud services and virtual desktops.

State Street runs hundreds of applications across pretty much every major type of server: mainframes, Windows Server, Unix and Linux. For its first cloud project, State Street is moving numerous workloads from high-end Unix servers to Linux. Although State Street is a VMware customer, Perretta says the company is emphasizing open source virtualization tools for this project. "We are as open as we can go," he says.

The first production applications -- targeted at State Street's external customers -- will be running on the Linux-based cloud this summer, he said. While Linux is the initial focus, State Street's cloud project won't be devoted entirely to open source. "Over time, we'll have a .NET cloud," Perretta said.

In financial services, providing real-time access to data is crucial. Toward that end, State Street is also looking at whether to adopt any of the new data warehousing appliances from Oracle, IBM's Netezza and Teradata.

"Some of the real business and operational savings comes from rationalization of data structures and data definitions," Perretta says. "We think that's very important. But it doesn't happen overnight."

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.


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