By Terry Flanagan

Cloud and Mobile Present Opportunities and Challenges

For corporate IT departments, the challenges presented by the advent of iPhones and other mobile devices are manifold.

IT departments must support applications on a variety of devices now, which is referred to as pervasive computing.

“Mobile devices, unlike other devices, can access these internal applications ‘over the air’, which leads to a host of security issues,” said Subramanian Ramakrishnan, head of financial services analytical applications at Oracle, a software maker. “Authentication, authorization, provisioning and de-provisioning are all huge challenges for mobile devices.”

One implication of the bring your own device, or BYOD movement, is a perceived loss of control by corporate IT departments.

“BYOD policies are also increasing with many companies realizing the productivity benefits of allowing staff to use their own mobile devices for corporate data and services,” said Neil Smyth, director of IT and marketing at StatPro, a provider of cloud-based risk and analytic services.

Cloud technologies work hand in hand with mobile technologies, enabling clients the ability to travel light and fast—the days of dragging a laptop everywhere are long since gone with the advent of smartphones and tablets.

“The technologies are orthogonal to each other,” said Ramakrishnan. “Certain features of cloud computing like load balancing and dynamic scaling are useful for mobile computing.

“In today’s cloud-based ‘technology-as-a-service’ world, institutions are considering specialist service suppliers to provide flexible data storage solutions that are fully scalable.”

Although this was not a strategy that was immediately accepted for critical applications, due to uncertainty on the risks in security and reliability, the general concept of outsourcing key infrastructure—i.e., data storage, along with highly proprietary and confidential data—is now gaining acceptance.

StatPro’s cloud services for portfolio analysis enables firms to get information they want without deploying an expensive IT infrastructure.

“Portfolio analysis is about transforming raw data into useful information,” Smyth said. “StatPro uses cloud technology to facilitate managing, understanding and distributing portfolio data, whether it’s measuring performance, equity or fixed income attribution, contribution, allocation or risk analysis.”

IT departments need to embrace mobile and cloud, and the industry needs to adapt and look at better management tools that help accelerate rollouts.

“The screen real estate is a lot smaller, so the application end points must be adjusted in real-time likely based on user identity—what is more relevant to a sales person versus someone in the mid or back office accessing the same application,” said Ramakrishnan at Oracle.

“The volume of transactions increase dramatically as application consumers get untethered from their desks either at home or office,” he said. “This has a significant impact on the internal systems that host and support these applications.”

For heavy-duty number crunching, the cloud offers the opportunity to access thousands of servers running in parallel.

An example is Oracle Exadata, Oracle’s database for large-scale structured data applications, which is designed to enable customers to store more data and perform searches faster than with conventional relational database-management systems.

In choosing a cloud provider, firms need to ask themselves a variety of questions.

“You need to figure out your needs; do you need a provider of infrastructure, platform or applications on the cloud?” said Ramakrishnan. “Do you need the physical hardware to be present in a country for regulatory reasons? Do you need the data centers to be located close to certain end points like trading venues for HFT type applications? And do you need caged infrastructure due to security and regulatory constraints? Answers to all these questions will determine which provider you choose.”

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