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Financial services might seem like the last place you’d want to do business these days, but some vendors are finding innovative ways to drive sales into the troubled industry, proving there’s plenty of opportunity if you just know where to look.

Asaf Somekh, vice president of strategic alliances at high-performance grid backbone and switch manufacturer Voltaire, says financial services customers must still make technology investments to grow their core businesses, regardless of the economic landscape.

“We’ve seen an impact on our financial services customers, certainly, especially after the huge losses in September and October. But after the dust settled, we see our customers still investing in their core trading business, and surviving because they remain more competitive,” he says.

Speed is what helps customers remain competitive, says Somekh. The faster trades happen, the less risk is incurred and costs are lowered.  One customer in particular, Somekh says, has leveraged Voltaire’s InfiniBand standard in the development of automated “robot traders” that perform analysis on identical securities traded on many different markets.

“For this customer, the times when the market is volatile is when they make the most money,” Somekh says. “At the moment, they’re buying solutions by the rack, setting them up near stock exchanges, and from the moment they start running these systems they’re making money,” he says.

Another area Voltaire is targeting is high-performance computing (HPC). Somekh says traditionally, HPC was reserved for the government and educational sector; research institutes, for example. But about three years ago, Voltaire noticed the technology was making inroads into R&D-intensive industries like oil and gas, and that the financial services market was also taking advantage.

HPC accounted for about 10 percent of the overall server market back in 2003, says Somekh, but has doubled its share to about 20 percent now, sources say. Voltaire is capitalizing on that expansion by announcing compatibility with WinOFversion 2.0.

Using Voltaire WinOF 2.0, virtually any Windows-based server application including Microsoft Windows HPC Server 2008 and other Windows operating systems can seamlessly use InfiniBand and heighten performance. The Voltaire WinOF 2.0 distribution includes software for database clustering, high performance computing, communications, and storage applications, according to Somekh.

Heavily Windows-based industries including financial services, manufacturing, academia, aerospace and life sciences will benefit from the improvements in application performance, Somekh says.

“Microsoft saw an opportunity here, since most HPC was previously Linux-based, to target the commercial HPC space. We believe we’ll see more customers getting into the space and moving away from Linux since the Microsoft platform will be more manageable and simpler,” he says.