Don Resnik explains the need for computing experts who can handle the vast swaths of data that are generated daily. Photo by Ken Levinson

Members of the Department of Computer and Information Science (CIS) at Fordham and the Graduate School of Business Administration’s finance division met with representatives from the private sector on Jan. 27 to discuss the future of financial computing.

The Fordham/IBM Roundtable on Enterprise Systems and Financial Computing, which took place on the Lincoln Center campus, featured representatives from IBM, ISO, Citibank, UBS and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.

The afternoon’s discussions focused on how to train students so that they have the skills that financial firms need to manage vast amounts of data.

The mainframe computer, which was thought to be a thing of the past, is making a comeback, said Don Resnik, program manager for Academic Initiative System z at IBM. Mainframes are increasing as firms realize that server farms—though inexpensive—are underutilized and require expensive cooling systems to keep them working.

“The fact is that 85 percent of a server’s computing capacity sits idle until its gets a job,” Resnik said. “It’s just sitting there generating heat until somebody gives it something to do.”

He pointed out the need for advanced solutions to address the volume of data that is generated every second. For example, Visa handled an average of 11,000 transactions per second on Dec. 23, he said. For every transaction, 50 steps were required to process it.

“This is an example of why enterprise-systems thinking is not about laptops and iPads and small devices. It’s about big problems,” he said. “This is really about extreme IT.”

Bruce McDaniel, vice president of enterprise server software management at Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, said that students should not only learn skills, but understand why they are valuable.

“Don’t tell me the technology that you know. Tell me how you applied it to solve a business problem,” McDaniel said.

Nusret Cakici, Ph.D., professor of finance and business economics in the Graduate School of Business Administration (GBA), focused on why hedge funds need people with quantitative skills. In 1990, hedge funds managed $50 million; they now manage $2 trillion.

Much of what they do, Cakici said, is parse enormous amounts of data.

Responding to the need for such highly trained computing specialists, CIS and GBA’s finance division have created a 15-credit advanced certificate in financial computing for professionals who have the opportunity to manage large-scale complex data systems.