Neil Katz took his first programming class at the age of ten and has loved playing with computers ever since. Today, as managing director of D.E. Shaw & Co., overseeing more than 250 technologists at the $37 billion alternative-investment firm, Katz indulges his fondness for hacking on Friday evenings. Ill find a little piece of our software that has a rough edge to it, and Ill polish that edge because writing code remains one of my great pleasures, the 44-year-old says. As weve replaced our older technology with newer, more efficient software, weve saved time and generated happiness among the team, he adds. To that end, D.E. Shaws developers are embedded alongside the quantitative researchers in the multistrategy firms various investment units rather than working as part of a central information technology group. We get huge benefits from that, says Katz, who joined New Yorkbased D.E. Shaw in 1994 after graduating from Stanford University with a BS in electrical engineering and a BA in quantitative economics. During the past year Katzs developers have been working on ways to process enormous amounts of data chronologically after it has been collected. Weve been developing systems to allow us to process this chronological data at scale, which has allowed us to go beyond standard modeling to explore the data for patterns, he explains. Although D.E. Shaw historically has avoided cloud computing because it can do things more cheaply using its own data centers and proprietary technology, Katz says the firm is starting to look at how it could transform its systems to efficiently use cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services as they come down in price: The idea is to get this to the point where if our quants want to use 100,000 machines right now to deal with a data set that is astronomically large, they can do that and it will be an advantage.
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