Rewind: Solace and Liquidnet keynote

At the recent Ultra-High Performance Technologies in Financial Services event, our CEO Craig Betts and Liquidnet’s Chief Architect Brett Kotch shared the keynote slot to kick off the conference.

Craig talked about how the technology pioneered as low latency solutions in financial services often leads to a better world when applied to challenges like homeland security, smart grids and transportation scheduling.

Brett talked about hedgehogs, S-curves and space time relativity. Yes, really! Brett’s session was definitely the most imaginative and thought provoking presentation at the conference.

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Kernel bypass – revving up linux networking

In Formula One racing, all cars must comply with a defined set of rules (the formula) and find ways to differentiate with a car, driver and support team that all follow the basic guidelines.

The same is true of automated trading systems. The formula is simple: each trading system consumes market data and produces orders. What happens in between is how each firm differentiates themselves. Just like in F1, anything that can be improved is up for evaluation when it comes to achieving fast, consistent performance.

Today we announced a partnership with Solarflare Communications to accelerate linux-based networking of high performance messaging. Let me take a minute to lay out what this partnership does for our customers.

It is well understood that in the software world trading performance is negatively impacted by “context switching”. This is an operating system issue, where the OS needs to manage state as control is passed from “kernel space” where the network drivers reside, to “user space” where the application runs.… Read the rest

Latest financial meme: consistent latency

I can has consistent latency?Let’s face it, if you want to get attention on the Internet, you have to fall in line with the concept of memes. These are the ideas that take on a life of their own, such as the dramatic prairie dog or the VP dropping an F-bomb. Twitter’s version of memes is the concept of trending topics based on frequently tweeted keywords. This lets you see what topics people are talking about at a glance.

If dialog in the low latency finance community had that concept, it appears that “consistent latency” would be moving up the charts. For the majority of 2009, the focus was just on making everything faster. Lower the latency, shave a microsecond here and there, and so on.  This year, it seems that people have figured out that the harder thing to achieve is predictable latency. If you’re going to turn decision making over to algos, you need to be confident that the information that feeds them is current.… Read the rest

Hardware trading: The machines are taking over…

The machines are taking over.With each day that passes it becomes more obvious that hardware is replacing software in the critical path of high performance trading. It doesn’t take a genius to see what’s happening, as the evidence is everywhere:

  • Feed handlers: All of the recent entrants into the feed handler market are using custom hardware.
  • Messaging middleware: Appliances from companies like Solace are winning a larger footprint for market data delivery and back-office order routing.
  • Algo engines: Leading algo trading engines are heavily leveraging FPGAs and GPUs to do ultra-fast simulations that accelerate trading decisions.
  • TCP offload engines: TOEs are taking the place of software TCP stacks on servers.
  • Trading apps:  We’ve even seen a flurry of requests from high performance trading firms looking to execute pre-trade risk checking directly in network processors inline with the hardware messaging bus.

Feed handlers, messaging, algos, network stacks, risk-checking all in hardware.… Read the rest

MetaBit chooses Solace for FIX-based services

Today, we are pleased to add MetaBit to the ever growing list of financial service providers that have chosen Solace to be their routing and delivery platform of choice. They’re using our hardware as the foundation of their FIX-based DMA and liquidity hubs to efficiently distribute information to customers. Financial service providers have a common set of requirements that map very well to many of the capabilities of hardware:

  • 24/7 reliability to assure service availability
  • Low-latency behavior to provide customers with competitive trade execution times
  • Lots of headroom for growth in service volumes and customers
  • Small data center footprint and minimal incremental operations cost as customer counts increase

Increasingly, customers do not have just a low latency problem, or a queuing problem, or an efficient WAN delivery problem, they have an information delivery problem that is a combination of all three. The prospect of procuring three kinds of software that needs to be made redundant and scaled across separate racks of servers feels so 20 years ago when a single hardware content router can consolidate all of these into one footprint and one API.… Read the rest

Hybrid computing for the corporate masses?

Computerworld posted a story yesterday about hybrid systems speeding up corporate apps. Without getting into the obvious joke about how many miles per gallon these systems will get, this echoes conversations we are having daily with Wall Street and cloud computing firms about how hardware assist can help deal with performance issues – both volume of data, and latency of response

In the article, Steve Conway, an analyst at IDC, is quoted as saying: “[Performance issues] are causing a real shift in the capability to get the work done, ” he said. “It’s no secret that microprocessor speeds stalled out a few years ago. [Computer makers] need to do something, [so] they’re adding accelerators.” The reality is that most enterprise coders are looking to write more abstracted code (C, Java, CEP engine rules, etc) not more processor specific code. It is beyond the capability of most enterprise programmers to parallelize their code across CPUs and consolidate the results.… Read the rest