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Groundbreaking Results for High Performance Trading with FPGA and x86 Technologies

Argon Design, a design services company specializing in complex digital systems has developed a high performance trading system using a heterogeneous mix of technologies to minimize trading latency.

Working with Arista Network’s 7124FX Application Switch which includes an Altera FPGA with hardware-level access to 8 of its 24 10Gb Ethernet ports and an x86 domain based on Intel’s Xeon processors and using the test harness developed for the Finteligent Trading Technology Community program, the latency measured was reduced by a factor of 25 over pure x86 designs tested by the program. For the measured leg in the test harness, latency was reduced from a previous best of 4,600ns to 176ns for algorithmically generated trades executed to the simulated market.

The enhancement in performance was achieved by providing a fast-path where trades are executed directly by the FPGA under the control of trigger rules processed by the x86 based functions. The latency is reduced further by two additional techniques in the FPGA – inline parsing and pre-emption.

As market data enters the switch, the Ethernet frame is parsed serially as bits arrive, allowing partial information to be extracted and matched before the whole frame has been received.

Then, instead of waiting until the end of a potential triggering input packet, pre-emption is used to start sending the overhead part of a response which contains the Ethernet, IP, TCP and FIX headers. This allows completion of an outgoing order almost immediately after the end of the triggering market feed packet.

The overall effect is a dramatic reduction in latency to close to the minimum that is theoretically possible.

Paul Goodridge, Regional Director for Financial Services at Arista comments, “This is exactly the kind of practical application we are looking to see from the market with our 7124FX product and we are delighted and impressed with Argon Design’s commitment and approach. This joint venture exemplifies Arista’s innovation and further highlights the real value of Arista’s EOS (Extensible Operating System) and its ability to take programmability to the Ethernet switching market.”

Steve Barlow, CTO of Argon Design added, “We recognise the Arista 7124FX as cutting edge. By levering the work of the Finteligent community we have been able to demonstrate the application of this technology to low latency trading. Critical here has been the use of a mix of technologies and the selection of appropriate tasks best suited to each processor architecture - combining both software and hardware programming.”

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