Ultra-fast networking

The need for speed in trading has not abated. Infrastructure that minimizes latency is simply the "greens fee" to trade in liquid markets today. Without it, you just can't play.

 

While many factors affect the end-to-end latency of a trading system, the network is still crucial. That's why STAC has a special interest group focused just on this layer of the stack. The STAC Network I/O SIG has established benchmark standards for network stacks (STAC-N1), oriented around applications that access the network API directly without intervening middleware. The SIG drives a research program to evaluate the latest offerings using these benchmark specs. (A prototype of these specs was used to compare the performance of TCP, UDP, several RDMA interfaces, and even RDS.)

 

What keeps this topic hot is that advances in network technology continue to offer lower, more predictable latency while increasing functionality. Some of those advances flow from established players such as Solarflare and Mellanox. (Solarflare has even put forth the idea that low-latency network I/O is possible in a virtualized environment.) Our STAC-N1 testing program continues to evaluate the latest products from these players.

 

Some innovations are also coming from new players on the block. In particular, switches seem to be both lowering the latency bar for distribution of data while upping the ante in terms of the functionality you might expect from such low latency (for example, see presentations by Cisco, Metamako, Exablaze, and Xcelor). You might also want to check out audited results of the Metamako MetaConnect 16 switch, which we released earlier this year.

New players are also competing in the host adapter market. If you want an idea how one of them performs, you'll want to see the STAC-N1 results that Exablaze recently submitted to the STAC Vault for their ExaNIC X4 card with the ExaSock kernel bypass library.

Some of the materials above are reserved for paying members of the STAC Benchmark Council. (For information on how to get access, click here.) 

As data rates increase and other parts of the solution stack become more efficient, interconnects and their interfaces will continue to be a lynchpin to high performance. We'll keep researching these innovations and let you know what we find!