Hardware Accelerators Are One Way to Help Wall Street, Companies Say

By Dennis Barker

September 24, 2008

NEW YORK CITY – Can hardware acceleration save Wall Street? Well, not as quickly as a multibillion-dollar bailout might, but there was plenty of discussion at this week’s HPC on Wall Street conference about the advantages specialized hardware can bring to market analysts and traders. Sellers of these products were all over the place, their booths were busy, and several sessions on the subject were standing-room only.

The idea of separate appliances to speed up data processing has started catching on in financial services, said Geno Valente, VP of sales and marketing at XtremeData, Inc. “A few years ago, people were like, ‘Who needs that?'” The expectation was that faster and faster CPUs would yield the processing and throughput speeds needed to respond to market changes. Plus, the FPGAs that are the brains of most accelerator boards were exotic to organizations outside the scientific community and required specialized parallel-programming skills to be used effectively.

But that’s all changed, said Valente. Accelerators are now built into appliances from companies like Solace Systems and Exegy that “anyone can plug in and start using,” he said. “Libraries are being developed that make acceleration technology available to people who don’t know parallel-programming.” As a result, “Public exchanges are using accelerators. Wall Street is now taking advantage of them. And there are a lot more companies using them that we can’t talk about,” he said.

Obviously performance — faster processing of more data and more data streams — is the primary advantage vendors mention when talking about their products. Their specialized processors handle the floating-point operations that crunch the algorithms that analysts and traders do-or-die upon. “Accelerator hardware enables us to do things we couldn’t do otherwise,” said Henry Young, founder of TS-Associates, an IT services company specializing in financial middleware. “We can handle a 10-gigabit data stream through a hardware accelerator to speed up processing. You can’t compress a 10-gig stream like that with current CPU technology.”

But it’s not just speed. One reason Wall Street is getting on board is the need to score an edge over competitors and get a better handle on volatile markets. “Accelerators can differentiate a cluster,” Valente said. “Otherwise you have exactly what the other guy has. It’s accelerators and other customizable things you can add to a Linux box that give you an advantage.”

Reliability and data precision were brought up as crucial benefits of acceleration hardware during a panel discussion. Simon McIntosh-Smith, VP of applications at ClearSpeed Technology, raised the spectre of “soft errors” resulting from cosmic emissions flipping bits. ClearSpeed makes an ASIC-based accelerator board that can plug into a server or be ganged up in a rack and connected to the network. What if an alpha emission hit a processor and altered the data from “sell 10,000 shares to buy 10,000”? In that case, you’d better hope you have hardware that supports error detection as well as error correction, McIntosh-Smith said. “The point is to make sure you have a system that supports high reliability. Some hardware accelerators support it, and some don’t. Without reliability built in, you can have soft errors and not even realize it until it’s too late.”

While cosmic rays might be too sci-fi for other manufacturers, they still emphasize the high reliability features of their devices. Exegy uses reconfigurable hardware “so people can add logic to detect flipped bits or to add in more data protection as necessary,” said Scott Parsons, the company’s chief architect. And Solace Systems VP of architecture Shawn McAllister pointed out that Solace appliances can also have reliability features added. “We have firmware that monitors things and can take over in the event of a problem,” he said.

Consolidation is another benefit, these hardware makers say. Exegy’s technology is incorporated in a ticker based on reconfigurable hardware that “can handle all the North American market data feeds in one box rather than a dozen,” Parsons said, with that stream including NYSE/SIAC, NASDAQ, OPRA, and ARCA. (See it in action at marketdatapeaks.com, he noted.)

“Datacenter consolidation is very important to our customers,” McAllister said. “Some of them are in a situation where they just can’t add another server until they take one out. Accelerators can help with that.”

With appliances replacing big servers, in theory at least financial firms will save on utility bills. “We have seen lower power consumption at the system level with our FPGAs,” Parsons noted.

That would be an advantage, right?

“I thought by now we’d be hearing more customers saying they want to reduce power consumption,” McIntosh-Smith said. “But we’re not seeing that. It’s still all about speed and performance.”

And as market data grows and grows, there will probably be no end of that need. Accelerator designers admit they’re just part of the solution. Advances in middleware, algorithms, the OS stack, software development tools, will all be needed to give financial services the ability to acquire, process and interpret data faster. “We don’t see general-purpose CPUs getting that much faster,” said Parsons. “So you have to look at non-traditional approaches to all these problems.”

Meanwhile, manufacturers of other types of processors are designing their chips to meet the demands of financial applications. In June, NVIDIA, whose graphics processing units are at the heart of upscale gaming and multimedia systems (pretty demanding themselves), introduced its 240-core Tesla 10 series. The company says the chip’s teraflop of processing power can be applied to mission-critical workloads such as financial analysis. Likewise, AMD is aiming its Firestream 9250 processor at the same kind of HPC number crunching. AMD has said that developers are reporting up to a 55 times performance increase when running financial analysis code using a FireStream 9250 GPU-based accelerator versus a standalone CPU.

Regardless of one’s take on hardware accelerators, they’ve got to be considered, like any other advancement.

“If you want to play in the fast markets, you can’t ignore new technology,” said Peter Lankford of the Securities Technology Analysis Center, which evaluates and benchmarks IT for trading systems and other financial applications. “Technology budgets are going to be more constrained now, so financial companies need to pay even more attention. Things are just going to get tighter and tighter.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

SC19’s HPC Impact Showcase Chair: AI + HPC a ‘Speed Train’

November 16, 2019

This year’s chair of the HPC Impact Showcase at the SC19 conference in Denver is Lori Diachin, who has spent her career at the spearhead of HPC. Currently deputy director for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Read more…

By Doug Black

Microsoft Azure Adds Graphcore’s IPU

November 15, 2019

Graphcore, the U.K. AI chip developer, is expanding collaboration with Microsoft to offer its intelligent processing units on the Azure cloud, making Microsoft the first large public cloud vendor to offer the IPU designe Read more…

By George Leopold

At SC19: What Is UrgentHPC and Why Is It Needed?

November 14, 2019

The UrgentHPC workshop, taking place Sunday (Nov. 17) at SC19, is focused on using HPC and real-time data for urgent decision making in response to disasters such as wildfires, flooding, health emergencies, and accidents. We chat with organizer Nick Brown, research fellow at EPCC, University of Edinburgh, to learn more. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

China’s Tencent Server Design Will Use AMD Rome

November 13, 2019

Tencent, the Chinese cloud giant, said it would use AMD’s newest Epyc processor in its internally-designed server. The design win adds further momentum to AMD’s bid to erode rival Intel Corp.’s dominance of the glo Read more…

By George Leopold

NCSA Industry Conference Recap – Part 1

November 13, 2019

Industry Program Director Brendan McGinty welcomed guests to the annual National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Industry Conference, October 8-10, on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana (UIUC). One hundred seventy from 40 organizations attended the invitation-only, two-day event. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Data Management – The Key to a Successful AI Project

 

Five characteristics of an awesome AI data infrastructure

[Attend the IBM LSF & HPC User Group Meeting at SC19 in Denver on November 19!]

AI is powered by data

While neural networks seem to get all the glory, data is the unsung hero of AI projects – data lies at the heart of everything from model training to tuning to selection to validation. Read more…

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing components with Intel Xeon, AMD Epyc, IBM Power, and Arm server ch Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19’s HPC Impact Showcase Chair: AI + HPC a ‘Speed Train’

November 16, 2019

This year’s chair of the HPC Impact Showcase at the SC19 conference in Denver is Lori Diachin, who has spent her career at the spearhead of HPC. Currently Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel AI Summit: New ‘Keem Bay’ Edge VPU, AI Product Roadmap

November 12, 2019

At its AI Summit today in San Francisco, Intel touted a raft of AI training and inference hardware for deployments ranging from cloud to edge and designed to support organizations at various points of their AI journeys. The company revealed its Movidius Myriad Vision Processing Unit (VPU)... Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Adds Support for Ion Trap Quantum Technology to Qiskit

November 11, 2019

After years of percolating in the shadow of quantum computing research based on superconducting semiconductors – think IBM, Rigetti, Google, and D-Wave (quant Read more…

By John Russell

Tackling HPC’s Memory and I/O Bottlenecks with On-Node, Non-Volatile RAM

November 8, 2019

On-node, non-volatile memory (NVRAM) is a game-changing technology that can remove many I/O and memory bottlenecks and provide a key enabler for exascale. That’s the conclusion drawn by the scientists and researchers of Europe’s NEXTGenIO project, an initiative funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program to explore this new... Read more…

By Jan Rowell

MLPerf Releases First Inference Benchmark Results; Nvidia Touts its Showing

November 6, 2019

MLPerf.org, the young AI-benchmarking consortium, today issued the first round of results for its inference test suite. Among organizations with submissions wer Read more…

By John Russell

Azure Cloud First with AMD Epyc Rome Processors

November 6, 2019

At Ignite 2019 this week, Microsoft's Azure cloud team and AMD announced an expansion of their partnership that began in 2017 when Azure debuted Epyc-backed instances for storage workloads. The fourth-generation Azure D-series and E-series virtual machines previewed at the Rome launch in August are now generally available. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Launches Credit Card-Sized 21 TOPS Jetson System for Edge Devices

November 6, 2019

Nvidia has launched a new addition to its Jetson product line: a credit card-sized (70x45mm) form factor delivering up to 21 trillion operations/second (TOPS) o Read more…

By Doug Black

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Intel Confirms Retreat on Omni-Path

August 1, 2019

Intel Corp.’s plans to make a big splash in the network fabric market for linking HPC and other workloads has apparently belly-flopped. The chipmaker confirmed to us the outlines of an earlier report by the website CRN that it has jettisoned plans for a second-generation version of its Omni-Path interconnect... Read more…

By Staff report

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

Rise of NIH’s Biowulf Mirrors the Rise of Computational Biology

July 29, 2019

The story of NIH’s supercomputer Biowulf is fascinating, important, and in many ways representative of the transformation of life sciences and biomedical res Read more…

By John Russell

Xilinx vs. Intel: FPGA Market Leaders Launch Server Accelerator Cards

August 6, 2019

The two FPGA market leaders, Intel and Xilinx, both announced new accelerator cards this week designed to handle specialized, compute-intensive workloads and un Read more…

By Doug Black

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cerebras to Supply DOE with Wafer-Scale AI Supercomputing Technology

September 17, 2019

Cerebras Systems, which debuted its wafer-scale AI silicon at Hot Chips last month, has entered into a multi-year partnership with Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as part of a larger collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This