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!

Challenges Face Astroinformatics as It Sorts Through the Stars

June 15, 2018

You might have seen one of those YouTube videos: they begin on Earth, slowly zooming out to the Moon, the Solar System, the Milky Way, beyond – and suddenly, you’re looking at trillions of stars. It’s a lot to take Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

SDSC Researchers Use Machine Learning to More Accurately Model Water

June 13, 2018

Water – H2O – is a simple but fascinating (and useful) compound. San Diego Supercomputing Center researchers used machine learning techniques to develop models for simulations of water with “unprecedented accuracy. Read more…

By Staff

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Banks Boost Infrastructure to Tackle GDPR

As banks become more digital and data-driven, their IT managers are challenged with fast growing data volumes and lines-of-businesses’ (LoBs’) seemingly limitless appetite for analytics. Read more…

Xiaoxiang Zhu Receives the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC

June 13, 2018

Xiaoxiang Zhu, who works for the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Technical University of Munich (TUM), was awarded the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC for her outstanding contributions in the field of high performance computing (HPC) in Europe. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Xiaoxiang Zhu Receives the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC

June 13, 2018

Xiaoxiang Zhu, who works for the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Technical University of Munich (TUM), was awarded the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC for her outstanding contributions in the field of high performance computing (HPC) in Europe. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

U.S Considering Launch of National Quantum Initiative

June 11, 2018

Sometime this month the U.S. House Science Committee will introduce legislation to launch a 10-year National Quantum Initiative, according to a recent report by Read more…

By John Russell

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Exascale USA – Continuing to Move Forward

June 6, 2018

The end of May 2018, saw several important events that continue to advance the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Exascale Computing Initiative (ECI) for the United Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Exascale for the Rest of Us: Exaflops Systems Capable for Industry

June 6, 2018

Enterprise advanced scale computing – or HPC in the enterprise – is an entity unto itself, situated between (and with characteristics of) conventional enter Read more…

By Doug Black

Fracas in Frankfurt: ISC18 Cluster Competition Teams Unveiled

June 6, 2018

The Student Cluster Competition season heats up with the seventh edition of the ISC Student Cluster Competition, slated to begin on June 25th in Frankfurt, Germ Read more…

By Dan Olds

Japan Starts Up 3-Petaflops ‘ATERUI II’ Cray Supercomputer

June 5, 2018

The world's most powerful supercomputer for astrophysical calculations has begun operations in Japan. The announcement comes from the National Astronomical Obse Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Sympo Read more…

By Staff

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google I/O 2018: AI Everywhere; TPU 3.0 Delivers 100+ Petaflops but Requires Liquid Cooling

May 9, 2018

All things AI dominated discussion at yesterday’s opening of Google’s I/O 2018 developers meeting covering much of Google's near-term product roadmap. The e Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Franci Read more…

By John Russell

Part One: Deep Dive into 2018 Trends in Life Sciences HPC

March 1, 2018

Life sciences is an interesting lens through which to see HPC. It is perhaps not an obvious choice, given life sciences’ relative newness as a heavy user of H Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Charts Two-Dimensional Quantum Course

April 26, 2018

Quantum error correction, essential for achieving universal fault-tolerant quantum computation, is one of the main challenges of the quantum computing field and it’s top of mind for Google’s John Martinis. At a presentation last week at the HPC User Forum in Tucson, Martinis, one of the world's foremost experts in quantum computing, emphasized... 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