Cisco Debuts High-Performance Trading Switch

Terry Flanagan

Cisco has extended its trading technology suite with the launch of a switch that’s optimized for high-performance, high-frequency trading applications.

The Nexus 3548 with Algorithm Boost (or Algo Boost) technology provides network-access performance as low as 190 nanoseconds, the company said.

“Industry-standard latency is 380+ nanoseconds,” said Rajan Panchanathan, director of product management at Cisco’s data center group. “With the 3548, we are now able to break the 200 nanosecond barrier, which is a 60% performance improvement.”

The Nexus 3548 integrates the Cisco Algo Boost technology in the ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuits) switching silicon, providing granular visibility into how the switch is performing while in production.

“Our members expect to connect using high performing and reliable infrastructure for real-time trading and market data,” said Nigel Harold, head of business development technology at London Stock Exchange, in a statement.

“The new Algo Boost ASIC technology, that will be available in the Cisco Nexus 3548 switch, offers ultra-low latency and unique features that can increase our visibility across the network and further boost reliability for our customers.”

Globally interconnected financial markets have elevated the demands on trading networks, making visibility and control equally critical to performance.

Performance targets in financial trading networks are arguably more stringent than in any other type of network deployed, as message latency and data loss can directly result in missed trading opportunities, and lost money.

Cisco in 2011 launched a High-Performance Trading (HPT) Fabric optimized for financial markets.

The Fabric breaks the trade cycle into segments, such as connectivity, market data, order management and execution, risk management, clearing and settlement. Each segment is supported by Cisco networking products.

“By unifying data-center switching, storage and computer technologies into a single system, the HPT Fabric also helps enhance data center network performance at each step of an automated trade,” said Panchanathan at Cisco.

The Nexus 3548 enhances the HPT Fabric architecture by enabling traders to conduct pre-trade risk management without imposing performance or latency penalties.

“Traditionally, latency has always come at the risk of other functionality,” said Panchanathan. “With this innovation, you can get the best of both worlds.”

Closely related to the HPT Fabric is Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS), a data-center platform that unites computing, networking, storage access and virtualization.

The idea behind UCS is that stringing thousands of servers together in an effort to generate massive amounts of central processing units in the absence of a master architectural plan is wasteful.

The impact of intense traffic scenarios, such as microbursts, on network performance can be enormous.

One packet of information dropped because of a microburst that exceeds network bandwidth can dramatically increase trading time, requiring retransmissions and possibly resulting in complete data loss. Such a situation can cascade and result in significant opportunity costs.

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