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Algo Boost Series: Part 2 Customer Perspective on Cisco Nexus 3548

On October 5th I posted part 1 of the Algo Boost series with a fantastic discussion around the latency innovations on the Nexus 3548. Today, we announced that these units are now shipping to customers and the much anticipated wait is over to get this game changing technology! This is perfect timing as I introduce part 2 of the series with Errol Roberts, Distinguished System Engineer for the top Data Center accounts, to bring a customer perspective to the ultra-low latency Nexus 3548 in a High Performance Trading fabric.

[GD]  I know that you spend a lot of your time talking with customers. What are our Financial Services customers telling you about their environments and requirements?

[ER] When meeting with these customers, I like to ask a single question -- “What value can an infrastructure company provide to high-performance trading workloads”.  Key points relating to the switching are captured by the following:

  • First, customers ask for a network solution and architecture that provides them with the fastest end-to-end functionality. Providing the “Lowest latency possible” is one vector, another vector being a rich “feature-set” answering the different architecture and network requirements end-to-end. Naturally there is a need for speed while at the same time providing the features within the same device. For example in collocated High Frequency Trading environments; the lowest latency being key; it’s not the only factor; support for the routing protocol such as BGP, multicast with PIM Sparse mode, ultra low latency SPAN at linerate with multiple ports; this is achieved with the technology called Warp SPAN.
  • Next, “Handle microbursts”. Volatility is correlated. When you are running cross-asset class, cross-liquidity venue strategies, there is often short-lived congestion that increases latency. These volatile periods are often the most opportunity rich.
  • Also, “Unique features”.  They want features like Network Address Translation to meet their business needs. You don’t want these features to add latency. In fact you don’t want to have any of the L4 or services applied on the network to add latency.
  • Next, “Flexibility and Programmability”. They want to control their traffic flow, mirror relevant traffic, have fine-grained flexibility and also have reactivity on events. Python scripting language is a good example of automation. With Python script, you can have the switch react on different environmental changes such as a sanity check when the device comes online as well as for example triggering emails when the burst happening at the buffer level exceed for example 10 nanoseconds.
  • In addition, facilitate “Precision Time”. You cannot control what you cannot measure. Without precision time, you invest in an infrastructure and just hope you get optimal performance. With precision time protocol you can keep all of your servers and network elements highly synchronized at the nanosecond level.  You can even measure the accuracy of the tool through a 1 pulse per second output port. Also, the Nexus 3548 can timestamp traffic with IEEE 1588, which allows analyzers to replay events.

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Algo Boost Series: Part 1 Nexus 3548 Latency Innovations

The Nexus 3548 with Algo Boost was announced last week and received a lot of positive buzz around this game changing innovation. To follow up on Berna Devrim’s Introduction Blog, I am introducing a multipart series that goes into more specifics by Cisco experts. As part 1 of the series, I recently had the opportunity to have a chat with Will Ochandarena about the latency enhancements. Will is a Senior Product Manager in the Server Access and Virtualization Business Unit.  In this role, he is responsible for the Nexus 3548 switch, and Cisco’s low latency switching strategy.

GD: The Cisco Nexus 3548 switch with Algo Boost was announced on September 19th and received a lot of positive attention. Can you elaborate a little more on the latency that this switch can achieve? How does this benefit our financial customers?

<WO>: The custom switching ASIC in the Nexus 3548, codenamed Monticello, sets a new bar for switching latency.  Our engineers worked tirelessly to eliminate unnecessary nanoseconds from the forwarding path, tweaking it down to as low as 190 nanoseconds (ns).  Best of all,  this latency is achieved even when we are doing full layer-2 and layer-3 switching, with features such as Network Address Translation (NAT) enabled.   We actually went as far as to offer a few different switching modes, each with different latency and forwarding characteristics, in order to give our customers the most flexibility in their deployments.

In terms of the impact on our end customers, we consistently hear from companies in the financial community that switch latency has a direct impact on the profitability of their business. Trading firms -- as well as the exchanges and other participants -- gain significant business advantage if the supporting infrastructure enables them to acquire data and execute trades nanoseconds faster than the competition.

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Cisco Innovation Provides Competitive Advantage to High-Performance Trading

For the last decade I have been fortunate to work with leading buy-side, sell-side and execution venues from each major money center around the world.  This has been especially rewarding as financial markets have become so dependent on well-designed technology architecture in support of the exponentially growing automated trading business.

As competition grows more intense with firms fighting to capture order flow and optimize liquidity, I have discovered a common set of business imperatives that resonate with most players in the space, including:

  • An ongoing requirement for ‘Being FASTER than the Competition’.
  • Increasing Order Flow and Liquidity to help grow revenues.
  • Ability to have greater risk management insight in the trading lifecycle due to Regulatory requirements such as 15c3-5.
  • Fast Market Data Delivery and Distribution to help Accelerate Price Discovery for participant firm and exchanges.
  • Lastly, capturing key opportunities during Volatility is vital to the business.

Financial Services is an important vertical for Cisco and we have been focusing our R&D investments to optimize the value and benefit we deliver to financial markets.  This has resulted in the development of our High Performance Trading Fabric, a comprehensive architecture designed to optimize global electronic trading by addressing computing, routing, switching, optical, and trade flow intelligence in an integrated fashion that supports the multi-participant electronics trading lifecycle.

Our latest innovation results from the direct input my colleagues and I have received from our financial markets customers.  This week we are announcing Cisco’s Algo Boost technology, integrated into our new Nexus 3548 switch platform.  Algo Boost provides unprecedented performance, visibility and control for greater business agility and intelligence to allow firms to capture alpha across their trading operations.

I wanted to share a few benefit examples that are very relevant to the financial markets firms that I work with on a daily basis. Read More »

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Introducing Cisco Algo Boost and Nexus 3548 – Breaking 200 ns Latency Barrier!

… While Delivering Superior Fabric Visibility!

Today, at the High Performance Computing for Wall Street event, we announced Cisco Algorithm Boost or Algo Boost technology, a groundbreaking networking innovation with numerous patents pending, that offers the highest speed, visibility and monitoring capabilities in the networking industry.  A true game changer delivering competitive advantage to our customers!

Ideal for high performance trading, big data and high performance computing environments, this new technology offers network access performance as low as 190 nanoseconds, more than 60% faster than other full featured Ethernet switches.  When your business success is determined by nanoseconds, this is a huge gain!

The first switch to integrate the Cisco Algo Boost technology is the new Cisco Nexus 3548 full-featured switch which extends Cisco’s leadership in networking by pairing performance and low latency with innovations in visibility, automation, and time synchronization.  And it is tightly integrated with the rich feature set of our Nexus Operating System, a proven operating system used in many of the world’s leading data centers, creating a truly differentiated offering.

 

Algo boost infographic from Cisco Data Center

So you may ask how we deliver this breakthrough offering that will change the game.  Here is how…

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