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ACTIV Readies Third-Gen FPGA Data Platform

Faye Kilburn, Inside Market Data

Low-latency data provider Activ Financial has launched a beta-testing program for the third generation of its Market Data Processing Unit (MPU) hardware-accelerated ticker plant appliance, which officials say will double the throughput capacity and speed of its enterprise market data distribution platform.

The appliance's latest FPGA card leverages Irvine, Calif.-based network acceleration technology vendor Solarflare's ApplicationOnload Engine (AOE) application accelerator, which combines an advanced FPGA processing engine and a 10-Gigabit server adapter to process data faster on the network.

Previously Activ built its own proprietary technology for its Gen 2 model, which it launched in 2010 (IMD, Nov. 19, 2010). "When we started thinking about our Gen 2 FPGA, we couldn't find a vendor that met our requirements, so we ended up building our own platform," says Mike Dunne, chief technology officer at Activ. "But for the third generation, we've chosen Solarflare's AOE card, which is a hybrid of their Ethernet technology product, combined with an FPGA platform, and we've been using Solarflare development kit to put our application on that FPGA."

While official performance measurements are not yet available, Dunne says Solarflare's engine has twice as many memory controllers as on Activ's Gen 2 model, which could potentially double performance.

According to Activ's website, the Gen 2 FPGA card has a capacity of between 5 million to10 million messages per second.

Over the next two months, Activ will trial the card with a number of tier-one investment banks and financial institutions. Currently, two firms have signed up to test the new version, but the vendor expects to have 12 firms in beta- testing before it rolls out the product officially in September.

"In the first couple of phases of the project, we will move our platform over to Solarflare to take instant advantage of more memory controllers and Solarflare's engineering excellence, and in further phases, we will be doing more with the platform and making refinements to reduce footprint and latency," Dunne says.

The migration to the new AOE-enabled platform should not create any disruption for existing users of the Gen 2 version, and will not impact compatibility of Activ's platform with a firm's internal market data applications. "Users can be confident if they develop apps, they will be compatible with our platform... [and] we'll be protecting that investment in our platform," Dunne adds.

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