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ACTIV Testing Third Gen FPGA Cards

Ryan Gorman, Wall Street Letter

ACTIV Financial is testing its third generation of FPGA cards that are expected to double performance over the current generation, according to Mike Dunne, chief technology officer, who spoke to WSL in an interview. The vendor offers market data management and delivery from more than 150 equity and derivative exchanges.

The added processing power in them will allow firms to reduce the amount of software they use and also the amount of servers, helping to further reduce costs, said Dunne. “There isn’t a bank in the world that doesn’t want to shrink their server space.”

The FPGA cards are being tested internally as part of a final beta and will be rolled out to select clients for testing in July, said Dunne. Functionality for the cards will be rolled out in stages, with the first set of capabilities coming towards the end of the third quarter, he added.

Though performance benchmarks aren’t expected to be announced for a few weeks, Dunne said the new set of FPGAs from the vendor should offer performance equal to two times the current 10 million updates per second. The cards are able to do this through doubling the memory controllers used from two to four, he explained, adding that “it’s a serious upgrade to the hardware.”

The design doubles the throughput, allowing the vendor to thread its database an extra iteration, allowing firms to handle more data at greater speeds, the executive said. ”What this translates into is lower latency,” Dunne said.

The first phase of the rollout will see the vendor upgrading the hardware and replicating functionality from the previous generation of FPGAs, he said. The second phase will introduce the additional memory controllers and a third phase will activate the onboard 10 gigabit Ethernet for output flow, he added. The final fourth phase will bring data into the platform through that Ethernet, Dunne further explained.

This technology will be available across deployed and hosted solutions, Dunne noted.

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