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Exegy Introduces FPGA-Based FIX Protocol Support to Enhance Performance and Efficiency

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Front-office trading solutions provider Exegy has integrated FIX protocol support into nxFramework, its FPGA-based development framework, aiming to reduce server resource consumption for FIX protocol processing by an estimated 10-20 times.

In May last year, Exegy acquired Paris-based Enyx, a leading developer of FPGA-based, high-performance trading solutions. By leveraging their extensive expertise in FPGA technology, Exegy has now successfully offloaded FIX protocol processing to the FPGA in a strategic move to not only ensure lower latency but to also substantially decrease server load, thereby freeing up CPU cores for more critical business functions.

Now over thirty years old, the FIX protocol has become a cornerstone of electronic messaging within financial markets. Despite its flexibility and extensibility, the protocol’s design can be resource-intensive, particularly when processing high volumes of FIX traffic through conventional software-based architectures.

“FIX is a flexible and widely used protocol that is very compute intensive for standard CPU-based architecture,” Laurent de Barry, a co-founder of Enyx and now Senior Director, Global Head of Solutions Consulting at Exegy, tells TradingTech Insight. “As data volumes continue to grow and data centre space becomes scarcer, we wanted to offer our customers an alternative to process FIX traffic more efficiently. This new FIX engine offloads the protocol processing to the FPGA, therefore freeing up valuable CPU cores for the business logic and reducing total cost of ownership.”

Exegy’s FIX engine utilises FPGAs to manage hundreds of sessions using just two CPU cores, a task that would typically occupy a least ten times as many cores using a pure software-based approach, according to the company. By employing pre-configured templates to validate FIX messages, filtering out superfluous data and offloading substantial processing workload from software to FPGA, the design enables firms to allocate their computational resources to more productive user applications rather than FIX protocol processing.

“We acknowledge that our customers operate a large software infrastructure that is vital to their business. With this solution, our goal was to offer an easy, painless way to enhance these software applications allowing the hardware to take on the resource intensive task of processing the FIX protocol,” says de Barry. “Customers can now free up valuable CPU cores for their business logic by running the FIX engine on a relatively inexpensive FPGA card without needing to upgrade or add new servers.”

By bridging the divide between hardware and software, Exegy’s solution is designed to provide a software-configurable, FPGA-based FIX stack that offers deterministic manipulation of data streams with low latency, on-the-fly data content modification, and retransmission of altered FIX messages within the FPGA across multiple sessions. Additionally, it promises reduced power consumption and lower operational costs.

The framework also includes a comprehensive suite of software libraries for configuration, monitoring and support, facilitating seamless integration with existing systems. Dedicated APIs are provided for controlling the TCP stack, configuring the FIX offload engine, and managing FIX sessions.

“We focused on providing an FPGA-powered solution, tailored for software users,” says de Barry. “To ensure seamless integration, nxFramework handles each aspect of the FPGA connectivity (i.e. TCP, UDP, PCIe) with simple configuration APIs for the software application, allowing the user to focus on their custom processing and core logic.”

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