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With New Switches, Cisco Weaves a Low-Latency Trading Fabric

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Moving up the value chain from networking provider to low-latency solutions partner, Cisco Systems will tomorrow announce its “High-Performance Trading Fabric” initiative, which provides reference architectures for “each step of an automated trade” for financial markets participants.

Cisco’s architectures combine networking, compute and storage, and are based on the company’s recently introduced Nexus 3064 and Nexus 5500 switches, themselves designed to meet extreme performance requirements, with a focus on delivering lowest latencies and jitter at sustained data traffic peaks, without loss.

The new switches are the product of specific requirements input from financial institutions gathered over the past 18 months, says Paul Jameson, the company’s global director for financial services, which delivered a clear “no compromise” message in terms of performance. Cisco commissioned network testing specialist Miercom to perform “exhaustive tests” on the switches, with a focus on “intense traffic scenarios, such as microbursts.”

For its part, Miercom’s test of the 3064 switch resulted in Layer 3 measurements ranging from average latency of 920 to 1410 nanoseconds, and jitter of less than 10 nanoseconds, for packet sizes from 64 to 9216 bytes. According to the test report, “In full load traffic conditions, the Cisco Nexus 3064 did not drop packets at 100% capacity and demonstrated consistent results for all port tests.”

Read Miercom’s test reports here.

Jameson says that with the new switches in its arsenal, Cisco is ready to conduct a “bake-off with anyone in the industry,” which it will back up with a buy-back program for competitive products. Those are likely to include offerings from Arista Networks, Blade Network Technologies (a recent acquisition by IBM) and Juniper Networks – all of which have a significant focus on the financial markets vertical.

For its trading fabric architectures, Cisco has created a set of 10 “scalable, flexible designs, proven in real-world testing scenarios,” which include market data delivery and receipt, order creation, delivery, execution, confirmation, and clearance. Approaches that incorporate direct market access (DMA) and trading systems co-located at market centres are also covered.

See Cisco’s High Performance Trading Fabric poster here.

As well as its network switches, Cisco’s Unified Computing System – a combined blade or or rack mount server and storage offering – also contributes to the trading fabric. Jameson notes that UCS has been optimised to run applications, such as data feed handling and messaging middleware.

Cisco is working with a number of partner products to deliver its trading fabric in the real world. These include messaging offerings from Informatica, NYSE Technologies, Solace Systems and Thomson Reuters and latency monitoring from Corvil. The fabric also supports network adaptors from Intel, Chelsio Communications and Solarflare Communications – all of which are aligned with Cisco’s 10 gigabit Ethernet design philosophy.

Professional services will also be key to making a reality of the trading fabric vision, including provision of best practices and tools for installation and validation of performance.

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