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Citihub Pushes Down IPC Latency with Hardcore/Tibco FTL Combo

Trading technology consulting firm Citihub has released highlights of performance testing it completed on Tibco Software’s FTL middleware running on Hardware Computer’s over-clocked, liquid-cooled Detonator workstation. Not surprisingly, the results are the fastest seen to date for inter-process communication.

According to Citihub associate partner Ben Newton, the tests were driven by ongoing consulting engagements with trading firms that are looking to reduce latency for applications such as algorithmic and high frequency trading, but in a cost effective way, that’s also straightforward to deploy.

Enter Hardcore Computer, which manufactures a range of servers where the CPU is over-clocked – that is run at a clock rate faster than its design parameters – and so produces higher performance. Hardcore servers can achieve this, while keeping the CPU cool (and so reliable) by immersing the CPU and motherboard in dielectric liquid, which dissipates heat far better – 1,350 times better says Hardcore – than traditional air-cooled servers.

The Citihub tests were on a Hardcore Detonator workstation server (the company also manufactures blade models), with an Intel Xeon X5698 microprocesor. That chip is actually an ‘off roadmap’ design by Intel, which as standard runs at a fast 4.4 GHz. But when over-clocked inside the Detonator (on a motherboard from Supermicro Computer), it is pushed to 4.93 GHz on a continuous basis.

Running on the Detonator was Tibco’s FTL middleware, configured for inter-process communication between applications. Citihub’s tests determined that 16 byte messages – for the marketing folks – were passed with average latency of 237 nanoseconds, while more typical messages of 128 bytes took 271 nanoseconds.  Previous benchmarks published by Tibco show 128 byte messages being communicated in 354 nanoseconds.

Moreover, latency was “massively predictable” says Newton – less than two nanoseconds at one standard deviation. For its testing, Citihub employed embedded assembler code modules that count the clock cycles of the CPU – accurate to a fraction of a nanosecond.

Newton reckons that deploying Hardcore servers represents “an easy speed up” with a low “cost per microsecond improvement” for firms since no trading application software changes need to be made.

Configuring Citihub’s test application to use FTL was less than a man week of effort, says Newton, who also praises the middleware for its maintainability, with a good user interface – factors that impact cost of operation.

By complementing Hardcore’s liquid immersion (within the server) with water cooling within a data centre also pushes operations costs lower, since heat can be dissipated outside of the data centre itself, reducing the need for air conditioning. The potential exists, notes Newton, to improve performance while reducing costs.

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