Hardware acceleration is (slowly) making its way to the trading floor

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Large investment banks are likely to increasingly look towards hardware acceleration for low latency solutions in a bid to shave milliseconds off trading times. This move is imminent, suggest commentators, but sadly any job creation is still a little way off.

"Software cannot be optimized any more than it has been already, nor can the amount of available data centre space, power, cooling and money keep pace with major financial services firms' demand for more and more compute power," says Kevin McPartland, senior analyst at TABB Group.

He says that the hardware acceleration buzz words are field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), graphical processing units (GPUs) and multi-core processors, which are all starting to gain some traction within financial services firms.

Chris Pickles, head of investment banking and global accounts at BT Global Financial Services, suggests move to hardware acceleration on the trading floor may be closer than many think.

"I know a number of CTOs and CIOs within major investment banks who are looking very closely at hardware projects," he says. "This will translate to a need for extra people internally, though I anticipate this being mainly for implementation roles, and vendors that specialise in this space will also be looking to build their teams."

One advantage of hardware acceleration is that it's comparatively cheap, says MacPartland, but in the current cost-cutting climate banks might take a bit more convincing to shell out.

"As hardware-acceleration technology becomes less expensive and the return on investment becomes more obvious, the combination of demand and innovation will result in unimaginable advancements," he says. "The question is not whether we can get faster, but how and when?"

The recruiters we spoke to agreed that it's something that's likely to take off in the future, but universally stated that they'd not as yet received any mandates around hardware acceleration.

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