A switch with just 49 ns latency? What strange magic is this?

Cisco won't blink, but high-frequency traders may get twitchy

Australian company Exablaze has released a switch with claimed latency of just 49 nanoseconds.

The ExaLINK Fusion FastMux is designed for those who can't wait for data to make it through a box, especially high-frequency traders but also HPC types.

The device isn't a switch to rank with the likes of Cisco or Arista, because it's not designed to carry traffic from one port to any other. Instead, it aims to move data from its 15 incoming ports into a single outgoing port, or the reverse.

That goal means the device doesn't have to bother about layer 3 and that, as explained to The Register by Exablaze director Ian Heddle, means the switch is rather less complicated inside than a vanilla switch.

The simplified interior helps to speed throughput, but the heavy lifting to get to the 49ns figure is done by field-programmable gate arrays that execute custom packet-shifting code at silicon speed and get things moving.

That effort's worth it for algorithmic traders who fire off oodles of orders to buy and sell securities every second after near-real-time analysis of market fluctuations that suggest short-term gains can be had if sales or acquisitions are made in very small windows of time. Missing those windows means missing an opportunity, hence demand for switches with very low latency.

And Exablaze does look to have very, very low latency: rival Mellanox claims 300 nanosecond speed for the “Spectrum” switches it offers the financial services industries.

Like Mellanox, Exablaze also sells NICs, but you don't need those in harness with the ExaLINK Fusion FastMux to get the low latency switching. To measure that switching, you may need the company's ExaNIC High Precision Timing capture card, which just about follows electrons around with a stopwatch to measure the length of their journeys.

Reg readers have long memories so some may recall that we covered similar Australian technology back in 2012, and then again in the context of a court battle over just who owned the IP.

Heddle assured us those cases saw the relevant IP assigned to Exablaze and said court battles are now behind the company and that it's ready sell to all comers, starting at about $20,000. ®


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