Virtualization and low latency are two terms you don't often see in the same sentence. Although virtualization is extremely popular on Wall Street, it's rarely used in trading environments because it can introduce bottlenecks — shared memory resources tend to be inadequate for these data-intense applications and sometimes the hypervisor itself introduces a drag because it has to be involved in every I/O transaction. Any type of bottleneck, of course, is counterintuitive to the notion of low latency, which is about getting data as fast as possible from starting point to destination, eliminating all possible delays.
Today Sun Microsystems and Thomson Reuters announced that Reuters' RMDS 6 market data system will work with Sun's Solaris 10 Containers, a form of virtualization technology, with minimal impact on latency.
According to Ian Pearl, global lead — low latency trading and market data at Sun, of the roughly 2,500 RMDS installs in the world, approximately 85% run on Sun Sparc equipment. "Many of these customers would like to reduce their footprint by consolidating many processes onto a much smaller number of physical devices, whether those devices are running on Sparc or on x86," Pearl says. Virtualization across Containers can enable this to happen while avoiding the cost of hypervisor-based virtualization software and still achieving low latency.
"Our experience is that hypervisor-based virtualization technology would add significant friction or drag on a system that's unacceptable in a low-latency environment, whereas using Containers, there is no drag," he says. He also says that the use of Sun's Containers enables IT to assign a network card (such as a 10 gigabit card) or port number to a specific instance of RMDS, thereby ensuring high-speed throughput and reducing the potential for bottlenecks. Another benefit of Containers, he says, is that when multiple applications are running in multiple instances on the same machine, if they need to communicate between each other, they don't have to go across the network, they can communicate on the backplane within the operating system. "We get better performance between applications running on the same machine than if we ran two applications on different machines," he says.
Pearl further claims that the cost of ownership of Solaris is less than the cost of Linux because Solaris licenses are free and Sun's support costs are lower than Red Hat's.
Reuters is sure to come out with further announcements about its RMDS 6 platform and other software and hardware partners.