Lucera's CEO, Jacob Loveless, gives an overview of low latency trading both from a traders view and the exchange view.
I am a former high-frequency trader. For a few wonderful years I led a group of brilliant engineers and mathematicians, and together we traded in the electronic marketplaces and pushed systems to the edge of their capability.
HFT (high-frequency trading) systems operate and evolve at astounding speeds. Moore's law is of little comfort when compared with the exponential increase in market-data rates and the logarithmic decay in demanded latency. As an example, during a period of six months the requirement for a functional trading system went from a "tick-to-trade" latency of 250 microseconds to 50. To put that in perspective, 50 microseconds is the access latency for a modern solid-state drive.
I am also a former and current developer of exchange technology. The exchange is the focal point of HFT, where electronic buyers and sellers match in a complex web of systems and networks to set the price for assets around the world. I would argue that the computational challenges of developing and maintaining a competitive advantage in the exchange business are among the most difficult in computer science, and specifically systems programming. To give you a feeling of scale, the current exchange technology is benchmarked in nightly builds to run a series of simulated market data feeds at 1 million messages per second, as a unit test. There is no such thing as premature optimization in exchange development, as every cycle counts.
The goal of this article is to introduce the problems on both sides of the wire. Today a big Wall Street trader is more likely to have a Ph.D from Caltech or MIT than an MBA from Harvard or Yale. The reality is that automated trading is the new marketplace, accounting for an estimated 77 percent of the volume of transactions in the U.K. market and 73 percent in the U.S. market. As a community, it's starting to push the limits of physics. Today it is possible to buy a custom ASIC (application- specific integrated circuit) to parse market data and send executions in 740 nanoseconds (or 0.00074 milliseconds).4 (Human reaction time to a visual stimulus is around 190 million nanoseconds.)
Lucera originally evolved from a high frequency team that was increasingly unhappy with the existing FX electronic trading process. Inconsistent fill rates and latency issues led to a craving for an entirely better system. So, we created it.