High frequency trading and the data centre
To gain competitive advantage in high frequency trading (HFT) – financial institutions use complex algorithms to analyse the market and obtain the best price by automatically executing trades – the transactions must be faster than fast.
This requires powerful servers, the best data lines and a connection close to where the trade is physically taking place. Making it the ultimate edge computing application – as the processing is taking place close to the source of the input data, thus providing the lowest possible latency between input and response. Because speed matters. Milliseconds often mean the loss or gain of millions of dollars. Since HFT represents about half of all US equity trading, and at its peak traded more than ten billion shares a day according to MarketWatch, the right data centre setup to house and manage this high-performance equipment is mission critical.
Pushing the compute as hard as possible, and doing so safely, is the name of the game in HFT. With the intensive computations required, these fast servers generate higher heat loads and use more power than older servers. This makes cooling a significant consideration for data centre owners and operators – both to optimise performance of the servers and to keep operational costs in check. Immersion cooling is today’s solution for these types of data centres – by reducing equipment costs (CAPEX) and total power costs (OPEX) while enabling flexibility for future expansion and operational changes.
Liquid immersion cooling allows for consistently lower core temperatures and dramatically saves money over other ways to cool servers. Air and chilled water cooling both require significant energy. Air cooling is particularly inefficient, as the system must cool the entire room to keep the servers cool, using more energy than actually needed for the task. Chilled water brings the cooling power closer to the heat source and increases cooling capacity compared to air cooling. Yet, this method also requires significant energy to maintain the water at or below 50F. Energy savings alone from switching away from air or chilled water cooling can save a data centre owner or operator millions of dollars.
Immersion cooling provides 1,200 times the heat capacity than air and can cool up to 100 kW per rack, without the aid of energy-consuming chillers. Immersion provides a consistently low temperature across the entire server, eliminating all hotspots. Additionally, the removal of server fans provides significant benefits.
Fans typically top any enterprise’s mean-time-to-failure list, and they create vibrations that limit server lifespan. Removing fans also further reduces energy consumption, as they can account for over 20% of the server load. Switching to immersion cooling enables data centre owners and operators to cut cooling energy costs by up to 95%, resulting in over a 40% reduction in overall data centre energy costs.
In addition to saving on energy costs, immersion cooling can handle more equipment than air- or chiller-cooled systems. This gives data centre operators the ability to run more servers in the same space and power envelope. Or to run the same number of servers in a smaller space. And since data centres that house equipment for high-frequency trading need to be geographically close to the trading floor, this can be expensive in terms of real estate and energy costs.
With server usage, power draw, and space maximised, a retrofit to liquid immersion cooling means there is no need to find more space or power to increase computing capacity. And if you’re building a new data centre, immersion cooling eliminates the need for chillers, air conditioning systems and air handlers, and raised floors. This enables more of the available space to be devoted to servers and computing equipment and lowers capital expenditures by half.
In addition to reducing the total amount of power used, switching to an immersion cooling system allows financial services firms in many areas to be eligible for rebates and other incentives from government agencies and utility providers. This adds to the already significant savings of an immersion cooled system for your data centre.
With financial services companies relying heavily on data and the speed of transaction, uptime is mission critical. With transactions exchanging millions of dollars in seconds, any downtime is a significant risk. With air or chiller cooled servers, maintenance requires scheduled downtime. Liquid immersion cooling has a unique advantage over these systems when it’s necessary to turn the system off, either for maintenance or to troubleshoot. Because the system has thermal ride-through, the coolant continues to work for ten to 30 minutes after the power is turned off. This enables some maintenance work or problem solving without risking the servers overheating, reducing the possibility of downtime.
The results of a pilot with one of our high-frequency trading clients exceeded their expectations of power and space savings. Retrofitting their current data centre with a liquid immersion cooling solution will save them millions, based upon the customer’s own total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis.
Liquid immersion cooling enables high-frequency trading organisations to reduce power consumption, save money, and have a reliable data centre with minimised risk of downtime. It also future proofs these organisations. Computing density is increasing, as are associated heat loads and power densities. As the equipment advances, it’s critical for data centres to be able to effectively cool new generations of computing equipment. Liquid immersion cooling is the way to ensure this. In addition, immersion cooling is a modular and self-contained system, making it more flexible than traditional racks. It’s easy to expand the data centre as needed by adding new racks or creating a new data centre in available space, rather than having to build out a brand-new centre now to meet expected future capacity requirements.
As high frequency traders like our client know, speed and uptime are critical technology success factors for their business. Housing this data and the transactions in a state-of-the-art data centre that uses immersion cooling is the way to ensure the transactions, and data, are secure. And to reduce operational and potentially capital expenditure costs. When transaction speed is a core competitive differentiator and the capital invested in computing power is ten times that invested in cooling, immersion cooling makes sense for both financial and competitive reasons. It’s a win-win for this high volume, high risk business.