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Juniper QFX switch delivers data faster to Wall Street traders

Juniper Networks plans to deliver in the third quarter a QFX switch and optional module to deliver data faster to Wall Street securities traders.

Juniper Networks is addressing Wall Street traders' speed obsession with a QFX switch designed to quickly mine news wires, market reports and social media for securities-related data.

The company introduced this week the QFX5100-AA and an optional module called the QFX-PFA, which provides even faster data processing. The latest products were developed in partnership with high-performance computing specialist Maxeler Technologies, which contributed algorithms and software tools for boosting application performance.

High-frequency trading companies are always in the market for technology that can provide a competitive advantage. "Financial companies that find actionable data faster than their competitors can reap considerable gains," said IDC analyst Brad Casemore.

Faster speed is delivered through silicon, gate array

The latest additions to the QFX product family speed up applications handling market data and social media feeds, order execution routing and big data analytics, Juniper said. The performance boost is delivered through faster silicon in the switch and an Altera field-programmable gate array (FPGA) that's the heart of the module.

The 40 gigabit Ethernet QFX5100-AA combines an Intel Xeon processor with Broadcom switching silicon. The four-core Xeon is a step up from the two-core processor used in older products in the QFX5100 series, said Andrew Bach, chief architect for Juniper's financial services team. In addition, the 5100-AA is armed with more memory and a solid-state disk.

The QFX-PFA module is for companies willing to pay even more for speed. Maxeler provides the tools for programming the FPGA for a peppier dataflow. The tools support the Java programming language.

Both products are scheduled for release in the third quarter.

While the financial industry is Juniper's primary target, the vendor might find customers for the premium technology in the pharmaceutical or oil and gas industry, Casemore said. "Not everybody will need this switch."

Juniper advocates data processing on switches as a faster alternative to doing everything on servers. The vendor calls the approach applications-embedded networking.

"It essentially eliminates a server and a set of network hops," Bach said.

Juniper is not the first vendor to provide a switch and module targeted at industries where speed is a business advantage, Casemore said. Arista Networks released similar technology in 2012 for speed-hungry industries.

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