Not Your Regular Private Network

Six 9s reliability globally, 4 milliseconds latency at the edge and 72 Gbit/s of capacity across the Atlantic.

Not your regular enterprise comms system -- those are the key specs of the Thomson Reuters network, one of the world's biggest and fastest financial data networks.

T.K. Yim, head of Asia network communications for Thomson Reuters, told a conference in Hong Kong last week the network was rebuilt two years ago as a low-latency platform to connect financial centers around the world.

It supports 35,000 global customers, including 5,000 investment firms and hedge funds. Between them they trade about $250 billion in bond transactions daily. The network distributes around 2.5 million price updates every second and as many as 8 million at peak.

But it's the latency required to enable high-speed trading that marks it out.

The target latency of 4 milliseconds is way ahead of even the fastest fiber. The new trans-Atlantic Hibernia Express cable, for example, which beats the 60 millisecond mark for roundtrip apps, seems positively pedestrian. (See All Aboard: Hibernia Express Cable Completed.)

To get the latency times traders need, stock exchanges and data firms deploy laser radio or microwave.

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Proximity to the stock exchange is also critical. "We can't waste time to massage data," says Yim. "We try to get it from the exchange, put it on the local server using very high-powered servers and then send it out to our customers in the city and globally."

It can be very difficult "if we miss a millisecond," he adds.

As well as leasing fiber capacity worldwide (see charts below), Thomson Reuters operates eight strategic data centers -- three in the US; two in London; and one each in Geneva, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Table 1: Inter-Regional

Total capacity Cable systems
Americas to EMEA 72G TGN, TAT-14 , AC-1, FA-1 WASACE, Apollo, Columbus 111 (7)
Americas to Asia 50G JUS, PC1 (4)
EMEA to Asia 10G ERA, IMEWE, TEA2, TGN-EA (4)
Source: Thomson Reuters.

Table 2: Intra-Regional

Total capacity Paths
Americas 510G 51 x 10G
EMEA 300G 30 x 10G
APAC 235G 18 x 10G; 2 x 2.5G; 50 x 1G
Source: Thomson Reuters.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

[email protected] 12/17/2015 | 5:24:45 AM
Re: Faster than the speed of light? The opening paragraph has been updated to make clear that the 4ms was a general reference to a key metric and not the claimed transatlantic latency.  
R Clark 12/16/2015 | 10:26:20 PM
Re: Faster than the speed of light? Ah, my bad. I shouldn't have made a direct comparison with Hibernia trans-Atlantic. It's interesting for reference, but a different category.

The 4 milliseconds number is local – that's from the stock exchange to the Thomson-Reuters server, which has to be a few blocks away, and usually by laser radio. One of the interesting points of these financial networks is how critical it is to get physical proximity.
Mitch Wagner 12/16/2015 | 1:43:51 PM
Latency Latency is vital for trading now. The days of "quants" using sophisticated algorithms to project long-term market trends, are long gone. High-speed trading is also obsolete. Money is now being made by arbitraging public information about market conditions before your competitors know about it. Knowing about movement in commodities prices in Hong Kong can help a trader in US markets -- if that trader knows about it before his competitors. 

The Rothschild's made a killing in the 19th Century through a fast communication network in Europe. But where the Rothschilds gained an advantage measured in days, today's traders' advantages are milliseconds. 
jediknight0 12/16/2015 | 9:22:22 AM
Faster than the speed of light? If the network really has 4 milliseond latency to cross the Atlantic, Einstein would be amazed!  At the speed of light, information can only travel ~1200 kilometers in 4 milliseconds,  not far enough to cross the Atlantic.

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