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JPMorgan Rolls Out (Another) FPGA Supercomputer 210

An anonymous reader writes "JP Morgan is expanding its use of dataflow supercomputers to speed up more of its fixed income trading operations. Earlier this year, the bank revealed how it reduced the time it took to run an end-of-day risk calculation from eight hours down to just 238 seconds. The new dataflow supercomputer, where the computer chips are tailored to perform specific, bespoke tasks (as explained in this Wall Street Journal article) — will be equivalent to more than 12,000 conventional x86 cores, providing 128 Teraflops of performance."
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JPMorgan Rolls Out (Another) FPGA Supercomputer

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  • Re:All this.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:12PM (#38391490)
    Look at it the other way, by rapidly exploring lots of different risk profiles, they're trying to avoid getting into trouble in the first place.

    Besides, the technology to rapidly reconfigure FPGAs for specific tasks could have a lot of applications. I guess the obvious question is whether the FPGA approach can win over mass-produced general purpose CPUs (the article says yes), and also over GPUs, which are increasingly general-purpose SIMD units.

  • by Targen ( 844972 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:15PM (#38391538) Homepage

    This story got me thinking that many of the tasks routinely executed on personal computers (perhaps cryptography, video decoding, and such) may benefit from including a FPGA in PCs to serve as a programmable coprocessor. Much like graphics-intensive software can come with shader code to offload processing to the GPU, couldn't a video codec or an implementation of SSL or whatever come with code that would allow an FPGA to do part of the work?

    I googled around and found that at least CERN has done something of the sort [], but that was over seven years ago. There was a story on Slashdot [] about something of this sort, but it's even older than the CERN publication. Is anyone working on this sort of idea? If not, why? Is it simply a matter of cost, or is there some other issue that makes this impractical?

    Maybe I just suck at googling...

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:17PM (#38391556) Homepage Journal

    I spent two great years working for J. P. Morgan Chase, starting in 1999, followed by a year with the merged JPMC, so I have some knowledge of how this new system will be used and how it fits into the business process of running a bank. I can't discuss details about that, but I just wanted to share my congratulations with the JPMC team for tackling that thorny issue.

    You have to understand that investments can't be made until those risk analyses are done, so cutting 7-8 hours off the run time will earn the company millions over the course of a year. We're talking about the kind of investment loans where even a 4-5 hour overnight "float" of capital to help someone seal a bigger deal can be worth a significant amount of interest and profit.

    Remember: the big investment banks are dealing with numbers that cause spreadsheets to overflow. You can't even visualize the data with standard desktop tools. You wouldn't believe the totals I saw come out of some reports, and I wish I could forget them. Such numbers are not meant for the grasp of mere humans living on a working wage.

  • by fsckmnky ( 2505008 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:25PM (#38391686)
    There are 2 companies that I am aware of, who's name temporarily escapes me ( perhaps I'll search and find them ) who are using FPGAs with hardwired hypertransport interfaces that plug directly into an Opteron mobo socket. Some of Crays recent models use the same approach.

    This gives the co-processor direct access to the entire system bus, memory, and the Opteron CPU installed in the primary socket.

    Last I read they were about $5k each. Perhaps the price has come down since.
  • by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:38PM (#38391848)

    How much money are they spending in manpower, electricity and consumables by calculating risk? how about make a super computer to figure out how to solve the world debt.

    Everyone knows the answer to that question already. Learn to live with less resources for each person, or figure out how to have less people.

  • by tombeard ( 126886 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:43PM (#38393606)

    More importantly, it makes it impossible for anyone to dispute their results. After all, no one else has exactly the same system so no one is better qualified to evaluate their conclusions. "No, we made the best possible choice at the time. You would know that if you had OUR analytic engine, but since you don't your speculations are baseless."

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Friday December 16, 2011 @02:37AM (#38394544) Homepage Journal


    The problems the risk analysis team faced even in the 2000 era was such a tough nut to crack that they had to limit the complexity of the algorithms they used just because there wasn't hardware powerful enough.

    All the things you mentioned have only added to that complexity, making the calculations that much worse and that much more expensive.

    So instead of making me change my mind, you just made me realize how much more impressive their achievement was than I first thought.

    Spreadsheets back then did not have arbitrary precision decimal or integer values -- they used floating point. I have no idea whether newer spreadsheets have shifted to arbitrary precision values or not, but if they haven't the spreadsheets blow up.

    Remember: little companies like GE, GM, and Exxon are the kind of customers who have deposits with an investment bank. As a result, numbers like total deposits held blow floating point values out of the water by a significant margin. The amount of money floating around the world really does generate some stunning sequences of digits, they're almost magically long numbers like the nth digit of Pi. They just don't register as "billions" or "trillions" automatically, you have to count the digits and think a moment about what that number is supposed to be called. :D

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright