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How CPUseful is that?

Published in Automated Trader Magazine Issue 25 Q2 2012

If it's field-programmable, it's more flexible than an ASIC. And if it's a post-crash, over-regulated, potentially lucrative but problematic market, it's going to take all the flexibility you can find (and probably more) to build an effective alpha-extracting solution for trading it. James Fitzgerald debates the contemporary case for FPGAs.

Yes, we all know that FPGAs have been around for a while. But in recent years - months, even, to judge from the Latest News inbox - they've begun to become a major factor in competitive automated trading. According to a Linley Group report published in 2009, the FPGA technology market is expected to grow to 3.5 billion USD by 2013, whilst Automated Trader's own research ( www.fa5t.net/s7 ) has identified that over the next two to three years FPGA usage will grow to 19% of buy-side and 41% of sell-side firms. According to a recent conversation with the young apprentice charged with combing the Latest New s inbox for significant trends, the FPGA-related press release is set to become a major factor in all our lives by, oh, about Q3 of this year. Why? The design and programming of FPGAs is a lot simpler than it used to be, so they are being used more frequently to solve more and more complex trading problems. Also, with programmers well versed in the hardware description language (HDL) becoming more and more common (albeit no less expensive), FPGAs are being implemented in a variety of trading strategies and solutions. So what does this mean for the rest of us?

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