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JPMorgan Rolls Out (Another) FPGA Supercomputer 210

Posted by timothy
from the we-call-this-one-the-fleecer dept.
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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  • All this.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:54PM (#38391282) Homepage Journal

    So they can project how much money to borrow from the Federal Government the next time they have lent beyond sane limits to property speculators or invested in schemes even Mandelbrot wouldn't be able to simulate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by fsckmnky (2505008)
      Let's hope the federal government regulators are paying attention this time.

      It would suck for them to be confused by the cool new computer and unable to seperate systemic or institutional risk from faster calculating devices.
      • Re:All this.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:13PM (#38391504) Homepage Journal

        Let's hope the federal government regulators are paying attention this time.

        It would suck for them to be confused by the cool new computer and unable to seperate systemic or institutional risk from faster calculating devices.

        Wishful thinking. Wall Street moves at the Speed of Light with all these computer trades now. Federal regulators need a super computer to keep an eye on JPMorgan, et al.

        "You were insolvent 23 times today, for a total of 3.77 seconds. Federal guidelines mandate not being insolvent more than 15 times per day, over 1.78 seconds."

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by danhaas (891773)

          If you can't run a sanity check over what your computers are doing, you aren't an engineer or administrator. You are a message boy, slave to the computer and to who really understands what's going on.

        • and they do their damn best to keep it quiet. Look at how quickly stories about Congress and their staffs using insider information was quashed. It went from being front page to gone in days, as if it didn't exist. Similar to how Fast and Furious vanished.

          We need an OKS, Occupy K-Street, Wall Street is fully enabled by Washington. They just pay their dues and Washington insiders reap the real rewards.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Vaphell (1489021)

        1. regulators are bought and paid for, besides they are not the brightest of the pack - if they were they would be farming gold on wallstreet themselves
        2. regulations are always looking backwards at the last crisis, never predict origins of the next one
        3. when everything is leveraged 30-50x there is nothing you can do to provide stability that is not make-believe
        4. you don't need fancy regulation to crack down on good ol' fraud, you just make it harder for small players to comply

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by fsckmnky (2505008)

          3. when everything is leveraged 30-50x there is nothing you can do to provide stability that is not make-believe

          Except of course, limit the amount of leverage allowed for any specific market or player, as they already do.

          Whether the limits are being sanely applied or set at appropriate levels is another issue.

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

          by Beeftopia (1846720) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:12PM (#38393370)

          1. regulators are bought and paid for, besides they are not the brightest of the pack - if they were they would be farming gold on wallstreet themselves 2. regulations are always looking backwards at the last crisis, never predict origins of the next one 3. when everything is leveraged 30-50x there is nothing you can do to provide stability that is not make-believe 4. you don't need fancy regulation to crack down on good ol' fraud, you just make it harder for small players to comply

          When things are going great, no one wants to change ANYTHING, no matter how outrageous, for fear of upsetting the apple cart and ending the party.

          When things go bad, only then are people willing to change. Except of course, those still engaging in outrageous practices, as they are still making money.

          As far as regulators being dim, sometimes that's true, sometimes not. IMHO, the far greater problem is the muzzling and influencing of regulators by the industries they are tasked to regulate via the politicians owned by those industries.

        • by microbox (704317)
          Wrong, wrong, wrong.

          We used to believe in regulations, which is why the meat in your freezer is edible. See, it does work.

          But then the neoliberals moved in, and the Republicans were overtaken with faith-based economics, and now, regulations are the bane of everything good.

          Brooksley Borne was just one [pbs.org] of many people who predicted the financial meltdown. She was shut down by people who really believed that regulations are bad.

          Regulatory capture is only part of the problem.
        • by definate (876684)

          if they were they would be farming gold on wallstreet themselves

          Why would the regulators do the job someone in China could do for a lot less? I mean, we don't even know if they like playing World of WarCraft, let alone whether they want to grind for gold.

        • by ADRA (37398)

          "4. you don't need fancy regulation to crack down on good ol' fraud, you just make it harder for small players to comply"

          It wouldn't help anyways if federal prosecutors don't actually do anything about it. The number of Sarbox related lawsuits as a result of the latest crisisis? I think its bordering on 0.

    • 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.

      • they're trying to avoid getting into trouble in the first place.

        No, they're looking to avoid getting into the kind of trouble they a) comprehend and b) actually care about. It's all the other kinds of trouble that are wreaking havoc with this country and planet right now.

        • Re:All this.. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by iluvcapra (782887) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:32PM (#38391782)

          "A sound banker, alas, is not one who foresees danger and avoids it, but one who, when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional and orthodox way with his fellows, so that no-one can really blame him."

          --- John Maynard Keynes

          • Read another way: It's not murder if they can't find a body.
            • by definate (876684)

              That's a terrible analogy, doesn't make sense at all.

              Now, if it was they can't find the body, because of all the other bodies, due to everybody murdering, then it would make sense, but loses its punch.

      • by fsckmnky (2505008)
        I'm all over reconfigurable computing as a technology. I didn't intend to imply the technology isn't cool, or even that JP morgan is evil. I've been personally advocating the performance enhancements and power improvements attainable via reconfigurable fabrics or hardware assisted acceleration for awhile now. Most people start lecturing me about bus contention when I mention it, which makes me cry. ;(
        • by timeOday (582209)
          So, do you have an opinion on why Transmeta didn't pan out, or a reason to consider it irrelevant?
          • by fsckmnky (2505008)
            I'm not really familiar with enough details of the Transmeta saga to really have an opinion on why they didn't take over the world.

            The only thing that comes to mind, would be that they created an "x86 compatible" and that, when people were tasked with deciding what to standardize upon, Intel the real deal, or AMD the accepted competitor, Transmeta seemed like a bad choice. Anyone willing to deal with non-intel might have found ARM much more attractive. I dunno.

            It's purely a guess on my part, and I'm sur
          • by The Finn (1547)
            Guess who Dave Ditzel is working for these days...
        • by fgodfrey (116175)

          The real problem with reconfigurable computing isn't bus contention (that can be solved easily with a good system architecture). The problem with it is programmability. Let's say I want to sum an array in C. All I do is write a for() loop and add up the array. 2 lines of code.

          Now, to do it on an FPGA in Verilog, I need: a functional block that's an adder, registers to store the sum, a RAM with addressing and output enables (etc) to store the array, a clock (or maybe more than one if the RAM timing is d

          • by LoRdTAW (99712)

            First off HDL vs. C or other HHL's is an apples to oranges comparison. There are ways to program an FPGA using C, but I believe it involves using soft CPU cores as a library of sort. You don't compile the C directly into an FPGA, but rather wrap a soft CPU core around it and then generate the HDL code. That or you just upload a soft cpu core and program that. I may be wrong but that is how it works from my understanding.

            Second, most users are not going to write an entire configurable computing HDL design fr

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by jo42 (227475)

        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.

        Oh my goodness, how naive you are. To 'make' money, all the financial industry needs to do is to add extra zeros before the decimal point to their account balances. Problem is they can't do that so easily -- this is something they still can't get away with. So they have come up with all of these 'financial instruments' and 'trading systems' where they shuffle shit around between themselves and their accounts, producing no true value or real wealth, but somehow still end up with extra zeros before the decima

      • I would guess they have a stake in some FPGA manufacturing process and this is just a way of bringing attention to it to trick investors into handing over their money... and anyway, since the easiest way to make money on wall street is to take it from other people who already have it, I would imagine that their calculations really just show them where other people are exposed to risk so that they can bet the other way or something. Whatever they are doing, it isn't fair, it probably isn't even legal and e
    • I think you mean "So American Slashdotters can ignore the geek appeal of the topic and continue bitching about how destructive their culture of competition is."

      That's really what you meant to say, right? Right?
    • So they can project how much money to borrow from the Federal Government the next time they have lent beyond sane limits to property speculators or invested in schemes even Mandelbrot wouldn't be able to simulate.

      No, it's just fun building excessively expensive crap to justify your trading profits and look like you're "cutting edge." The only edge they are cutting is any shred of "all men are created equal" left in this country.

  • by DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:57PM (#38391306) Homepage

    for all you people who don't really think in seconds when seconds is > 60.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      for all you people who don't really think in seconds when seconds is > 60.

      Put that sucker in the Crimson Assurance and it would go like the Space Shuttle!

      right through the main feature and a dozen other screens in the cineplex as well!

    • I write controls and test software. I think in multiples or fractions of 3600 seconds (one hour for the mathematically challenged).
      • by rubycodez (864176)
        lucky you, at least your sums don't change. I've done payroll software, varying amounts such as average workdays per month in a leap year and non-leap years, working hours per year (leap and non) are funny numbers most don't recognize. A year doesn't have exactly 52 weeks, either.
  • too bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Khashishi (775369) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:02PM (#38391370) Journal

    These banks aren't just siphoning money, they are also siphoning talent away from more important projects. The people working on these things could be brilliant physicists or engineers, if they weren't sucked into the dark side.

    • by fsckmnky (2505008)

      The people working on these things could be brilliant physicists or engineers

      You think the people implementing fast calculations for financial firms, can't and aren't using the knowledge and source code for projects in other areas ?

      • by SiMac (409541)

        You think the people implementing fast calculations for financial firms, can't and aren't using the knowledge and source code for projects in other areas ?

        Correct. Do you think they are? That would almost certainly be in violation of their contracts...

        • by fsckmnky (2505008)
          Ah, so JP Morgan is labotamizing them upon termination. Now that is evil !
          • Ah, so JP Morgan is labotamizing them upon termination. Now that is evil !

            I've seen some contracts to that effect (not work for any competing firm or use, in any way, technology developed at the company for a period of 10 years after termination)... they told me it was standard, I told them it was my standard policy to not sign idiotic crap like that, they hired me anyway.

            • by fsckmnky (2505008)
              The article already pointed out, the hardware developer is a sub-contractor, and they also have customers in the oil industry. The rant I was responding to concerning "brain drain" I've seen on wired.com in FUD articles before.

              I mean, the microprocessor itself started out as military technology, and it made its way into damn near every aspect of life. It's crazy to think wall street is sucking up all the science brainpower.
              • by Nutria (679911)

                I mean, the microprocessor itself started out as military technology,

                Only indirectly, since the first CPUs (from Intel, TI and General Instruments) all powered calculators.

          • by SiMac (409541)

            Your original post was:

            You think the people implementing fast calculations for financial firms, can't and aren't using the knowledge and source code for projects in other areas ?

            Using the source code is almost certainly against your contract, since it almost certainly becomes property of your employer. It doesn't take a lobotomy...

            In any case, I think relatively few people go into science from Wall Street. Once you're fed up with it, it's often too late to go into grad school. Instead, they probably get a j

            • by fsckmnky (2505008)

              Using the source code is almost certainly against your contract, since it almost certainly becomes property of your employer. It doesn't take a lobotomy...

              You are confusing copying the source code from the financial firm that you work for, and selling/giving/using it elsewhere, with ... developing source code that has uses in multiple industries, of which the financial industry is just one of. The article even points out how the hardware developer also has oil industry customers. I would be willing to bet, the hardware comes with some software, an application framework, compilers, tools, OpenCL kernels, that are in fact shared by the financial industry, as w

      • Re:too bad (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Nursie (632944) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @10:51PM (#38393228)

        You think people that work on this stuff have anything in mind beyond personal enrichment?

        Believe me, I know a guy that does some of this stuff. His opinions are that corporate morals are unnecessary, that we can't and shouldn't seek to blame or look negatively on companies for seeking profit without regard to the social, environmental or other costs, and that open source is basically hippie communism.

        We used to argue about that sort of stuff quite a lot until I stopped speaking to him.

        • by fsckmnky (2505008)
          Well, open source is basically hippie communism. That doesn't mean it's not useful, or it should be banned.

          A creator of a work should have the right to release it for all to use for free, or choose to recoup their investment via sales. It's their product, and their business, and their finances, who am I to mind their business for them ?

          I'm sorry that guy was so selfish. But painting everyone in finance as a selfish greedy money lover who sells childrens organs in exchange for a new set of spinners on th
          • by fsckmnky (2505008)
            When I said I support 'open source', let me give you a recent example.

            The kid that works at the local gas-n-go said he was in college for computers, and that he would like to learn linux, but didn't have access to a computer with linux, because the only computer he had at home was his parents which had windows on it.

            I returned an hour later, with a netbook I had lying around but wasn't using, that had a fresh install of linux on it, and gave it to him for free.

            I think that was a non-greedy, socially r
          • Well, open source is basically hippie communism.

            No, not really. Or yes, if you like. It can be considered from a whole variety of points of view from capitilistic such as loss leader (BSD license) or payment in kind (GLP)) to hippy communism to apolitical self interest. Redhat's $903 million revenue seems far divorced from hippy communism to me. RMS is certainly political but more in a revolutionary way to overturn the status quo than peace and love hippyism.

            The thing is that for may problems going open so

      • by tombeard (126886)

        Economics Ph's gotta eat too y'a know.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      These banks aren't just siphoning money, they are also siphoning talent away from more important projects. The people working on these things could be brilliant physicists or engineers, if they weren't sucked into the dark side.

      It's not even dollars and cents. Hasn't been for years. It's points. It's all virtual and simply points. Just like whacking a goblin in some game, they're keeping score, not minding money.

    • by tukang (1209392)
      If these algorithms are profitable they ultimately buy low and sell high, which is good for society. When you buy low, you're providing cash to those who need it most (therefore the willingness to sell low) and when you sell high, you provide the asset when it's needed most. Essentially, a profitable trader (computer or not) helps moderate markets by preventing them from going too low or too high, and pricing things correctly is important to society because resources are allocated by price. I know it's tren
      • by Laser Dan (707106)

        If these algorithms are profitable they ultimately buy low and sell high, which is good for society. When you buy low, you're providing cash to those who need it most (therefore the willingness to sell low) and when you sell high, you provide the asset when it's needed most. Essentially, a profitable trader (computer or not) helps moderate markets by preventing them from going too low or too high, and pricing things correctly is important to society because resources are allocated by price. I know it's trendy to bash finance but it has an important function in society.

        What you described is how trading SHOULD work, where a trader holds a certain stock for at least hours or days.
        You are correct that this is good and stabilises things.

        How it actually seems to happen these days is computers buy stocks on minor fluctuations, then sell them on another fluctuation a couple of microseconds later.
        That doesn't seem to provide any useful function to me.

    • These banks aren't just siphoning money, they are also siphoning talent away from more important projects. The people working on these things could be brilliant physicists or engineers, if they weren't sucked into the dark side.

      But, the dark side is filled with shiny baubles - why take a conventional job for $85K when you can start with a financial firm at $135K? That's a Porsche in the garage on day one, upgraded to a Ferrari after the 2 year lease is up. With conspicuous consumption like that, the vacuous model types start paying attention to you - what 20-something genius doesn't want that?

  • You can get petaflops with a fraction of 12,000's x86 price, just use GPUs...
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      You can get petaflops with a fraction of 12,000's x86 price, just use GPUs...

      Mrs. Schwartz, we've .. eh heh .. there's been some problems with the computers lately .. eh heh .. but rest assured, Mrs. Schwartz, we will have it all sorted out very soon and not a penny will be out of place .. eh heh .. just as soon as we figure how your checking account came to have a balance of $7,404.06 and .. eh heh .. oh my .. and 12 Klingons. What a dreadful day this has been. Oh, and in case you were considering transfering to another institution .. eh heh .. Bank of America's journals are inf

    • What they are after is minimal lag in computation - at some point, the FPGAs will win this over standard CPUs or GPUs, all you need is cubic dollars to fund them, and, if you haven't noticed, cubic dollars is their business.

  • More Speeds Please (Score:2, Informative)

    by fsckmnky (2505008)

    equivalent to more than 12,000 conventional x86 cores, providing 128 Teraflops of performance.

    128 Tflops / 5 Tflops = 25.6 AMD dual gpu video cards.

    25.6 x $700+/- = $17,920

    I wonder what they paid for it.

    • by zill (1690130)
      GPU ALU have a limited set of operations. Their calculation probably uses operations outside of that set.
      • by ackthpt (218170)

        GPU ALU have a limited set of operations. Their calculation probably uses operations outside of that set.

        That's OK, because with the volume of dollars now on the move it's no longer GAAP, but quantum.

    • by Haven (34895)

      ALU * clock is meaningless measure. Hardware scales easily, code does not.

      • by fsckmnky (2505008)

        ALU * clock is meaningless measure.

        Nowhere did I mention clock speeds. I mentioned TFlops. Any TFlop numbers from the manufacturers, are most likely, best case theoretical hardware performance numbers, based on ALU * clock.

        As for whether they are meaningful or meaningless, that depends on your point of view.

        If you are a kid playing video games that only cares about frame rates, then perhaps it is meaningless to you.

        If you are a developer looking at hardware, who can't yet benchmark the actual application, then it is as meaningful a me

  • 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 [cdsweb.cern.ch], but that was over seven years ago. There was a story on Slashdot [slashdot.org] 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...

    • I think you probably do [suck at Googling]. I'm almost certain there was a story about this exact thing within the past year or two. At the very least, the Google search "FPGA co-processing" returns a lot more results than "FPGA co-processor".
    • 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 zill (1690130) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:45PM (#38391916)
      It's been envisioned, implemented, and commerialized a long time ago. You can buy a duel socket AMD board, and put in an AMD CPU in one socket and a FPGA co-processor in the other socket. That was 5 years ago. [wikipedia.org]

      Quite a few supercomputers on top500 have the above mentioned configuration. JPMorgan is very late to the party.

      You're probably wondering why every desktop, laptop, and smartphone doesn't come with this wonderful technology already, and there are many many reasons for that:
      - FPGA programming is difficult, and it's a much rarer talent than software programming
      - The FPGA industry is currently a duopoly and combined that with the small market of FPGAs means that the price is too high for consumer electronics
      - Specialized functionality can always be more cheaply implemented in ASICs (cryptographic co-processors, new instructions in CPUs, H264 decoding ASICs)
      - The chicken and egg problem. Developers won't start hiring FPGA programmers en masse until there are enough machines out there with FPGA co-processors installed. And people won't start buying FPGA co-processors until their favorite program supported co-processor acceleration.
    • In electronics a large part of the cost is upfront so niche products are FAR more expensive than common products of similar complexity. This applies to some extent to assemblies (compare the cost of a PXIe controller module to the cost of a laptop for example) and applies to an even greater extent to semiconductor products.

      Powerful FPGAs are a niche product and hence expensive. GPUs are a mass market product and hence cheap. So if a GPU can do your calculations reasonablly efficiently it's probablly the che

    • We use FPGAs to do custom video pipelines alongside our processor cores, we don't, as a general rule, reconfigure them very often, because that takes lots and lots of testing to make sure you haven't screwed up, but the flexibility does allow us to move forward without fully specifying the hardware at an early stage.

    • 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?

      Yes but decent-sized FPGAs are crazy expensive.

      It is false that FPGAs consume less power, they are power hogs and are slow (max 200-300 mhz). Neither are there because of their reconfiguration powers.
      They are used because of the bandwidth. Specifically, memory bandwidth. CPUs are just big state-machines that can read from DRAM 64 bits at the time. Not many algorithms are optimized for that. But you can optimally implement every algorithm on a FPGA, and gains are usually tremendous, even with a slow, hot and

    • by Laser Dan (707106)

      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?

      Xilinx (one of the two big FPGA companies) very recently released their "Zynq" family of combined CPU+FPGAs. They contain a dual core ARM Cortex-A9 running at 800 MHz and a pretty decent amount of 28nm FPGA logic, with interconnects between the two. That is basically what you are describing I think.
      http://www.xilinx.com/products/silicon-devices/epp/zynq-7000/index.htm [xilinx.com]

  • 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 ackthpt (218170)

      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.

      And just think, replying to that programming school on the matchbook cover and adding a little clause of code to catch the fractions beyond cents could have you living on Long Island in a pleasant estate in about half a second of activity. -- Superman movie reference.

    • by zill (1690130) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:54PM (#38392018)

      Remember: the big investment banks are dealing with numbers that cause spreadsheets to overflow.

      Wow! They're using more than 65536 rows? Impressive!

    • the big investment banks are dealing with numbers that cause spreadsheets to overflow

      so last century. Excel 2007 and 2010 have no such limitations. which is a good thing because I sometimes generate datasets too big for the older versions to handle.

    • before credit default swaps grew to dozens-of-trillions of dollars business?

      before Commodity Index Funds?

      before the stock exchanges and commodities exchanges got rid of their open outcry trading pits and went electronic?

      before JP Morgan bought Bear Stearns (with a Fed loan)?

      before JP Morgan got bailed out by taxpayers?

      no offense dude... but what on earth does 1999 have to do with 2011?

      So JP Morgan can calculate VaR faster. so what? they didnt calculate it fast enough in 2008 - they took that big fat payout

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

        *sigh*

        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

        • by Rich0 (548339) on Friday December 16, 2011 @09:07AM (#38396304) Homepage

          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.

          Look, the problem here is the black swan. You can't model a black swan unless you can simulate the entire world economy down to the last neuron in some farmer's brain in a rural Chinese village. Right now we can't model a single human brain let alone all of them.

          The world economy didn't melt down because some spreadsheet only calculated 12 decimal places when it should have calculated 325. It melted down because everybody decided to leverage themselves 100x on the bet that housing prices wouldn't ever go down, and they did. Now the world governments are starting to leverage themselves in small multiples on the bet that nobody would ever stop buying their bonds, mostly to bail out the bankers who bet on housing prices. I don't need arbitrary precision arithmetic to tell you where that is going to end up if it doesn't change FAST.

  • by Maltheus (248271) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @08:27PM (#38391708)

    Now JP Morgan can raid future MF Globals all that much faster, while hiding their shenanigans at the COMEX.

  • Let face it JP is doing some Bitcoin Mining on the side with this hardware! loll Off course that would be less of a scam that what they really do with it!
  • What a waste. These banks can build the most impressive hardware in the world, perform calculations in the petaflops, and still have absolutely no clue what risk is involved in the business they're doing because their assumptions and data are all wrong. If by some freak accident they were to get the right answer, they would conceal it from their clients and investors anyway because their incentive is to take big risks - they get enormous rewards if they are right and lose little if they are wrong. They are

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