Millionths of a Second Can Cost Millions of Dollars: A New Way to Track Network Delays

Levchenko Computer scientists have developed an inexpensive solution for diagnosing delays in data center networks as short as tens of millionths of seconds—delays that can lead to multi-million dollar losses for investment banks running automatic stock trading systems. Similar delays can delay parallel processing in high performance cluster computing applications run by Fortune 500 companies and universities.

This work highlights a fundamental shift happening across the Internet. As computer programs—rather than humans—increasingly respond to streams of information moving across computer networks in real time, millionths of seconds matter. Algorithmic stock trading systems are just one example. Extra microseconds of delay can also mean slower response times across clustered-computing platforms, which can slow down computation-intensive research, such as drug discovery projects.

Computer scientists from University of California, San Diego (George Varghese, Alex Snoeren, and Kirill Levchenko) and Purdue University (Ramana Kompella) presented this work on August 20, 2009 at SIGCOMM, the premier networking conference.

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