Sunday, April 3, 2011

why no dotnet on server side of trading systems?

(A fairly sketchy, limited, amateurish write-up.)

I was recently asked "dotnet has formidable performance and other strengths compared to java, but in trading engines space, why is dotnet making inroads only on the user-interface, never on the server side?"

Reason -- as an casual observer, I feel Windows was designed as a GUI operating system with a single user at any given time. Later WinNT tried to extend the kernel to support multiple concurrent users. In contrast, Unix/Linux was designed from Day 1 to be multi-user, with the command line as the primary UI. (Personally I used to feel GUI is a distraction to high volume data processing OS designers.) A trading server needs no GUI.

Reason -- Java and c/c++ were created on Unix; dotnet runs only on a windowing operating system. I feel web server is a light weight application, so both java and dotnet (and a lot of scripting languages) are up to the job[1], but truly demanding server-side apps need Unix AND java/c++. I guess Windows is catching up. In terms of efficiency, I guess java and c# are comparable and below C++.

Reason -- Sell-side trading system is arms race. (Perhaps same among hedge funds.) Banks typically buy expensive servers and hire expensive system engineers, and then try to push the servers to the max. C/C++ makes the most efficient use of system resources, but Java offers many advantages over C++. Since the late 90's, trading servers have progressively migrated from C++ to Java. Java and C++ are proven on the high-performance server side. Not dotnet.

Reason -- I still feel *nix are more stable than Windows under high load. See http://efreedom.com/Question/1-214362/Java-Large-Heap-Sizes. However, I think you can create big clusters of windows servers

Reason -- (from a friend) -- *nix is considered more secure than windows. A GUI desktop can affect one trader if compromised, but a sell-side trading server affects all the traders from all the institutional and retail clients if compromised. So security risk is more serious on server side than GUI side.

The reasons below are arguments for java over dotnet in general, but don't really explain why java is NOT on the GUI side and dotnet is still chosen on the GUI side.

Reason -- big banks need stronger support than a single vendor company. What if Microsoft makes a mistake and dotnet loses technical direction and momentum? Java and *nix enjoy broader industry support.

[1] unless you are google or facebook, who needed c++ for their demanding requirements.

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