For the last two years internet veteran James Barksdale have been working in secrecy, digging a gopher hole from Chicago to New York, setting up the fastest trading system ever built. Spread Networks’ one inch thick fiber optic cable can execute orders between Chicago and New York in 13,3 milliseconds. It is today’s ultimate trading weapon.
“Anybody pinging both markets has to be on this line, or they’re dead.”
Jon A. Najarian
In March 2009 Spread Networks had 125 construction crews working at once. Some dug ditches next to state roads while others bore tiny tunnels beneath streams and rivers. In the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania, crews ran rock saws until they glowed white in the winter air. Late this summer the they fired up their weapon for the first time.
The last splice came in July, according to Forbes.
Worried that competitors might build their own version, Spread ran on stealth until near completion.
“We kept a lid on things by staying away from the big investment banks until late,” says David Barksdale, son of James Barksdale and CEO of Spread Networks.
Today, James Barksdale, the former controversial Netscape boss, in addition to his business interests, serves on the following public and private boards:
- Time Warner Inc. (March 1999 to present)
- FedEx Corp. (September 1999 to present)
- Sun Microsystems, Inc. (April 1999 to January 2010)
- Mayo Clinic (February 2001 to present, served as chairman 2006 – 2010)
- In-Q-Tel (June 2003 to present)
- Dick Clark Productions, Inc. (April 2008 to present)
- Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (special limited partner – January 2006 to present)
- WWII Museum (June 2003 to present)
On June 22th this year Spread Networks made the formal launch.
On August 16th they fired up the full network.
Spread won’t disclose the costs.
However, Jason Cohen, chief operating officer of Allied Fiber, which is building a nationwide network, says laying cable through easy terrain runs $200,000 per mile.
But half of Spread’s route is going through tough, rocky and untouched terrain.
Forbes estimate the cost of building the ultra fast connection close to $300 million.
Jim Barksdale put up most of the capital, except for $75 million, financed by outside investors.
Spread Networks won’t talk about its pricing or clients, but say it “hasn’t sold out yet.”
Ultimate Trading Weapon
Spread’s one-inch cable is the latest weapon in the technology arms race among Wall Street houses that use algorithms to make lightning-fast trades.
The trading is now practically speaking conducted at the speed of light.
The High Frequency Trading is said to make up about 70% of the total trading in the US stock markets.
“Anybody pinging both markets has to be on this line, or they’re dead,” says Jon A. Najarian, co-founder of OptionMonster, which tracks high frequency trading.
Spread’s advantage lies in its route, which makes nearly a straight line from a data center in Chicago’s South Loop to a building across the street from Nasdaq’s servers.
Older routes largely follow railroad rights-of-way through Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
At 825 miles and 13.3 milliseconds, Spread’s circuit shaves 100 miles and 3 milliseconds off of the previous route of lowest latency – financial/technical engineers expression of the length of delay from data are sent to it’s received by the other server.
Three milliseconds is three one-thousandths of a second.
However, that’s “close to an eternity in automated trading,” according to professor Ben Van Vliet at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Adding: “This is all about picking gold coins up off the floor – only the fastest person is going to get the coins.
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