Electronic Design

IPsec On The Motherboard

With network security becoming more critical and companies demanding faster and easier security solutions, security chips are emerging on PC motherboards. Crypto chip manufacturer Cavium Networks and motherboard maker ABIT Computer have announced the incorporation of Cavium's CN1005 Nitrox Lite security processor chip on ABIT's SI-1N motherboard for 1U rack-mount servers, virtual private network (VPN) gateways, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Web servers, and other security appliances.

The Pentium 4 on the ABIT motherboard offloads all of the computationally intensive encryption/decryption operations to this chip, which can process up to 400 Mbits/s of IPsec traffic or perform 3500 Rivest, Shamir and Adelman (RSA) operations per second (see the figure). The security processor can switch between IPsec or SSL processing as needed with just a software change.

In the past, software performed most encryption/decryption and other security operations. Today's high network speeds demand fast hardware to reduce delays and the processing times associated with e-commerce transactions or VPN security operations. Many semiconductor firms are addressing this problem with a variety of chips used primarily on plug-in cards to be installed in servers and other security appliances. These chips are also used in routers and other network hardware. Putting the chip on the PC motherboard is a step toward universal security in network-connected equipment.

As prices of crypto chips continue to decline, look for more built-in security in PCs and computers at all levels. Cavium's Amer Haider envisions these security chips becoming as common as the modem and 10/100 Ethernet chips on modern PC motherboards. For details, see www.cavium.com and www.abit.com.tw.

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