Chips Speed Secure Web Data

New dedicated wares from Andes, Corrent and Accelerated can help alleviate processing bottlenecks.

As e-businesses work to move more enterprise applications and services to the Web, a major hurdle to be cleared remains the painfully slow transmission rate of secure data.

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) traffic is as much as 50 times slower than typical HTTP traffic, which has led many site administrators to make the Faustian choice of streamlining the delivery of their content instead of securing it.

Three small vendors, Andes Networks Inc., Corrent Corp. and Accelerated Encryption Processing Inc. hope to give administrators another choice this week when they unveil new dedicated chips. The chips can handle SSL traffic up to 10 times faster and can support nearly 10 times as many concurrent SSL sessions as existing processors.

Customers said this kind of performance will vastly expand the number and variety of applications theyre able to offer over the Web.

"It really looks like this will help speed the uptake of secure digital content," said Steve Baker, president and CEO of Chrysalis-ITS Inc., an Ottawa-based company that is working to integrate Andes Zoo chip into its key-management hardware appliances. "This sets a new high-water mark for performance."

Slow transmission rates are tolerated now only because SSL is used mainly for consumer applications such as online shopping and home banking. But enterprise users accessing critical data dont have time to waste.

Right now, only 5 percent to 7 percent of traffic on the Internet is SSL-enabled, according to International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass. That number is expected to jump to 33 percent within three years and, eventually, IDC estimates, up to 70 percent of all Web traffic will be SSL-enabled.

It is impossible for a Web server to handle that volume of encrypted traffic without severely degrading service, which is why many sites have turned to ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) to handle their SSL traffic. However, the current generation of chips can process at most 1,500 RSA operations per second and handle about 16,000 concurrent sessions.

Andes new Zoo ASICs, unveiled last week, are capable of handling 15,000 operations per second and 128,000 concurrent sessions and will eventually scale to 1 million operations per second and nearly 19 million concurrent SSL sessions, officials said in Mountain View, Calif.

The heart of the Andes Zoo chip is its Packetized SSL architecture, which bypasses the CPU and the TCP/IP stack completely, eliminating the latency associated with current SSL transmissions.

Corrent, a San Francisco startup, and AEP, of Bray, Ireland, will both launch their chips at RSA Security Inc.s RSA Conference in San Francisco. The Corrent Socket Armor chips, which will be in production at the beginning of next year, can generate as many as 5,000 RSA keys per second and are targeted at the service provider market.

AEP, meanwhile, will unveil its AEP 1000 chip, which is part of a new PCI card and is capable of handling nearly 5,000 transactions per second.