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Security in silicon: A guide to secure, high-speed SoC devices (Part I)

Posted: 04 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:security in silicon? high-speed SoC? secure devices?

Security in silicon: A guide to secure, high-speed SoC devices (Part I)

Support for cryptographic security has become a basic requirement for many networking and mobile silicon devices. The complex nature of cryptographic security processing often creates a challenge for semiconductor designers to achieve the levels of protection and throughput required by today's systems and applications. Implementing security functionality on dedicated hardware enables designers to achieve higher throughput performance, lower power consumption and a higher degree of security over software-based implementations running on a general-purpose processor.

Security IP for chipmakers
Security IP enables chip manufacturers to benefit from reusing semiconductor designs for new applications. These designs have been optimized and proven in previous security processor implementations.

IP security solutions deliver the advanced levels of security mandated by new industry standards and market requirements for improved protection of networking and communication systems. Security IP comes in many flavors and configurations, from simple cipher cores that accelerate only specific crypto algorithms such as AES or 3DES, to highly integrated security systems that can handle the complete processing of security protocols like IPsec or SSL or pattern matching.

Key reasons why chipmakers select silicon IP designs
? Security is extremely difficult and time-consuming to design in-house.
? Leveraging existing know-how reduces need for full-blown security engineering team on staff.
? Proven, innovative, best-in-class security solutions that have been integrated numerous times significantly reduce the risk for costly errors (such as recalling a chip after final production) and guarantee standards compliance.
? Integrating silicon-proven IP significantly shortens design, testing and integration cycles.
? Proven quality leads to better security designs as best-in-class IP has been continuously optimized for various design requirements (such as gate count, performance, features).
? Chip vendors avoid patent issues with owners of security algorithm patents.

OEMs want complete, reliable and proven security solutions
? OEM customers are looking for complete HW/SW solutions that make it easy for security systems to be integrated into an appliance's architecture. However, most HW silicon vendors lack middleware and software expertiseespecially when it comes to security.
? The availability of security software that integrates with the device makes the device more valuable to customers and speeds integration.
? While many IP vendors are small startups chip vendors often want to select a stable, profitable and strong IP vendor that will be around for future product cycles and has the security expertise and engineering resources to effectively support the product design.

How is semiconductor IP delivered to the customer?
Most semiconductor IP is delivered as a soft core where the IP vendor provides Register Transfer Level code (in languages such as Verilog) that the customer can combine with its own design code and synthesize into a chip design. The advantage of a soft core is that it can be synthesized into any IC design process and manufactured at any foundrythereby giving the customer maximum flexibility and making it easy to add to an already existing IC design. Some IP vendors also provide a hard macro circuit design that the customer can inset into its own chip design.

- By Jan Haagh
SafeNet Inc.

About the author
Jan Haagh
is a product manager at SafeNet Inc. He can be contacted at

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