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Freescale enters Cavium's turf with security coprocessors

Posted: 01 Feb 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:security coprocessors? C29x chips? Nitrox 3? PCI Express Gen 2 bus?

Embedded solutions provider Freescale Semiconductor recently announced that it is rolling out a family of three security coprocessors. The company's entry to the security coprocessor market puts it on a collision course with rival Cavium Networks. Freescale's C29x chips are priced between $99 to $200, and have been touted to deliver 50 to 250 per cent more operations per dollar than Cavium's Nitrox 3.

Despite its plans to significantly undercut Nitrox 3 prices, Freescale and analysts watching the company say it should still reap comfortable margins. "We think [Cavium has] been getting crazy margins," said Derek Phillips, a senior product manager at Freescale.

The C29x is optimised to handle 2048bit RSA encryption, the level recommended currently for secure transactions by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It also process Diffie Hellman, and Elliptical Curve Cryptography algorithms and bulk encryption at rates of 8 to 10 Gbit/second.

The high-end chip uses three processing engines to deliver 32,000 2,048bit RSA transactions/second at 10W. Dual- and single-engine versions hit 18,000 and 8,000 transactions/s, respectively. That compares to a few hundred transactions/s for the embedded security blocks on current QorIQ SoCs, said Phillips.

The chips require no external memory for RSA operations. However, external memory is needed to support secure boot and tamper detection features.

The first devices will ship before April. They run on a x4 PCI Express Gen 2 bus.

The C29x promises "significantly lower costs at a time when network security has never been more important," said Joseph Byrne, senior analyst with the Linley Group (Mountain View, Calif.). "The security coprocessor space is a potentially high-margin market for Freescale," he said in a Freescale press statement.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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