German students at Stuttgart University have developed a cryptography chip with an open source design that could dramatically increase the performance of ecommerce transactions.
A report on the design by analysts at Gartner Group said besides raising speed, the advance could improve cross platform support and standardisation and remove the need to use routers to implement virtual private networks.
The report said introducing security into silicon chips "offers advantages over software based VPNs". The chip is to be officially unveiled on 8 July at the university.
The author of the report, Gartner Group research director Vic Wheatman, said: "Encryption is being used now in software and is essential to ecommerce. But software encryption means a slowdown in processing.
"In general, this chip does sound like a good thing. Having the source code means that companies will be able to upgrade the design, and it's useful to have the source to check for back doors," he said. "Open source is attractive, but it's the first time I've come across an open source chip."
Jon Collins, senior analyst at Bloor Reseach, echoed Wheatman's concern that present software encryption was too slow for ecommerce.
"I would imagine this chip would go into communications devices such as routers and firewalls, as these are the things that are most slowed down [by encryption], especially firewalls," he said. "If encryption was moved to hardware it would be a great help. Cisco is interested in doing this."
He added that having access to the design code would accelerate the implementation of hardware encryption.
"VHDL is the machine code of the chip expressed at a high level," he said. "[Seeing] what's going on inside the chip will help people design and code for it.
"Encryption hardware has typically been expensive and in the proprietary domain," he said. "Most people don't have that luxury. This will give an opportunity to smaller players to support encryption."
Source: PC Week
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