Faster chips for encryption key to VPN boost

Virtual private network (VPN) capabilities will shift into a higher gear in 2000 after encryption co-processors from two hardware makers hit the market with 155Mbit/sec performance.

The co-processors, which offload the computing-intensive work of data encryption from the CPUs of networking devices, may also lead to more IP VPN capabilities being placed on routers.

Both Chrysalis-ITS and Hi/fn Inc will make available by year's end co-processors that can perform user authentication and Triple-DES encryption at OC-3, or 155Mbit/sec. This is generally the top speed of enterprise connections to the WAN today.

Chrysalis officials said the company will market a co-processor board to makers of large routers, such as Cisco Systems. Hi/fn, which has OEM agreements with many access and VPN equipment makers, has met with Cisco to discuss its own OC-3 co-processor.

The VPN market today is dominated by specialised devices, some of which have been said to provide security functions at nearly 100Mbit/sec. Some observers said combining VPN functions in a router could simplify administration, but most routers need a boost to make a VPN run at acceptable speeds.

"The last thing users want is another box to manage, so to the extent that you can put the VPN functionality in the router, it's always in your interest to effect that level of consolidation," said John Morency, an analyst at Renaissance Worldwide.

But others said routers have a long way to go as VPN solutions.

"For smaller sites without a high bandwidth requirement and that aren't terminating a lot of remote-access users, a router is alright," said Jeff Wilson, an analyst at Infonetics Research. "But sites with a lot of bandwidth requirements or a lot of users are going to need something else."

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