Itanium, the speedy encryptor

POWER TO ENCRYPT: The Intel Itanium 2 is finding a niche protecting information.

Intel Corp. (www.intel.com) of Santa Clara, Calif., has had difficulty over the last few years promoting its Itanium line of microprocessors. Despite (or maybe because of) the fact the company jettisoned the legacy x86 architecture for this RISC processor, reaction has often been critical. Linux kernel maintainer Linus Torvalds has charged that Itanium designers 'threw out all the good parts of the x86.'

One emerging niche for Itanium, though, seems to be high-speed encryption and decryption. For instance, encryption and key management provider Eruces Inc. of Lenexa, Kan., is bullish on Itanium. Eruces devotes a large chunk of its business to federal intelligence agencies. The company's symmetric key management system encrypts documents, programs and databases, using a centralized KeyServer to generate and manage keys.

While Eruce's software can work with any hardware architecture, the company advises customers to use Itanium-based servers in busy transaction environments. 'A database that is very heavy on transactions can require thousands of key creations per second,' said Bassam Khulusi, president and CEO of the company. Khulusi noted that Itanium runs the company's software three to four times as quickly as other 64-bit processors, such as the AMD Opteron or the IBM PowerPC. 'We have found that the Itanium processor is extremely efficient and powerful for encryption,' he said.

Tony DeVarco, senior manager of global technology partnerships at SGI of Mountain View, Calif., said several of Itanium's specialized math-crunching features lend themselves particularly well to encryption. DeVarco is a member of the Itanium Solutions Alliance, a coalition of vendors working to promote the CPU. Itanium also sports serious memory for encryption work, such as a large on-die cache and a 'massive' register file. Perhaps there is a use for Itanium after all'in the world of high security.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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