Intel puts data encryption in its server, laptop NICs

By Phil Hochmuth, Network World |  Networking

Intel this week will show off three new network interface cards that could help network professionals boost the security of LAN and WAN traffic without compromising the speed of their networks.

At the RSA Show, Intel will announce a server NIC and two laptop network adapters that could help companies secure the transmission of sensitive data over LANs and help reduce the risk of internal network sabotage and electronic theft.

The LAN adapters round out Intel's line of NICs with embedded security encryption processors. Intel announced single-port 10/100M bit/sec NICs with encryption processors for desktop PCs last September. The NICs are designed to work with the IP Security (IPSec) features that come with Windows 98, NT 4.0 and 2000.

The new Intel Pro/100 S dual-port Fast Ethernet adapter comes with an on-board IPSec encryption co-processor that Intel says can speed up the transmission of encrypted data over a LAN by off-loading the encryption process from a server's CPU to the NIC. The two laptop adapters - the Intel Pro/100 S Mobile Adapter and the Pro/100 S with an integrated 56K bit/sec modem - also come with the encryption co-processor.

IPSec can be used to send 168-bit, Triple-DES traffic over a LAN or WAN, which can reduce the throughput of a server or PC by up to 90% because the encryption process can swamp the processors of the nodes sending and receiving encrypted data. With the data encryption off-loaded to the NIC, businesses can secure data without compromising network performance, says Tim Dunn, general manager of Intel's LAN access division.

ING Variable Annuities in Westchester, Pa., has its Web servers at a collocation facility in Philadelphia, but keeps its Sybase database servers at its Westchester data center. Mike Cranmer, assistant vice president for the firm, sees a potential for adding encryption between the Web and database servers, which are linked by a T-1 line.

"[The WAN] would be the first place I would look to deploy server-to-server encryption," rather than using encryption on the company's internal servers, Cranmer says.

Cranmer, who uses a mix of Intel and 3Com NICs at ING Variable Annuities, says he would consider deploying NIC-based encryption.

The dual-port server NIC costs $299, and the Type II and Type III laptop adapters are priced at $164 and $264, respectively. All three NICs are available now.

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