The Modex 7000 card from chipSign is a standard PCI 2.2 interface card containing a dedicated SSL processor. It handles SSL's cryptographic functions while leaving the server to handle the session set up, termination and authentication procedures. These functions impose a lighter load on the server, freeing it for server processes. The offloaded cryptographic operations are handled by the Modex card's CS1015/Rubicon Asymmetric Key Processor.
Nothing is stored in the device. All certificates and keys remain in the server's storage, where they can be maintained using the server's own software services. This may not be desirable where there is a need to store and manage certificates and keys in the device.
Installing the card is straightforward and thoroughly described in the printed installation booklet. The CD contains driver software for Windows 2000 and XP, Linux 2.2 and 2.4, and Solaris 8 systems.
The documentation has detailed information about the card's operation under the systems, as well as software support files for Linux and Solaris installations. The card can be used with web servers running under either Microsoft's Internet Information Server or Apache.
There are cards and devices that will handle the entire SSL operation, but there are many areas where a straightforward SSL co-processor card can be useful. A site with only a few public web servers might find that fitting co-processor cards to each of them might be a more cost-effective way of increasing capacity rather than installing a dedicated SSL accelerator device.
The card could be used in conjunction with SSL accelerator devices that are using SSL on the back-end links as well. There would be a performance benefit at the server, which could handle more traffic, and at the device, which would benefit from improved response times from the server.
Another area to benefit from SSL acceleration is where there must be confidentiality on internal communications. There might be no need for the full range of encryption services, but the ability to accelerate SSL traffic would be useful where encrypted traffic is high.