Altera, Alcahest Improve Encryption with First RSA Core for FPGAs

9/3/2003 - Altera Corporation (NASDAQ: ALTR) and Alcahest announced the availability of the industry’s first reusable RSA intellectual property (IP) core for programmable logic, delivering levels of encryption performance not previously attainable in FPGAs. Alcahest, a recent member of the Altera Megafunction Partner Program (AMPPSM), jointly developed the RSA core with Altera to take advantage of the cost and performance benefits of Altera’s industry-leading CycloneTM and StratixTM FPGAs. This new encryption solution opens new opportunities for fully programmable hardware acceleration systems in current and emerging wireless applications such as 802.11, software-defined radio, web switches, and wired LAN/WAN applications.

This RSA encryption technology, combined with Altera’s low-cost Cyclone devices, gives security system developers a new alternative when building highly efficient, scalable Internet protocol security (IPSec) and secure socket layer (SSL) security processing solutions with industry-leading processing performance and cost efficiency. In today’s world of on-line transactions, this RSA solution meets the need for sophisticated security technologies. Applications that facilitate the merging of public and private networks and help organizations to web-enable their products and services will greatly benefit from this new security capability.

“The RSA core brings security design in FPGAs into a new era. Supporting high-performance RSA cryptography, using only a fraction of the resources available in Altera’s smallest low-cost Cyclone device, FPGAs will find increasing use in applications previously only served by security processors,” said Ahmed Shihab, technical director at Alcahest. “Using the performance and flexibility of the Altera’s Nios® soft-core embedded processor with a Stratix or Cyclone device, designers can obtain performance levels that weren’t before possible in programmable logic.”

RSA encryption and decryption in the Altera low-cost Cyclone family, for example, has been shown to provide up to 6-Mbps encryption performance for IPSec applications. The key size can be dynamically varied by the user. The core is parameterizable for size/speed tradeoffs, and requires as little as 300 logic elements (LEs), using only about $0.40 of logic when implemented in the Altera Cyclone EP1C3 FPGA.

“Altera’s optimized approach for arithmetic operations in programmable logic architectures offers levels of die area efficiency and performance levels previously thought impossible,” said Martin Langhammer, chief scientist at Altera. “The new core can handle any key size and can be programmed by the user on the fly, and offers the best performance/cost efficiency for any RSA solution.”

The RSA core will be licensed to customers and supported by AMPP member Alcahest Ltd. While the RSA core is simple to set up and use, security systems design can be a complex project involving hardware cores, processor designs, software drivers, and detailed systems knowledge. Alcahest has extensive experience in designing security systems using programmable logic.

Pricing and Availability
The RSA core is available now from Alcahest with an OpenCore Plus evaluation package is available for download from Alcahest’s website. The full RSA implementation comprising the modulus and exponentiation cores packaged as a SOPC Builder peripheral with example software and a reference design has a list price of $16,000, with the individual component cores also available separately. For more information and a complete list of Altera’s MegaCore® logic functions and Altera AMPP intellectual property functions, visit the Altera IP MegaStoreTM web site at

About Alcahest
Alcahest Limited is a UK-based company focused on the development and delivery of complex cryptographic hardware solutions for high-speed networks. More information is available at

About Altera
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Altera Corporation (NASDAQ: ALTR) is the world’s pioneer in system-on-a-programmable-chip (SOPC) solutions. Combining programmable logic technology with software tools, intellectual property, and technical services, Altera provides high-value programmable solutions to approximately 14,000 customers worldwide. More information is available at

Altera, The Programmable Solutions Company, the stylized Altera logo, specific device designations and all other words that are identified as trademarks and/or service marks are, unless noted otherwise, the trademarks and service marks of Altera Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.

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