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The evolution of the Internet has resulted in large quantities of information being exchanged by businesses or private individuals. The nature of this information is typically both public and private, and much of it is transmitted over the hyper text transfer protocol (HTTP) in an insecure manner. A small amount of traffic, however, is transmitted by way of the secure sockets layer (SSL) over HTTP, known as HTTPS. HTTPS is a secure cryptographic protocol that provides encryption and message authentication over HTTP. The introduction of SSL over HTTP significantly increases the cost of processing traffic for service providers, as it sometimes requires an investment in expensive end-point acceleration devices.
In this article, we present new technologies and results that show the economy of using general-purpose hardware for high-volume HTTPS traffic. Our solution is three pronged. First, we discuss new CPU instructions and show how to use them significantly to accelerate basic cryptographic operations, including symmetric encryption and message authentication. Second, we present results from a novel software implementation of the RSA algorithm that accelerates another compute-intensive part of the HTTPS protocol-public key encryption. Third, we show that the efficiency of a web server can be improved by balancing the web server workload with the public key cryptographic workload on a processor that is enabled with simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) technology. In conclusion, we show that these advances provide web services the tools to greatly reduce the cost of implementing HTTPS for all their HTTP traffic.