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Nvidia brings hardware firewall to Athlon XP rigs

nForce 2 upgrade

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Nvidia has upgraded its AMD Athlon XP-oriented chipset, the nForce 2, to add a Gigabit Ethernet interface to the product, RAID and a TCP/IP packet processing core the company is pitching as a "hardware-optimised firewall security solution".

The new chipset, the nForce 2 Ultra 400Gb, now features its own, on-board Gigabit Ethernet port, which Nvidia claims yields 200 per cent more network bandwidth than a Gigabit board hooked up to a PCI bus can manage.

Nvidia's big pitch, however, is the security component, which is claims is "the industry's first and only hardware-optimised firewall solution". Nvidia Firewall software hooks into the chipset's TCP/IP packet processing ability, and has been certified by security specialist ICSA Labs, the company said. Incoming packets can be analysed 'at source' to check whether they should be allowed into the computer. That, argues Nvidia, not only improves performance - the host CPU is freed from the task of running a software-only firewall - but enhances the degree of protection offered.

Expect Nvidia to make more of this kind of thing. Nvidia recently acquired the technology assets of networking and storage processor developer iReady, which specialised in systems that offload processing from a machine's CPU. In particular, it developed TCP/IP processing chips, geared toward high-end servers, it was also working on iSCSI processing chips for storage area networks.

Nvidia also released the nForce 2 Ultra 400R, a less shouted-about product that essentially combines the features of two existing nForce 2 South Bridge parts - the Gigabit MCP and the RAID MCP. Nvidia calls is South Bridge chips Media and Communications Processors (MCPs). The Ultra 400R provides Gigabit Ethernet and Serial ATA with RAID.

Nvidia said its new MCPs will work with existing nForce2 400 series North Bridge parts that can operate with AMD Athlon XP processors with 266MHz, 333MHz and 400MHz frontside bus speeds. Pricing was not disclosed. ®

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