Twenty-First Century Bottomfeeders

VIA C7 and VIA Eden

The originals have upgraded their systems with the well-known, hardware cryptographic and random number generation hardware and the Mini-ITX and Nano-ITX platforms. I run a Via Esther processor, also called VIA C7, for my home network DNS and DHCP services. I tried mightily to get the OpenSSH and OpenSSL libraries to use the built-in hardware encryption for my SSH gateway but it just doesn't seem to "stick." I even tried to short-circuit the OpenSSL library to always use it but my remote desktop session performance shows it just isn't using the built-in hardware accelerator of the VIA. I blame both OpenSSL for its immaturity (in spite of reaching 1.0) as well as the VIA team for their unclear ABI and API documentation for the ASE engine. I also notice that most of Wikipedia's articles do not mention this engine anymore.

Here are the OpenSSL benchmarks without hardware acceleration for Blowfish, an excellent all-around cipher.

The 'numbers' are in 1000s of bytes per second processed.
type          16 bytes  64 bytes   256 bytes  1024 bytes  8192 bytes
blowfish cbc  28418.58k 30366.93k  30874.79k  31028.22k   31072.26k
While the hardware accelerator is impressive, I can't get it to work all the time, so I don't see the point in posting those numbers yet. Since blowfish isn't in the hardware anyway (just AES) these numbers offer a valid apples-to-apples comparison on a cipher that most cryptographers would consider an efficient, all-around cipher. There are now 2.0 GHz VIA C7 systems which I am considering but without forcing the hardware acceleration I have been discouraged from using the VIA platform for my encryption needs, which is disappointing since I really like VIA and the architecture acquired with the purchase of Centaur.

Intel Atom

Intel Israel took the Pentium-M platform and wrung the most they could out of it, increasing the pipelines and cache, and doing lots of neat tweaks to this aging platform giving it an entirely new life as a low-power netbook and embedded product. While doing this they de-emphasized the power consumption factor (watts) and instead emphasize the "thermal design power," or "TDP" since they could not compete with VIA on the power efficiency. This means the processor produces less heat, but doesn't say much about its power consumption which was the whole point of VIA's C3, C5, and C7 designs. This is like the old RMS battles in the audio realm, where product designers game the system for marketing reasons, trhing prove efficiency instead of raw power consumption. It's a shame they did this, since VIA can't compete on thermal dissipation, but they win hugely on power consumption. Still, nobody knows this due to Intel's marketing gimmick and people care about power dissipation when they should be caring about power consumption. Furthermore, the chipsets that are forced to be paired with the Atom are still power-hungry desktop chipsets.

In spite of all this I give you OpenSSL benchmarks for Atom:

The 'numbers' are in 1000s of bytes per second processed.
type          16 bytes     64 bytes    256 bytes   1024 bytes  8192 bytes
blowfish cbc  47397.38k    51959.10k   53160.45k   53516.29k   53595.83k
Impressive, but not surprising, since Intel Atom inherits the legendary math performance of the Pentium III.


I don't have an AMD Neo but it is based on Athlon XP and Sempron which always post impressive blowfish compute numbers. I have decommissioned my Sempron 3000+ server but its blowfish numbers were in the 80000.00k realm, beating out both Atom and VIA C7, but not in power consumption.