In this video, John Fowler from Oracle describes the end-to-end security inside the new 32-core, 256-thread SPARC M7 microprocessor.
“The future data center is completely encrypted,” Fowler says, “and this is the first processor that enables that.”
The SPARC M7 incorporates silicon-embedded advancements primarily in two areas: security and performance. First, the SPARC M7 accelerates data encryption through “cryptographic units” integrated in each of its 32 cores. And by incorporating very high-performance encryption in the chip, Fowler says, the M7 is able to not only secure data quickly but also devote substantial processor resources to additional projects, resources that otherwise would be occupied encrypting data at the software layer.
Another advanced security capability hard-wired into the SPARC M7 involves memory protection. Known as Silicon Secured Memory, this feature recognizes an illegal memory reference—when an application attempts to access memory that’s dedicated to another application—and stops it. Illegal memory references cause vulnerabilities like buffer overflows that hackers can exploit. Because Silicon Secured Memory works at the processor level, it has minimal performance overhead, unlike software, which affects processing significantly. It’s not only a security feature—it’s a programming best-practices tool “which, when added to the processor, and enabled for all applications, can eliminate a pretty broad class of compromises.”