Public Key Acceleration


NVIDIA BlueField DPU incorporates several public key acceleration (PKA) engines to offload the processor of the Arm host, providing high-performance computation of PK algorithms. BlueField's PKA is useful for a wide range of security applications. It can assist with SSL acceleration, or a secure high-performance PK signature generator/checker and certificate related operations.

BlueField's PKA software libraries implement a simple, complete framework for crypto public key infrastructure (PKI) acceleration. It provides direct access to hardware resources from the user space and makes available a number of arithmetic operations—some basic (e.g., addition and multiplication), and some complex (e.g., modular exponentiation and modular inversion)—and high-level operations such as RSA, Diffie-Hallman, Elliptic Curve Cryptography, and the Federal Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA as documented in FIPS-186) public-private key systems.

  • The BlueField PKA software is intended for BlueField products with HW accelerated crypto capabilities. To verify whether your BlueField chip has crypto capabilities, look for CPU flags "aes", "sha1", and "sha2" in the DPU OS. For example:


    # lscpu ... Flags: fp asimd evtstrm aes pmull sha1 sha2 crc32 cpuid

  • BlueField bootloader must enable SMMU support to benefit from the full hardware and software capabilities. SMMU support may be enabled in UEFI menu through system configuration options.

Some of the use cases for the BlueField PKA involve integrating OpenSSL software applications with BlueField's PKA hardware. The BlueField PKA dynamic engine for OpenSSL allows applications integrated with OpenSSL (e.g., StrongSwan) to accomplish a variety of security-related goals and to accelerate the cryptographic processing with the BlueField PKA hardware. OpenSSL versions ≥1.0.0, ≤1.1.1, and 3.0.2 are supported. The engine supports the following operations:

  • RSA

  • DH

  • DSA


  • ECDH

  • Random number generation that is cryptographically secure.

Up to 4096-bit keys for RSA, DH, and DSA operations are supported. Elliptic Curve Cryptography support of (nist) prime curves for 160, 192, 224, 256, 384 and 521 bits.

For example, to sign a file using BlueField's PKA engine:


$ openssl dgst -engine pka -sha256 -sign <privatekey> -out <signature> <filename>

To verify the signature, execute:


$ openssl dgst -engine pka -sha256 -verify <publickey> -signature <signature> <filename>

For further details on BlueField PKA, please refer to "PKA Driver Design and Implementation Architecture Document" and/or "PKA Programming Guide". Directions and instructions on how to integrate the BlueField PKA software libraries are provided in the README files on the Mellanox PKA GitHub.

© Copyright 2023, NVIDIA. Last updated on Aug 23, 2023.