Chip specialist Hifn has announced de-duplication cards that it claims can add data reduction capabilities to an iSCSI or NAS server, by off-loading the processor-heavy job of identifying repeated or redundant data.

Hifn – pronounced "hyphen" – said that the Express DR 250 and 255 cards include a dedicated co-processor which accelerates the hashing of data blocks. A hash function processes each block into a key or signature; identical blocks have the same key and need only be stored once, with subsequent copies replaced by a pointer to the first.

Two hashing algorithms are supported, namely SHA-1 and MD5. The cards can optionally also add LZS data compression, and encryption up to 256-bit AES.

Richard Villars, storage systems vice-president at analyst group IDC, says that as more organisations turn to data de-duplication for storage and energy savings, it could be vital to accelerate the process in hardware.

"Sustaining data rate performance is a challenge for many companies that attempt to deploy extensive data de-duplication solutions," he said. "Solutions like Hifn's accelerator cards will make it easier for data de-duplication suppliers to offer higher performance, with the added bonus of data encryption.”

The two cards – the 250 is a 64-bit 133MHz PCI-X version, while the 255 is for PCI-Express x4 systems – can process data at up to 250Mbit/s, Hifn said. Both have a list price of $1,195 (around £600).

"The Express DR 250/255 cards should appeal to two customer groups: de-duplication ISVs looking to maximise their performance over software-only algorithms; and end-users looking for appliances that include the acceleration card for performance gains and support of corporate green initiatives," said John Matze, Hifn's business development vice-president.

He added that the company has software development kits to integrate the cards into Windows or Linux-based systems.