Axiado Sampling The Industry’s First AI-Driven Security Chip For The Datacenter

By Patrick Moorhead - June 14, 2023

Cybersecurity is top of mind for every CIO around the globe. And as one would imagine, the bigger the datacenter and environment, the bigger the challenge. While major server vendors and the security ecosystem have developed solutions with enterprise IT organizations, the big datacenter players – cloud, hyperscale, and telco – have challenges of a different scale entirely. Further, the model of deploying self-built or servers from original design manufacturers (ODMs), otherwise known as “white boxes,” presents a challenge.

Because of this, companies like Axiado design and build hardware technology that delivers lockdown infrastructure security for cloud environments, 5G deployments, and the distributed at-scale data environment. Today, the company introduced the latest technologies in its portfolio – the AX3000 and AX2000 trusted control/compute unit (TCU) – designed to deliver an AI-driven hardware-anchored security platform. The company announced these chips are sampling, with commercial availability coming soon.

What is a hardware-anchored security platform? How is Axiado differentiating itself? And what are the keys to Axiado’s success? I’ll answer all of those in the following sections.

It’s a crazy cyberworld

No cybersecurity article is complete without the requisite “shock and awe” statistics. In this case, the numbers are so incredible that they are almost unbelievable.

As everybody knows, cyberattacks continue to increase year over year. As a result, the number of breaches also climbs. And the results add up. By the year 2025, cybercrime will cost the global GDP $10.5T, according to CyberSecurity Ventures. This gain results from cyberattacks being launched against major organizations every second of every day. In fact, according to the company, it estimates a ransomware attack takes place every 11 seconds.

The cloud challenge

As mentioned, cybersecurity in the cloud is even more overwhelming than for the enterprise. These API-driven, open-source environments are rich targets for those looking to exploit the software supply chain vulnerabilities and other opportunities for environments that deploy hundreds of thousands of servers, networking gear, and storage devices. An IBM study shows that 45% of cyberattacks originate in the cloud, costing upwards of $5M per incident.

While the security needs of CSPs and hyperscalers are bigger and more complex than those of enterprise IT organizations, they deploy infrastructure from server vendors most people haven’t heard of – ODMs – to achieve better economics. While these servers are high quality and performant, they tend to lack unique capabilities that OEMs design to differentiate. Regarding security and manageability, CSPs often look to the ecosystem to further harden their platforms and environments.

And this is where Axiado and its TCU enter the equation.

Axiado AX3000 and AX2000 – a deeper look

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Before getting into products, setting context around the TCU space is essential as this may not be a familiar term or technology. A TCU is a dedicated piece of silicon that delivers security at the lowest levels of the compute stack, enabling the basis for a zero-trust environment. Some major silicon vendors have what one could loosely call a trusted compute platform – Intel with SGX, AMD with Secure Technology, and Arm with TrustZone.

Axiado takes this concept of a TCU and differentiates it in many ways by expanding the security protections, including integration of functions such as a baseboard management controller (BMC) for management and telemetry, a firewall, and a SmartNIC for platform and tenant virtualization. Further, Axiado TCUs use AI for real-time recognition and response. This packaging isn’t about adding more functionality; it’s about adding more secure functionality and thus reducing attack surface.

The Axiado TCU delivers protections at the lowest levels

While Axiado would refer to its TCU as the last line of defense, I would argue the TCU is both the first and last line of defense as it establishes a trusted compute environment upon boot before working in real-time to detect and remove attacks – across the compute and network environments. And this starts with its Secure Vault Architecture – a secure environment that houses signed firmware, encrypted memory, cryptographically unique identity for attestation, and a secure I/O hub.

What Axiado announced today – sampling its AX3000 and AX2000 chips is the next step in the company’s evolution. This family of TCUs delivers the comprehensive protection that I previously described. BMC for base-level management and telemetry; secure root of trust and TPM for a trusted compute environment; a firewall; and, in the case of the AX3000, programmable AI engines that allow for security professionals to easily tailor for their environments and workloads.

In case you’re wondering how the AX3000 differs from the AX2000, I have one word – programmability. While both the AX3000 and AX2000 use AI for detection, recognition, and classification, the AX3000 includes programmable AI engines that customers can use to fine tune the TCU for their environmental needs.

Axiado’s AX3000 and AX2000 TCUs deliver comprehensive protection

From a feature and functionality perspective, Axiado is sitting on a winner. But what makes this even more compelling to me is that the company has done a good job of understanding its customers’ requirements and building its TCU in a consumable way.

Axiado is targeting the cloud and hyperscale environment with its TCU. A market that relies on the Open Compute Project (OCP) to set standards around things like manageability, networking, and security. Further, OCP puts a big emphasis on design and modularity, ensuring easy integration. Axiado has been an active member of the OCP community and has designed its TCUs to the OCP smart control module (SCM) specification.

So what does this mean? It gives customers like Meta, Google, and other CSPs and hyperscalers the confidence to deploy the AX3000 and AX2000 with ease.

What Axiado needs to do to find success

From a capability perspective and meeting a real need that sits in the market – Axiado has built a stellar solution. But as we all know, great technology doesn’t always result in success in the market.

I believe Axiado needs to do two things to find success. First, they must create the demand (pull) from the customers that would deploy their solution – cloud providers, telcos, and large hyperscalers with disaggregated environments. While AWS, Google, Meta, and others may see significant benefits by deploying Axiado TCUs, they must first deploy Axiado TCUs. And getting that first giant to fall can be challenging. High-touch, highly technical engagements take time to foster into partnerships. Further, these engagements aren’t won with artificial testing and benchmarks. They are won through results in the real world.

The other critical step is driving acceptance and promotion from the ODM and (to a lesser extent) the OEM community. Some of this is a little push and pull – for example, if a major CSP tells Tyan that it wants the AX3000 in its servers – problem solved. But, having ODMs promoting the Axiado TCU as a critical element to the CSP’s security challenges – helps drive adoption.

The OEM community is equally an important partner. However, these players may be more challenging as they each promote their proprietary secure computing solutions to differentiate.

But at the end of the proverbial day, what the customer wants, the customer will get. So, if a large customer demands a platform deployed with Axiado’s TCU, every server vendor will support it.

Because of this, I like what Axiado is doing with its market launch program. The company is taking a smart, measured approach by delivering kits to select customers and closely managing the proof-of-concept PoC cycle, deployment, optimization, and management of these environments.

Closing thoughts

The cyber threat landscape gets uglier every day. And while customers always seemed to put some implicit trust in the cloud and CSPs, this trust is misplaced. Your data is unsafe because infrastructure and network architectures will always have vulnerabilities that can be exploited for gain. Yes, even in the cloud.

I like what Axiado is doing with its TCU technology. It addresses a real need for hyperscalers through a wholly secure platform that protects some of the most valuable functions – computing, networking, virtualization, and the monitoring/management of these functions.

There is a lot of upside for Axiado – particularly if the company can get that first CSP customer. And based on what I’ve seen on the AX3000/AX2000, I think that’s probably more of a matter of “when” instead of “if.”

Of course, we’ll learn more when feedback comes from those customers that are sampling.

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.