This Slashdot article discusses building an SSL accelerator for $5k worth of hardware rather than $50k for a "hardware" accelerator like F5, that has similar performance.
Probably not necessary. You can probably do SSL just on the servers themselves without too much of a performance hit. If you need more performance, an SSL accelerator probably wouldn't help that much, you'd probably need a load balancer instead -- like F5.
The SSL accelerator is a mandatory infrastructure component because it (A) offloads (takes load away) heavy CPU processing load from the server leaving the server to process greater application load requirements; (B) makes the server more efficient and faster as a result of a lighter load on the CPU and (C) when using a hardware server load balancer, such as a KEMP LoadMaster product, the cost of SSL certificates will be reduced through easier administration and consolidation of multiple SSL certificate per server into a single certificate used for all server in a single domain.
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